Produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
THE SATYRICON OF
Complete and unexpurgated translation by W. C. Firebaugh,
in which are incorporated the forgeries of Nodot and Marchena,
and the readings introduced into the text by De Salas.
There are two basic instincts in the character of the normal individual;
the will to live, and the will to propagate the species. It is from the
interplay of these instincts that prostitution took origin, and it is for
this reason that this profession is the oldest in human experience, the
first offspring, as it were, of savagery and of civilization. When Fate
turns the leaves of the book of universal history, she enters, upon the
page devoted thereto, the record of the birth of each nation in its
chronological order, and under this record appears the scarlet entry to
confront the future historian and arrest his unwilling attention; the
only entry which time and even oblivion can never efface.
If, prior to the time of Augustus Caesar, the Romans had laws designed to
control the social evil, we have no knowledge of them, but there is
nevertheless no lack of evidence to prove that it was only too well known
among them long before that happy age (Livy i, 4; ii, 18); and the
peculiar story of the Bacchanalian cult which was brought to Rome by
foreigners about the second century B.C. (Livy xxxix, 9-17), and the
comedies of Plautus and Terence, in which the pandar and the harlot are
familiar characters. Cicero, Pro Coelio, chap. xx, says: "If there is
anyone who holds the opinion that young men should be interdicted from
intrigues with the women of the town, he is indeed austere! That,
ethically, he is in the right, I cannot deny: but nevertheless, he is at
loggerheads not only with the licence of the present age, but even with
the habits of our ancestors and what they permitted themselves. For when
was this NOT done? When was it rebuked? When found fault with?" The
Floralia, first introduced about 238 B.C., had a powerful influence in
giving impetus to the spread of prostitution. The account of the origin
of this festival, given by Lactantius, while no credence is to be placed
in it, is very interesting. "When Flora, through the practice of
prostitution, had come into great wealth, she made the people her heir,
and bequeathed a certain fund, the income of which was to be used to
celebrate her birthday by the exhibition of the games they call the
Floralia" (Instit. Divin. xx, 6). In chapter x of the same book, he
describes the manner in which they were celebrated: "They were solemnized
with every form of licentiousness. For in addition to the freedom of
speech that pours forth every obscenity, the prostitutes, at the
importunities of the rabble, strip off their clothing and act as mimes in
full view of the crowd, and this they continue until full satiety comes
to the shameless lookers-on, holding their attention with their wriggling
buttocks." Cato, the censor, objected to the latter part of this
spectacle, but, with all his influence, he was never able to abolish it;
the best be could do was to have the spectacle put off until he had left
the theatre. Within 40 years after the introduction of this festival,
P. Scipio Africanus, in his speech in defense of Tib. Asellus, said: "If
you elect to defend your profligacy, well and good. But as a matter of
fact, you have lavished, on one harlot, more money than the total value,
as declared by you to the Census Commissioners, of all the plenishing of
your Sabine farm; if you deny my assertion I ask who dare wager 1,000
sesterces on its untruth? You have squandered more than a third of the
property you inherited from your father and dissipated it in debauchery"
(Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, vii, 11). It was about this time that
the Oppian law came up for repeal. The stipulations of this law were as
follows: No woman should have in her dress above half an ounce of gold,
nor wear a garment of different colors, nor ride in a carriage in the
city or in any town, or within a mile of it, unless upon occasion of a
public sacrifice. This sumptuary law was passed during the public
distress consequent upon Hannibal's invasion of Italy. It was repealed
eighteen years afterward, upon petition of the Roman ladies, though
strenuously opposed by Cato (Livy 34, 1; Tacitus, Annales, 3, 33). The
increase of wealth among the Romans, the spoils wrung from their victims
as a portion of the price of defeat, the contact of the legions with the
softer, more civilized, more sensuous races of Greece and Asia Minor,
laid the foundations upon which the social evil was to rise above the
city of the seven hills, and finally crush her. In the character of the
Roman there was but little of tenderness. The well-being of the state
caused him his keenest anxiety. One of the laws of the twelve tables,
the "Coelebes Prohibito," compelled the citizen of manly vigor to satisfy
