Main Text

pg 15SATIRE 3The Evils of the Big City

  • Link 1Sad as I am at the fact that my dear old friend is leaving,
  • Link 2I applaud his decision to make his home in derelict Cumae,
  • Editor’s Note3thus providing the Sibyl with a solitary fellow townsman.
  • 4That's the gateway to Baiae, a charming coast with delightful
  • Editor’s Note Link 5seclusion. I'd choose Próchyta's rocks before the Subúra.
  • 6When have you ever seen a place so dismal and lonely
  • 7that it doesn't seem worse to live in fear of continual fires,
  • 8collapsing houses, the countless threats of a savage city,
  • 9not to speak of poets reading their work in August.
  • Link 10As the whole of his house was being loaded on a single waggon,
  • Editor’s Note Link 11he lingered beside the damp old arch of the Porta Capena.
  • Editor’s Note12At the place where Numa used to meet his sweetheart at night-time,
  • 13where now the grove, with its holy spring and temple, is rented
  • Editor’s Note14to Jews, whose paraphernalia consists of a hay-lined chest
  • Link 15(every tree is obliged to pay its rent to the people;
  • 16and so, with the Muses evicted, the wood has taken to begging),
  • 17we wander down the hill to Egeria's valley and a grotto
  • 18unlike the real thing. How much more palpably present
  • 19the fountain's spirit would be, if a grassy border surrounded
  • 20the water, and no marble profaned the native tufa!

  • 21Here Umbricius began: 'There is no room in the city
  • 22for respectable skills,' he said, 'and no reward for one's efforts.
  • 23Today my means are less than yesterday; come tomorrow,
  • 24the little left will be further reduced. So I'm going to make for
  • Editor’s Note25the place where Daedalus laid aside his weary wings.
  • 26While my greyness is new, and my ageing frame is fresh and upstanding,
  • Editor’s Note27while Láchesis still has thread to spin and I make my way
  • pg 1628on my own two feet without the need of a stick to support me,
  • Link 29it's time to leave home. Let Artorius live there, and Catulus too;
  • 30let those remain who are able to turn black into white,
  • Link 31happily winning contracts for temple, river, and harbour,
  • 32for draining flooded land, and carrying corpses to the pyre—
  • Editor’s Note33men who auction themselves beneath the owner's spear.
  • Editor’s Note34Once these fellows were blowers of horns, a regular feature
  • 35of shows in the provinces, cheek-puffers known in the country townships.
  • 36Now they present their own productions, winning applause
  • 37by killing whoever is given the crowd's "thumbs down". They return
  • Link 38and lease latrines—and why stop at that? For they are the sort
  • 39that Lady Luck will take from the gutter and raise to the summit
  • 40of worldly success, whenever she feels like having a joke.

  • 41What can I do in Rome? I can't tell lies; if a book
  • 42is bad I cannot praise it and beg for a copy; the stars
  • 43in their courses mean nothing to me; I'm neither willing nor able
  • Editor’s Note Link 44to promise a father's death; I've never studied the innards
  • 45of frogs; I leave it to others to carry instructions and presents
  • 46to a young bride from her lover; none will get help from me
  • 47in a theft; that's why I never appear on a governor's staff;
  • 48you'd think I was crippled—a useless trunk with a paralysed hand.
  • 49Who, these days, inspires affection except an accomplice—
  • 50one whose conscience boils and seethes with unspeakable secrets?
  • 51If someone tells you a harmless secret, he doesn't imagine
  • 52you have a hold over him; nor does he try to buy your silence.
  • Editor’s Note53Verres will love that man who knows he can prosecute Verres
  • Editor’s Note54whenever he likes. But all the sand of shady Tagus
  • 55and the gold it carries seaward would never compensate you
  • 56for losing your sleep and anxiously taking ephemeral gifts,
  • 57and always remaining a source of fear to your powerful friend.

  • Link 58I now proceed to speak of the nation specially favoured
  • 59by our wealthy compatriots, one that I shun above all others.
  • Link 60I shan't mince words. My fellow Romans, I cannot put up with
  • pg 17Editor’s Note Link 61a city of Greeks; yet how much of the dregs is truly Achaean?
  • 62The Syrian Orontes has long been discharging into the Tiber,
  • 63carrying with it its language and morals and slanting strings,
  • 64complete with piper, not to speak of its native timbrels
  • 65and the girls who are told by their owners to ply their trade at the race-track.
