Juvenal, Satires. (1918). Satire 2
[Translated by G. G. Ramsay]
Moralists without Morals
I would fain flee to Sarmatia and the frozen Sea when people who ape the Curii 1 and live like Bacchanals dare talk about morals. In the first place, they are unlearned persons, though you may find their houses crammed with plaster casts of Chrysippus 2; for their greatest hero is the man who has bought a likeness of Aristotle or Pittacus,3 or bids his shelves preserve an original portrait of Cleanthes.4 Men's faces are not to be trusted; does not every street abound in gloomy-visaged debauchees? And do you rebuke foul practices, when you are yourself the most notorious of the Socratic reprobates? A hairy body, and arms stiff with bristles, give promise of a manly soul: but the doctor grins when he cuts into the growths on your shaved buttocks. Men of your kidney talk little; they glory in taciturnity, and cut their hair shorter than their eyebrows. Peribomius 5 himself is more open and more honest; his face, his walk, betray his distemper, and I charge Destiny with his failings. Such men excite your pity by their frankness; the very fury of their passions wins them pardon. Far worse are those who denounce evil ways in the language of a Hercules; and after discoursing upon virtue, prepare to practise vice. "Am I to respect you, Sextus," quoth the ill-famed Varillus, "when you do as I do? How am I worse than yourself? " Let the straight-legged man laugh at the club-footed, the white man at the blackamoor: but who could endure the Gracchi railing at sedition? Who will not confound heaven with earth, and sea with sky, if Verves denounce thieves, or Milo 6 cut-throats? If Clodius condemn adulterers, or Catiline upbraid Cethegus 7; or if Sulla's three disciples 8 inveigh against proscriptions? Such a man was that adulterer 9 who, after lately defiling himself by a union of the tragic style, revived the stern laws that were to be a terror to all men----ay, even to Mars and Venus----at the moment when Julia was relieving her fertile womb and giving birth to abortions that displayed the similitude of her uncle. Is it not then right and proper that the very worst of sinners should despise your pretended Scauri,10 and bite back when bitten?
Laronia could not contain herself when one of these sour-faced worthies cried out, "What of your Julian Law? 11 Has it gone to sleep?" To which she answered smilingly," O happy times to have you for a censor of our morals! Once more may Rome regain her modesty; a third Cato has come down to us from the skies! But tell me, where did you buy that balsam juice that exhales from your hairy neck? Don't be ashamed to point out to me the shopman! If laws and statutes are to be raked up, you should cite first of all the Scantinian 12: inquire first into the things that are done by men; men do more wicked things than we do, but they are protected by their numbers, and the tight-locked shields of their phalanx. Male effeminates agree wondrously well among themselves; never in our sex will you find such loathsome examples of evil.
"Do we women ever plead in the courts? Are we learned in the Law? Do your court-houses ever ring with our bawling? Some few of us are wrestlers; some of us eat meat-rations: you men spin wool and bring back your tale of work in baskets when it is done; you twirl round the spindle big with fine thread more deftly than Penelope, more delicately than Arachne,13 doing work such as an unkempt drab squatting on a log would do. Everybody knows why Hister left all his property to his freedman, why in his life-time he gave so many presents to his young wife; the woman who sleeps third in a big bed will want for nothing. So when you take a husband, keep your mouth shut; precious stones 14 will be the reward of a well-kept secret. After this, what condemnation can be pronounced on women? Our censor absolves the crow and passes judgment on the pigeon!"
While Laronia was uttering these plain truths, the would-be Stoics made off in confusion: for what word of untruth had she spoken? Yet what will not other men do when you, Creticus, dress yourself in garments of gauze, and while everyone is marvelling at your attire, launch out against the Proculae and the Pollittae? Fabulla is an adulteress; condemn Carfinia of the same crime if you please; but however guilty, they would never wear such a gown as yours. "O but," you say, "these July days are so sweltering!" Then why not plead without clothes? Such madness would be less disgraceful. A pretty garb yours in which to propose or expound laws to our countrymen flushed with victory, and with their wounds yet unhealed; and to those mountain rustics who had laid down their ploughs to listen to you? What would you not exclaim if you saw a judge dressed like that? Would a robe of gauze sit becomingly on a witness? You, Creticus, you, the keen, unbending champion of human liberty, to be clothed in a transparency! This plague has come upon us by infection, and it will spread still further, just as in the fields the scab of one sheep, or the mange of one pig, destroys an entire herd; just as one bunch of grapes takes on its sickly colour from the aspect of its neighbour.