the promptings of nature in the arms of a lawful wife, and the tax on
bachelors is as ancient as the times of Furius Camillus. "There was an
ancient law among the Romans," says Dion Cassius, lib. xliii, "which
forbade bachelors, after the age of twenty-five, to enjoy equal political
rights with married men. The old Romans had passed this law in hope
that, in this way, the city of Rome, and the Provinces of the Roman
Empire as well, might be insured an abundant population." The increase,
under the Emperors, of the number of laws dealing with sex is an accurate
mirror of conditions as they altered and grew worse. The "Jus Trium
Librorum," under the empire, a privilege enjoyed by those who had three
legitimate children, consisting, as it did, of permission to fill
a public office before the twenty-fifth year of one's age, and in
freedom from personal burdens, must have had its origin in the grave
apprehensions for the future, felt by those in power. The fact that this
right was sometimes conferred upon those who were not legally entitled
to benefit by it, makes no difference in this inference. Scions of
patrician families imbibed their lessons from the skilled voluptuaries
of Greece and the Levant and in their intrigues with the wantons of those
climes, they learned to lavish wealth as a fine art. Upon their return
to Rome they were but ill-pleased with the standard of entertainment
offered by the ruder and less sophisticated native talent; they imported
Greek and Syrian mistresses. 'Wealth increased, its message sped in
every direction, and the corruption of the world was drawn into Italy as
by a load-stone. The Roman matron had learned how to be a mother, the
lesson of love was an unopened book; and, when the foreign hetairai
poured into the city, and the struggle for supremacy began, she soon
became aware of the disadvantage under which she contended. Her natural
haughtiness had caused her to lose valuable time; pride, and finally
desperation drove her to attempt to outdo her foreign rivals; her native
modesty became a thing of the past, her Roman initiative, unadorned by
sophistication, was often but too successful in outdoing the Greek and
Syrian wantons, but without the appearance of refinement which they
always contrived to give to every caress of passion or avarice. They
wooed fortune with an abandon that soon made them the objects of contempt
in the eyes of their lords and masters. "She is chaste whom no man has
solicited," said Ovid (Amor. i, 8, line 43). Martial, writing about
ninety years later says: "Sophronius Rufus, long have I been searching
the city through to find if there is ever a maid to say 'No'; there is
not one." (Ep. iv, 71.) In point of time, a century separates Ovid and
Martial; from a moral standpoint, they are as far apart as the poles.
The revenge, then, taken by Asia, gives a startling insight into the real
meaning of Kipling's poem, "The female of the species is more deadly than
the male." In Livy (xxxiv, 4) we read: (Cato is speaking), "All these
changes, as day by day the fortune of the state is higher and more
prosperous and her empire grows greater, and our conquests extend over
Greece and Asia, lands replete with every allurement of the senses, and
we appropriate treasures that may well be called royal,--all this I dread
the more from my fear that such high fortune may rather master us, than
we master it." Within twelve years of the time when this speech was
delivered, we read in the same author (xxxix, 6), "for the beginnings of
foreign luxury were brought into the city by the Asiatic army"; and
Juvenal (Sat. iii, 6), "Quirites, I cannot bear to see Rome a Greek city,
yet how small a fraction of the whole corruption is found in these dregs
of Achaea? Long since has the Syrian Orontes flowed into the Tiber and
brought along with it the Syrian tongue and manners and cross-stringed
harp and harper and exotic timbrels and girls bidden stand for hire at
the circus." Still, from the facts which have come down to us, we cannot
arrive at any definite date at which houses of ill fame and women of the
town came into vogue at Rome. That they had long been under police
regulation, and compelled to register with the aedile, is evident from a
passage in Tacitus: "for Visitilia, born of a family of praetorian rank,
had publicly notified before the aediles, a permit for fornication,
according to the usage that prevailed among our fathers, who supposed
that sufficient punishment for unchaste women resided in the very nature
of their calling." No penalty attached to illicit intercourse or to
prostitution in general, and the reason appears in the passage from
Tacitus, quoted above. In the case of married women, however, who
contravened the marriage vow there were several penalties. Among them,
one was of exceptional severity, and was not repealed until the time of
Theodosius: "again he repealed another regulation of the following