  • 66(That's the place for a foreign whore with a coloured bonnet.)
  • Link 67Romulus, look—your bumpkin is donning his Grecian slippers,
  • Editor’s Note68hanging Grecian medals on a neck with a Grecian smudge.
  • Editor’s Note Link 69He's from far-off Ámydon, he's from Sícyon's heights,
  • 70these are from Andros and Samos and Tralles, or else Alabanda.
  • Editor’s Note71They make for the Esquiline, or the willows' hill, intent on becoming
  • 72the vital organs and eventual masters of our leading houses.
  • Link 73Nimble wits, a reckless nerve, and a ready tongue,
  • Editor’s Note Link 74more glib than Isaeus'. Tell me, what do you want him to be?
  • 75He has brought us, in his own person, every type you can think of;
  • Link 76teacher of grammar and speaking, geometer, painter, masseur,
  • Link 77prophet and tightrope-walker, doctor, wizard—your hungry
  • 78Greekling knows the lot; he'll climb to the sky if you ask him.
  • 79In fact, it wasn't a Moor, nor yet a Sarmatian or Thracian,
  • Link 80who sprouted wings, but a man born in the centre of Athens.
  • 81I must get away from them and their purple clothes. Shall our friend, here,
  • Link 82sign before me as a witness and recline above me at dinner—
  • 83one who was blown to Rome by the wind, with figs and damsons?
  • Link 84Does it count for nothing at all that I, from earliest childhood,
  • Editor’s Note85breathed the Aventine air and was fed on the Sabine berry?

  • 86What of the fact that the nation excels in flattery, praising
  • 87the talk of an ignorant patron, the looks of one who is ugly,
  • 88comparing the stalk-like neck of a weakling to Hercules' muscles
  • Editor’s Note Link 89as he holds the giant Antaeus aloft well clear of the ground,
  • Link 90admiring a squeaky voice which sounds as wretched as that
  • 91of the cock, which seizes his partner's crest in the act of mating?
  • 92We, of course, can pay identical compliments; yes, but
  • pg 1893they are believed. No actor from elsewhere is half as good
  • Editor’s Note94when playing Thais, or the wife, or Doris who's clad in no more than
  • Link 95her tunic. Why, the woman herself appears to be speaking,
  • 96not an actor at all; you'd swear that under the tummy
  • 97all was smooth and even, except for a tiny chink.
  • Editor’s Note98In Greece, however, Antíochus would not be thought an exception,
  • 99nor Strátocles, nor Demetrius along with the dainty Haemus;
  • Link 100the whole country's a play. You chuckle, he shakes with a louder
  • 101guffaw; he weeps if he spots a tear in the eye of his patron,
  • 102yet feels no grief; on a winter day if you ask for a brazier,
  • 103he dons a wrap; if you say 'I'm warm', he starts to perspire.
  • Link 104So we aren't on equal terms; he always has the advantage
  • 105who night and day alike is able to take his expression
  • 106from another's face, to throw up his hands and cheer if his patron
  • 107produces an echoing belch or pees in a good straight line,
  • Editor’s Note108or makes the golden receptacle clatter as its bottom flips over.

  • Link 109The man holds nothing sacred; nothing is safe from his organ,
  • 110not the lady of the house, nor the virgin daughter, nor even
  • 111her still unbearded fiancé, nor the hitherto clean-living son.
  • Editor’s Note112If none of these is at hand, he'll debauch his patron's grandma.
  • Editor’s Note114And since I have started to talk of the Greeks, forget the gymnasia;
  • 115think of a crime committed by a philosophical big-wig.
  • Editor’s Note Link 116A Stoic brought about Barea's death. Though advanced in years,
  • 117he informed on his friend and pupil. Now he was born by the river
  • 118where a feather fell from the nag that sprang from the Gorgon's blood.
  • 119There's no room here for any Roman; the city is ruled by
  • Editor’s Note120some Protógenes or other, some Díphilus or Hermarchus.
  • Link 121A man like that never shares a friend (it's a national trait);
  • 122he keeps him all for himself. So when he has put in his patron's
  • Link 123ready ear a drop of his own and his country's poison,
  • 124I am pushed from the door; gone are my years of service.
  • 125Nowhere on earth does the loss of a client matter less.