Some day you will venture on something more shameful than this dress; no one reaches the depths of turpitude all at once. In due time you will be welcomed by those who in their homes put fillets round their brows, swathe themselves with necklaces, and propitiate the Bona Dea with the stomach of a porker and a huge bowl of wine, though by an evil usage the Goddess warns off all women from the door; none but males may approach her altar. 15 "Away with you! profane women" is the cry; "no booming horn, no she-minstrels here!" Such were the secret torchlight orgies with which the Baptae 16 wearied the Cecropian 17 Cotytto. One prolongs his eyebrows with some damp soot on the edge of a needle, and lifts up his blinking eyes to be painted; another drinks out of an obscenely-shaped glass, and ties up his long locks in a gilded net; he is clothed in blue checks, or smooth-faced green; the attendant swears by Juno like his master. Another holds in his hand a mirror like that carried by the effeminate Otho: a trophy of the Auruncan Actor,18 in which he gazed at his own image in full armour when he was just ready to give the order to advance----a thing notable and novel in the annals of our time, a mirror among the kit of Civil War! It needed, in truth, a mighty general to slay Galba, and keep his own skin shaved; it needed a citizen of highest courage to ape the splendours of the Palace on the field of Bebriacum,19 and plaster his face with dough! Never did the quiver-bearing Samiramis 20 the like in her Assyrian realm, nor the despairing Cleopatra on board her ship at Actium. No decency of language is there here: no regard for the manners of the table. You will hear all the foul talk and squeaking tones of Cybele; a grey-haired frenzied old man presides over the rites; he is a rare and notable master of the art of gluttony, and should be hired to teach it. But why wait any longer when it were time in Phrygian fashion to lop off the superfluous flesh?
Gracchus has presented to a cornet player----or perhaps it was a player on the straight horn----a dowry of four hundred thousand sesterces. The contract has been signed; the benedictions have been pronounced; the banqueters are seated, the new made bride is reclining on the bosom of her husband. O ye nobles of Rome! is it a soothsayer that we need, or a Censor? Would you be more aghast, would you deem it a greater portent, if a woman gave birth to a calf, or an ox to a lamb? The man who is now arraying himself in the flounces and train and veil of a bride once carried the quivering shields 21 of Mars by the sacred thongs and sweated under the sacred burden!
O Father of our city, whence came such wickedness among thy Latin shepherds? How did such a lust possess thy grandchildren, O Gradivus? Behold! Here you have a man of high birth and wealth being handed over in marriage to a man, and yet neither shakest thy helmet, nor smitest the earth with thy spear, nor yet protestest to thy Father? Away with thee then; begone from that broad Martial Plain 22 which thou hast forgotten!
"I have a ceremony to attend," quoth one, "at dawn to-morrow, in the Quirinal valley." "What is the occasion?" "No need to ask: a friend is taking to himself a husband; quite a small affair." Yes, and if we only live long enough, we shall see these things done openly: people will wish to see them reported among the news of the day. Meanwhile these would-be brides have one great trouble: they can bear no children wherewith to keep the affection of their husbands; well has nature done in granting to their desires no power over their bodies. They die infertile; naught avails them the medicine-chest of the bloated Lyde, or to hold out their hands to the blows of the swift-footed Luperci! 23
Greater still the portent when Gracchus, clad in a tunic, played the gladiator, and fled, trident in hand, across the arena----Gracchus, a man of nobler birth than the Capitolini, or the Marcelli, or the descendents of Catulus or Paulus, or the Fabii: nobler than all the spectators in the podium 24; not excepting him who gave the show at which that net 25 was flung.
That there are such things as Manes, and kingdoms below ground, and punt-poles, and Stygian pools black with frogs, and all those thousands crossing over in a single bark----these things not even boys believe, except such as have not yet had their penny bath. But just imagine them to be true----what would Curius and the two Scipios think? or Fabricius and the spirit of Camillus? What would the legion that fought at the Cremera 26 think, or the young manhood that fell at Cannae; what would all those gallant hearts feel when a shade of this sort came down to them from here? They would wish to be purified; if only sulphur and torches and damp laurel-branches were to be had. Such is the degradation to which we have come! Our arms indeed we have pushed beyond Juverna's 27 shores, to the new-conquered Orcades and the short-nighted Britons; but the things which we do in our victorious city will never be done by the men whom we have conquered. And yet they say that one Zalaces, an Armenian more effeminate than any of our youth, has yielded to the ardour of a Tribune! Just see what evil communications do! He came as a hostage: but here boys are turned into men. Give them a long sojourn in our city, and lovers will never fail them. They will throw away their trousers and their knives, their bridles and their whips, and carry back to Artaxata the manners of our Roman youth.
1. 4 A famous family of early Rome.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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