nature; if any should have been detected in adultery, by this plan she
was not in any way reformed, but rather utterly given over to an increase
of her ill behaviour. They used to shut the woman up in a narrow room,
admitting any that would commit fornication with her, and, at the moment
when they were accomplishing their foul deed, to strike bells, that the
sound might make known to all, the injury she was suffering. The Emperor
hearing this, would suffer it no longer, but ordered the very rooms to be
pulled down" (Paulus Diaconus, Hist. Miscel. xiii, 2). Rent from a
brothel was a legitimate source of income (Ulpian, Law as to Female
Slaves Making Claim to Heirship). Procuration also, had to be notified
before the aedile, whose special business it was to see that no Roman
matron became a prostitute. These aediles had authority to search every
place which had reason to fear anything, but they themselves dared not
engage in any immorality there; Aulus Gellius, Noct. Attic. iv, 14,
where an action at law is cited, in which the aedile Hostilius had
attempted to force his way into the apartments of Mamilia, a courtesan,
who thereupon, had driven him away with stones. The result of the trial
is as follows: "the tribunes gave as their decision that the aedile had
been lawfully driven from that place, as being one that he ought not to
have visited with his officer." If we compare this passage with Livy,
xl, 35, we find that this took place in the year 180 B C. Caligula
inaugurated a tax upon prostitutes (vectigal ex capturis), as a state
impost: "he levied new and hitherto unheard of taxes; a proportion of the
fees of prostitutes;--so much as each earned with one man. A clause was
also added to the law directing that women who had practiced harlotry and
men who had practiced procuration should be rated publicly; and
furthermore, that marriages should be liable to the rate" (Suetonius,
Calig. xi). Alexander Severus retained this law, but directed that such
revenue be used for the upkeep of the public buildings, that it might not
contaminate the state treasure (Lamprid. Alex. Severus, chap. 24). This
infamous tax was not abolished until the time of Theodosius, but the real
credit is due to a wealthy patrician, Florentius by name, who strongly
censured this practice, to the Emperor, and offered his own property to
make good the deficit which would appear upon its abrogation (Gibbon,
vol. 2, p. 318, note). With the regulations and arrangements of the
brothels, however, we have information which is far more accurate. These
houses (lupanaria, fornices, et cet.) were situated, for the most part,
in the Second District of the City (Adler, Description of the City of
Rome, pp. 144 et seq.), the Coelimontana, particularly in the Suburra
that bordered the town walls, lying in the Carinae,--the valley between
the Coelian and Esquiline Hills. The Great Market (Macellum Magnum) was
in this district, and many cook-shops, stalls, barber shops, et cet. as
well; the office of the public executioner, the barracks for foreign
soldiers quartered at Rome; this district was one of the busiest and most
densely populated in the entire city. Such conditions would naturally be
ideal for the owner of a house of ill fame, or for a pandar. The regular
brothels are described as having been exceedingly dirty, smelling of the
gas generated by the flame of the smoking lamp, and of the other odors
which always haunted these ill ventilated dens. Horace, Sat. i, 2, 30,
"on the other hand, another will have none at all except she be standing
in the evil smelling cell (of the brothel)"; Petronius, chap. xxii, "worn
out by all his troubles, Ascyltos commenced to nod, and the maid, whom he
had slighted, and, of course, insulted, smeared lamp-black all over his
face"; Priapeia, xiii, 9, "whoever likes may enter here, smeared with the
black soot of the brothel"; Seneca, Cont. i, 2, "you reek still of the
soot of the brothel." The more pretentious establishments of the Peace
ward, however, were sumptuously fitted up. Hair dressers were in
attendance to repair the ravages wrought in the toilette, by frequent
amorous conflicts, and aquarioli, or water boys attended at the door with
bidets for ablution. Pimps sought custom for these houses and there was
a good understanding between the parasites and the prostitutes. From the
very nature of their calling, they were the friends and companions of
courtesans. Such characters could not but be mutually necessary to each
other. The harlot solicited the acquaintance of the client or parasite,
that she might the more easily obtain and carry on intrigues with the
rich and dissipated. The parasite was assiduous in his attention to the
courtesan, as procuring through her means, more easy access to his
patrons, and was probably rewarded by them both, for the gratification
which he obtained for the vices of the one and the avarice of the other.