  • pg 19126Besides (not to flatter ourselves) what use is a poor man's attention
  • 127and service here if, when he goes to the trouble of dressing
  • 128and hurrying out in the dark, a praetor meanwhile is urging
  • Editor’s Note129his lictor to go full speed ("the childless are long since up")
  • Editor’s Note130for fear Albina and Modia may be greeted first by his colleague?
  • Editor’s Note131A free-born Roman's son concedes the inner position
  • 132to a rich man's slave. The latter pays as much as a tribune
  • Editor’s Note133of a legion earns in a year to Calvina or Catiena
  • 134to shudder on top of her once or twice; but you, however,
  • Editor’s Note135when you fancy Chíone's looks, will have to stop and think twice
  • Link 136before helping the dolled-up harlot down from her chair.
  • Editor’s Note137Produce a witness in Rome as good as the man who assisted
  • Editor’s Note138the Idaean goddess ashore, let Numa himself come forward,
  • Editor’s Note139or him who rescued the frightened Minerva from the burning temple,
  • 140they are interested first in his money (the last question concerns
  • 141his integrity): how many slaves does he keep, how many acres
  • 142of land does he own, how large and how many the plates on his table?
  • 143Whatever amount of cash a person has in his strong-box,
  • Editor’s Note144that's the extent of his credit. If a poor man swears by the altars
  • 145of Sámothrace and of Rome, people assume that he's flouting
  • 146the gods and their thunderbolts, with the consent of the gods themselves.
  • 147That same man, moreover, provides a cause and occasion
  • 148for universal amusement if his cloak is ripped and muddy,
  • 149if his toga is a little stained, and one of his shoes gapes open
  • 150where the leather is split apart, or if several scars are apparent
  • 151where coarse new thread proclaims that a wound has been sewn together.
  • 152Of all that luckless poverty involves, nothing is harsher
  • Link 153than the fact that it makes people funny.
  • "Shame on you!" says the speaker.
  • Editor’s Note154"Kindly leave the cushioned seats reserved for the knights,
  • 155if your means are less than the law requires. You will give your place
  • pg 20156to brothel-keepers' boys, who first saw the light in some bawdy-house.
  • 157The debonair son of an auctioneer can sit and applaud here,
  • Editor’s Note158on his right a fighter's well-dressed lad, on his left a trainer's."
  • Editor’s Note159Thus decreed the brainless Otho, who assigned us our places.
  • 160Who is accepted as a son-in-law here, if he doesn't have funds
  • 161to match his fiancée's dowry? When is a poor man named
  • Editor’s Note Link 162as an heir, or consulted by aediles? Citizens lacking in substance
  • 163should long ago have banded together and marched out of town.

  • 164It's hard for people to rise in the world when their talents are thwarted
  • 165by living conditions of cramping poverty. At Rome, however,
  • 166their task is especially hard; dingy lodgings are costly,
  • 167costly are servants' stomachs; a meagre supper is costly.
  • 168It's shaming to eat off earthenware; but you wouldn't despise it
  • Editor’s Note169if suddenly whisked away to a Marsian or Sabine table.
  • 170There a cloak with a coarse blue hood would be quite sufficient.
  • Link 171We may as well face the truth. In most of Italy no one
  • 172puts on a toga until he's dead. On grand occasions,
  • 173when a public holiday is being held in a grassy theatre,
  • 174and the well-known farce, so long awaited, returns to the platform
  • Link 175(the peasant child in its mother's arms cowers in fear
  • Editor’s Note176when confronted by the gaping mouth of the whitened mask),
  • 177even then you will see similar clothes being worn
  • 178by the stalls and the rest alike; as robes of their lofty office,
  • 179the highest aediles are content to appear in plain white tunics.
  • 180Here the style of people's clothes is beyond their means.
  • 181Too much tends to be borrowed here from another's account.
  • 182That is a universal failing. All of us live
  • 183in pretentious poverty. Why elaborate? Nothing in Rome
  • 184is ever free. What does it cost you, once in a while,
  • Editor’s Note185to call on Cossus or win a tight-lipped glance from Veiento?
  • Editor’s Note186The beloved of one is having his beard, of another his hair cut;
  • 187the house is full of cakes; for each there's a "contribution".
  • Editor’s Note188"Here, just take it, and keep your yeast!" As clients we have to
  • 189pay our fee and swell the savings of well-dressed servants.
  • pg 21190Who is afraid, or was ever afraid, of his house collapsing
  • Editor’s Note191in cool Praeneste, or among Volsinii's tree-clad hills,
  • 192in Gabii, so plain and simple, or in Tibur's lofty fastness?
  • 193Here we live in a city which, to a large extent,
  • 194is supported by rickety props; that's how the landlord's agent
  • 195stops it falling. He covers a gap in the chinky old building,
  • 196then "sleep easy!" he says, when the ruin is poised to collapse.
  • 197One ought to live where fires don't happen, where alarms at night
  • Editor’s Note198are unknown. Ucalegon's shouting "Fire!" and moving to safety
  • 199his bits and pieces; your third floor is already smoking;
  • 200you are oblivious. If the panic starts at the foot of the stairs,
  • 201the last to burn is the man who is screened from the rain by nothing
  • 202except the tiles, where eggs are laid by the gentle doves.
  • Editor’s Note203Cordus possessed a bed too small for Prócula, a handful
  • 204of little pots adorning his sideboard, below them a tiny
  • Editor’s Note205mug, and, supporting the whole, a marble Chiron couchant.
  • 206A chest, now far from new, contained some volumes of Greek;
  • 207and illiterate mice were busy gnawing the deathless verses.
  • 208Cordus had nothing. Quite. But still, the unfortunate fellow
  • 209lost that nothing—every bit of it. Then, as a final
  • 210straw on his heap of woe, when he hasn't a stitch and is begging
  • 211for scraps, no one will help him with food or lodging or shelter.
  • Editor’s Note212If Asturicus' mansion is gutted, the nobles appear in mourning,
  • 213their ladies with hair dishevelled; the praetor adjourns his hearing.
  • 214Then we lament the city's disasters and rail at fire.
  • 215Before the flames are out, one comes forward with marble,
  • 216or an offer of building materials; another with nude white statues;
  • Editor’s Note217another presents a masterpiece of Euphránor, and bronzes
  • 218of Polyclítus, once the glory of Asian temples.
  • 219He gives books and shelves, and a Minerva to stand in the middle;
  • 220he a coffer of silver. More, and superior, items
  • Editor’s Note221are showered on Persicus the childless magnate, who not without reason
  • 222is now suspected of having set fire to his own house.
  • pg 22223If you can tear yourself from the races, an excellent house
  • Editor’s Note224can be bought outright at Frúsino, or Fabratéria, or Sora
  • 225for the price you pay these days as yearly rent for a hell-hole.
  • 226There you will have a plot, with a well so shallow that water
  • 227can be drawn without a rope and sprinkled over your seedlings.
  • 228Live wedded to the hoe, and tend your well-kept garden,
  • Editor’s Note229until you can give a feast to a hundred Pythagoreans,
  • Link 230It is some achievement in any place, however remote,
  • 231to become the proud possessor of a solitary lizard.
  • Link 232Here most invalids die from lack of sleep (but the illness
  • 233itself is caused by food which lies there undigested
  • 234on a feverish stomach); who ever obtained a good night's rest
  • 235in rented lodgings? It costs a fortune to sleep in the city.
  • Editor’s Note236That's the root of the trouble. The coming and going of waggons
  • 237in the narrow winding streets, the yells at a halted herd,
  • Editor’s Note238would banish sleep from even a seal or the emperor Drusus.
  • 239If duty calls, as the crowd falls back, the rich man passes
  • Editor’s Note240quickly above their faces in a large Liburnian galley,
  • 241reading or writing or taking a nap as he speeds along.
  • 242(The closed windows of a litter can make the occupant drowsy.)
  • 243Yet he'll arrive before us. As we hurry along we are blocked
  • 244by a wave in front; behind, a massive multitude crushes
  • 245my pelvis; he digs in with an elbow, he with a hard-wood
  • 246pole; then he hits my head with a beam, and he with a wine-jar.
  • 247My legs are caked with mud; from every side I am trampled
  • 248by giant feet; a soldier stamps on my toe with his hob-nails.
  • 249Look at all that smoke; a crowd is having a picnic.
  • 250A hundred guests, each with a portable kitchen behind him.
  • Editor’s Note251Córbulo could hardly carry so many enormous utensils,
  • 252so many things on his head, as that unfortunate slave-boy,
  • 253whø keeps his head erect and fans the flame as he runs.
  • 254Freshly mended tunics are ripped; a giant fir-tree
  • 255on a swaying cart comes bearing down; another waggon
  • 256carries a pine; they nod overhead and threaten the people.
  • 257For if the axle transporting Ligurian marble collapses,
  • 258tipping its mountainous load down on the hordes beneath,
  • 259what is left of their bodies? Who can locate their limbs
  • 260or bones? Each casualty's corpse is crushed out of existence,
  • pg 23261just like his soul. Meanwhile at home, unaware of what's happened,
  • 262they're washing dishes, puffing at the fire, making a clatter
  • 263with greasy scrapers, laying out towels and filling the oil-flask.
  • 264The staff is busy with various tasks; but he is already
  • Editor’s Note265sitting on the bank, a new arrival, dreading the frightful
  • 266ferryman; vainly he waits for the bark of those muddy waters,
  • 267poor devil, having no coin to offer between his teeth.

  • 268Consider now the various other nocturnal perils:
  • 269how far it is up to those towering floors from which a potsherd
  • 270smashes your brains; how often leaky and broken fragments
  • 271fall from the windows; and with what impact they strike the pavement,
  • 272leaving it chipped and shattered. You may well be regarded as slack,
  • 273and heedless of sudden disaster, if you fail to make your will
  • 274before going out to dinner. There's a separate form of death
  • 275that night in every window that watches you passing beneath it.
  • 276So hope, and utter a piteous prayer, as you walk along
  • 277that they may be willing to jettison only what's in their slop-pails.
  • Link 278Your drunken thug who has failed, by chance, to record a murder
  • Editor’s Note279pays the price; he spends the night as Achilles did
  • Editor’s Note280when mourning his friend; he lies on his face and then on his back.
  • 282For sleep, a brawl is needed. But however wild the youth,
  • 283and however heated with wine, he carefully skirts the figure
  • 284protected by a scarlet cloak and an endless line of attendants,
  • 285and a swathe of light which is cut by flaming lamps of brass.
  • 286He despises me; for I am escorted home by the moon,
  • 287and the light of a guttering candle, whose wick I carefully tend
  • 288and conserve. Now this is how the horrible fight begins
  • 289(if fight it is, where you do the punching and I just take it):
  • 290he stands in my way and tells me to halt. One has to obey him;
  • 291for what can you do when you're in the power of a madman, who also
  • 292is stronger than you are? "Where have you been?" he bellows, "And whose
  • pg 24293beans and plonk have given you wind? Well, who is the cobbler
  • 294you've sat with scoffing the tops of leeks and a boiled sheep's head?
  • 295No answer, eh? You'd better talk, or I'll put the boot in!
  • Editor’s Note296Come on then, where's your pitch? What synagogue do you go to?"
  • 297Whether you try to converse or to steal away without speaking,
  • 298it's all the same. They will beat you up; then, highly indignant,
  • 299take you to court. A poor man's rights are confined to this:
  • 300having been pounded and punched to a jelly, to beg and implore
  • 301that he may be allowed to go home with a few teeth in his head.

  • 302That is not all you have to fear. When your house is shut,
  • 303when your shop is secured by chains, when every shutter is fastened,
  • 304and all is silent, there will still be somebody there to rob you.
  • 305Sometimes a villain will suddenly do the job with a dagger.
  • Editor’s Note306Whenever the Pontine marshes and the Gallinarian forest
  • 307are, both of them, rendered safe by armed patrols, such people
  • 308converge in a body on Rome, as though on a game reserve.
  • 309What forge, what anvil, is not beset with heavy chains?
  • 310Most of our iron is used for fetters; hence we are threatened
  • 311with a shortage of ploughs and a serious dearth of hoes and mattocks.
  • 312Happy, one feels, were our distant ancestors, happy the ages
  • Editor’s Note313which lived of old beneath the rule of kings and tribunes,
  • 314in the days when a single jail sufficed the capital city.

  • 315In addition to these, I could give you several other reasons.
  • 316But the mules are calling and the sun is setting; it's time to be off.
  • 317The driver has long been waving his whip to show he's ready.
  • 318Good-bye, then; now and again spare me a thought; and whenever
  • Link 319you manage to get out of Rome for a break, and return to Aquinum,
  • Link 320ask me up from Cumae to visit Helvius' Ceres
  • Editor’s Note Link 321and your Diana. I'll don my boots and come to your chilly
  • 322district, to hear your satires—unless they would feel embarrassed.'

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
3 the Sibyl: the seer who centuries before had sold her prophetic books to King Tarquinius Priscus (616–579 bc). Her abode was at Cumae, the oldest Greek colony in Italy, now in decline, situated on the neck of the peninsula on which stood the ever popular resort of Baiae, north of the Bay of Naples.
Editor’s Note
5 Prochyta: a barren island off the same peninsula.
Subura: a district of Rome and also a bustling and disreputable street leading eastwards out of the City. Juvenal, according to Martial 12. 18 and on his own evidence (10. 156, 11. 51, 141) was well acquainted with it.
Editor’s Note
11 the Porta Capena: a gate in the Servian Wall, south-west of Rome, giving onto the south-bound Appian Way. It was crossed by an aqueduct, the Aqua Marcia, the water of which used to percolate through the stone. The van stood here, outside the city wall, because with few exceptions, e.g. builders' drays (see lines 236 ff. below), chariots in a triumphal procession, etc., vehicular traffic was forbidden in Rome during the hours of daylight.
Editor’s Note
12 Numa: King of Rome (715–673 bc). He claimed to have been instructed in the ordinances of the Roman religion by the nymph Egeria, whom he met at night in the grove of the Camenae, near the Porta Camena. Livy 1. 21. 3 calls her Numa's coniunx ('wife' or 'mate'), but Juvenal casts doubt on the seriousness of the king's motives.
Editor’s Note
14 Jews: expulsion of the Jews from Rome had taken place from time to time and as recently as the reign of Claudius (ad 41–54), but Judaeism remained a tolerated religion (religio licita) and their numbers at Rome had been swollen by the dispersal of the Jews following the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in ad 70.
a hay-lined chest: the most plausible explanation is that they prepared food in advance, warmed it and placed it in an airtight box packed with straw to continue cooking for the Sabbath when such work was forbidden. Similarly at 6. 542.
Editor’s Note
25 Daedalus … wings: i.e. Cumae, where, according to one version of the story, Daedalus (see 1. 54 and Index) landed after his flight from Crete.
Editor’s Note
27 Lachesis: see on 9. 135 f.
Editor’s Note
33 i.e. who sell up in a fraudulent bankruptcy. A spear (called 'the owner's' because the sale conferred ownership) was set up to indicate that an auction was in progress, a relic of the days when the spoils of war were sold thus. The line should be understood as a sale of the debtor's goods, not the sale of an individual.
Editor’s Note
34 ff. From providing a musical accompaniment for the gladiatorial contests in country towns, these people are now putting up the money for shows of their own, at which they preside, like Roman magistrates or even emperors.
Editor’s Note
44 f. never studied the innards of frogs: the wording suggests some form of divination (cf. 6. 550 f.) rather than the preparation of poison as at 1. 70, 6. 659.
Editor’s Note
53 Verres is the stereotype of the guilty provincial governor in dread of prosecution. Cicero's successful conduct of the case against Verres for extortion in his province of Sicily put him in the front rank of his profession, 70 bc.
Editor’s Note
54 the sand of shady Tagus: the Tagus, one of the chief rivers of the Iberian peninsula, entering the sea at Lisbon, was famous in antiquity for its gold-bearing sand.
Editor’s Note
61 Juvenal means more particularly a Rome full of Greeks. Achaea was the Roman province of that name, i.e. the Peloponnese and part of central mainland Greece—Greece properly so-called as it were, as opposed to other parts of the eastern Mediterranean which Alexander the Great had made Greek.
Editor’s Note
68 Grecian smudge: the smudge came from the surface of the wrestling-ring; cf. 6. 246. Conservative Romans disapproved of the wrestling-school, a Greek institution, as encouraging homosexuality.
Editor’s Note
69 f. Of the places mentioned only two (Amydon in Macedonia, Sicyon of Argolis) are on the Greek mainland; see on l. 61 above. Andros and Samos are Aegean islands; Tralles and Alabanda were in Caria in Asia Minor.
Editor’s Note
71 Willows' hill: (like the Esquiline, one of the seven hills of Rome. Its real name, Viminal, did not fit the metre: hence the descriptive allusion.
Editor’s Note
74 Isaeus: a Syrian rhetorician whose skill and fluency created a great impression when he performed at Rome in ad 97.
Editor’s Note
85 Aventine air … Sabine berry: i.e. I am a pure-bred Roman. (In this respect Umbricius is unlike Juvenal.) The Aventine is one of the Seven Hills. The Sabine berry is the olive, home-produce unlike figs and damsons.
Editor’s Note
89 Antaeus, the giant wrestler of Libya, who drew his strength from his mother earth, could only be beaten by Hercules lifting him off it and squeezing the life out of him: the contest was a favourite subject with sculptors.
Editor’s Note
94 Thaïs … the wife … Doris: these are stock characters in plays of the Greek New Comedy type and their Roman adaptations (palliatae). Thaïs is a prostitute as in Terence's The Eunuch; the wife is the respectable matron; Doris is the maidservant.
Editor’s Note
98 f. These were Greek comic actors working at Rome. Stratocles and Demetrius are praised by Quintilian (11. 3. 178 ff.) for their versatility in a wide range of New Comedy roles, the latter particularly for his matrons and old women.
Editor’s Note
108 A line of impenetrable difficulty. The translation envisages some form of commode or chamber-pot with a false inner bottom that flipped over into place after use. Others think of a drinking-glass that gurgled when emptied.
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112 In these times a friend would stop at nothing. Thus Piso (see 5. 109) had made off with a friend's wife (Tacitus, Annals 15. 59), who had nothing whatever to commend her except her looks.
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[113 Recent editors follow Housman in regarding this line as spurious. It says 'they wish to know the household's secrets and, for that reason, to be feared.']
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114 The gymnasia were among the haunts of homosexuals.
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116 The Stoic philosopher P. Egnatius Celer in ad 66 gave evidence against his patron and pupil Marcius Barea Soranus, who was prosecuted for association with Rubellius Plautus (see on 8. 39–40) and plotting revolt (Tacitus, Annals 16. 30–2, Histories 4. 10). Egnatius was born in Berytus (Beirut) but evidently educated in Tarsus on the banks of the river Cydnus, where a feather (Greek tarsos) of the winged horse Pegasus is supposed to have fallen. Pegasus sprang from the blood of the Gorgon Medusa when she was beheaded.
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120 The typical Greek names are intended to convey contempt.
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129 The lictors were the official public attendants of the Roman magistrates. For legacy-hunting and the significance of being childless see line 221 below, 5. 136 ff., 6. 38 ff., 12. 93 ff. The frequent references to legacy-hunting indicate the continuing failure of Augustus' legislation of 18 bc to encourage marriage and child-bearing.
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130 Albina and Modia are the childless women referred to in the previous line, evidently considered important enough to receive the morning salutation described in Satire 1.
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131 In Horace's satire on legacy-hunting (2. 5. 16 ff.), the penniless Ulysses is affronted when recommended to walk on the outside of a rich ex-slave.
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133 Calvina and Catiena are evidently women of aristocratic birth. The name Calvina recalls a famous sex scandal of the year ad 49 (Tacitus, Annals 12. 4).
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135 Chione (from the Greek chion, 'snow') is the name of a prostitute in several of Martial's epigrams.
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137 In 204 bc P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica was adjudged the best citizen of Rome and was therefore sent to Ostia to escort to the City the image of the Idaean Mother Goddess Cybele, which had been brought from Asia Minor as a means of driving out Hannibal.
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138 Numa: see on line 12 above.
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139 frightened Minerva: In 241 bc L. Caecilius Metellus lost his sight in rescuing the statue of Minerva from the burning temple of Vesta. The suggestion of human frailty in the mighty daughter of Jupiter is Juvenal's own idea.
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144 f. the altars of Samothrace: the Cabiri, divinities worshipped in the islands of the north Aegean, especially Samothrace, punished people guilty of perjury.
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154 f. By the Lex Roscia theatralis, passed in 67 bc by the tribune L. Roscius Otho (l. 159 below), the first fourteen rows of seats in the theatre behind the orchestra (where the senators sat) were reserved for the knights, a wealthy order (see 1. 106 and note). The law had recently been revived by Domitian as censor, and is often referred to by writers of the period, e.g. by Martial in his fifth book.
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158 a fighter's: i.e. a gladiator's.
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159 brainless Otho: see on 154 f. His discriminatory law occasioned serious disorders in the theatre in 63 bc, and it required all Cicero's tact as consul to calm the rioters in a speech now lost.
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162 aediles: they were magistrates whose responsibilities included public order, traffic, weights and measures, and (before Augustus) the games. They had jurisdiction in the lower courts but, relatively unimportant as they were, they never, says Juvenal, invited poor men to sit with them as assessors on the bench.
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169 The Marsi and the Sabelli (Samnites) were hardy and warlike peoples of central Italy. This is one of Juvenal's many echoes of Virgil (Georgics 2. 167).
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176 gaping mouth … whitened mask: the actors' masks were often coloured or (as here) whitened to help identify the characters portrayed.
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185 Veiento, who is coupled with the deadly Catullus at 4. 113, was a dangerous informer (Aurelius Victor Epitome 12. 5). This Cossus was presumably no different: the Scholiast merely calls him 'a haughty noble of that period'.
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186 The first clipping of the beard, like the cutting of the long locks of boyhood, was something of a rite de passage and celebrated accordingly.
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188 The client hands over the money, but tells the slave what he can do with his cake.
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191 These country-towns were all in Latium, except Volsinii, which was in Etruria. Horace (Epistles 1. 11. 7) and Juvenal (10. 100) speak of Gabii as a place that had seen better days.
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198 Ucalegon: another Virgilian echo, from Aeneid 2. 312, where the neighbour Ucalegon's house burns down during the sack of Troy.
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203 Cordus, in spite of his love of books, is not necessarily the poet of 1. 2. Procula (the name of an adulteress at 2. 68) was evidently shorter than average.
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205 The sideboard is supported on the figure of the Centaur Chiron, done in marble, which is merely the local stone of much of Italy, therefore a poor man's possession.
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212 Asturicus is a well-to-do senator (Scholiast), otherwise unknown: see below on l. 221.
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217 f. Euphranor was a celebrated Greek sculptor and painter of the fourth century bc: Polyclitus, also a sculptor of great influence and fame, was of the fifth century.
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221 If Persicus and Asturicus (l. 212) do not denote the same person, i.e. Persicus Asturicus (or vice versa), and logically they should, then Persicus' house may have been called 'Asturicus' mansion' from a previous owner.
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224 These are another group of country towns in Latium.
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229 The Pythagoreans followed a vegetarian diet: cf. 15. 171 ff.
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236 f. This problem was partly solved by restricting vehicular traffic to building-contractors' drays during daylight hours. See l. 10 and note above. Nero's rebuilding after the great fire of ad 64 had also effected some improvement in the layout of the streets.
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238 Seals according to Pliny (Nat. Hist. 9. 42) are heavy sleepers. The emperor Claudius (Tiberius Claudius Drusus Caesar) slept so badly at night that he often dozed off while presiding at the law-courts next day (Suetonius, Claudius 33. 2).
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240 Liburnian galley: the litter or palanquin resembled a four-poster bed with carrying-handles for as many as eight bearers. Juvenal compares this one to a type of battleship.
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251 Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, a distinguished Roman general under Claudius and Nero, was renowned both for his huge size and the respect accorded him by his enemies (Tacitus, Annals 13. 8 f.).
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265 f. The frightful ferryman is Charon who ferried the souls of the dead across the river Styx (see on 2. 149 ff.), but only those who had been prepared for burial in due form and had a coin in the mouth to pay for their passage: so the hero of this little story waits in vain.
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279 f. Achilles … mourning his friend: the night of grief of Achilles mourning for Patroclus, killed in action against the Trojans, is described by Homer, Iliad 24. 10 f.: he wept 'now lying on his side, now on his back, now on his face and finally standing up'.
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[281 This line, which says 'therefore he will not be able to sleep in any other way; for some people …', is almost certainly an explanatory comment or gloss, which a copyist has turned into a hexameter.]
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296 The thug finally pretends to identify his victim as a beggar and a Jew, the latter especially offensive given the attitude of Umbricius and his sort to the immigrant communities of Rome. See on l. 14 above and ll. 62 ff.
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306 The Pontine Marshes were a large tract of marshland, about 300 miles square, on the coast of Latium between Circeii and Terracina, traversed by the Appian Way and a navigable canal. They were successfully drained by Mussolini only in the 1930s. The Gallinarian forest was an extensive pinewood near Cumae in Campania. Both places were the haunts of robbers.
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313 kings and tribunes: Rome was governed first by kings (753–510 bc), then in the Republican period by two annual consuls and the senate, but in some years between 444 and 367 bc the regular consuls were replaced by military tribunes with consular power. It is these probably, and not the tribunes of the people (see 1. 109 and note), that Juvenal has in mind here.
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321 Helvius' Ceres and your Diana: these would have been temples.
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