The licensed houses seem to have been of two kinds: those owned and
managed by a pandar, and those in which the latter was merely an agent,
renting rooms and doing everything in his power to supply his renters
with custom. The former were probably the more respectable. In these
pretentious houses, the owner kept a secretary, villicus puellarum, or
superintendent of maids; this official assigned a girl her name, fixed
the price to be demanded for her favors, received the money and provided
clothing and other necessities: "you stood with the harlots, you stood
decked out to please the public, wearing the costume the pimp had
furnished you"; Seneca, Controv. i, 2. Not until this traffic had become
profitable, did procurers and procuresses (for women also carried on this
trade) actually keep girls whom they bought as slaves: "naked she stood
on the shore, at the pleasure of the purchaser; every part of her body
was examined and felt. Would you hear the result of the sale? The
pirate sold; the pandar bought, that he might employ her as a
prostitute"; Seneca, Controv. lib. i, 2. It was also the duty of the
villicus, or cashier, to keep an account of what each girl earned: "give
me the brothel-keeper's accounts, the fee will suit" (Ibid.)
When an applicant registered with the aedile, she gave her correct name,
her age, place of birth, and the pseudonym under which she intended
practicing her calling. (Plautus, Poen.)
If the girl was young and apparently respectable, the official sought to
influence her to change her mind; failing in this, he issued her a
license (licentia stupri), ascertained the price she intended exacting
for her favors, and entered her name in his roll. Once entered there,
the name could never be removed, but must remain for all time an
insurmountable bar to repentance and respectability. Failure to register
was severely punished upon conviction, and this applied not only to the
girl but to the pandar as well. The penalty was scourging, and
frequently fine and exile. Notwithstanding this, however, the number
of clandestine prostitutes at Rome was probably equal to that of the
registered harlots. As the relations of these unregistered women were,
for the most part, with politicians and prominent citizens it was very
difficult to deal with them effectively: they were protected by their
customers, and they set a price upon their favors which was commensurate
with the jeopardy in which they always stood. The cells opened upon a
court or portico in the pretentious establishments, and this court was
used as a sort of reception room where the visitors waited with covered
head, until the artist whose ministrations were particularly desired,
as she would of course be familiar with their preferences in matters of
entertainment, was free to receive them. The houses were easily found by
the stranger, as an appropriate emblem appeared over the door. This
emblem of Priapus was generally a carved figure, in wood or stone, and
was frequently painted to resemble nature more closely. The size ranged
from a few inches in length to about two feet. Numbers of these
beginnings in advertising have been recovered from Pompeii and
Herculaneum, and in one case an entire establishment, even to the
instruments used in gratifying unnatural lusts, was recovered intact.
In praise of our modern standards of morality, it should be said that it
required some study and thought to penetrate the secret of the proper use
of several of these instruments. The collection is still to be seen in
the Secret Museum at Naples. The mural decoration was also in proper
keeping with the object for which the house was maintained, and a few
examples of this decoration have been preserved to modern times; their
luster and infamous appeal undimmed by the passage of centuries.
Over the door of each cell was a tablet (titulus) upon which was the name
of the occupant and her price; the reverse bore the word "occupata" and
when the inmate was engaged the tablet was turned so that this word was
out. This custom is still observed in Spain and Italy. Plautus, Asin.
iv, i, 9, speaks of a less pretentious house when he says: "let her write
on the door that she is 'occupata.'" The cell usually contained a lamp
of bronze or, in the lower dens, of clay, a pallet or cot of some sort,
over which was spread a blanket or patch-work quilt, this latter being
sometimes employed as a curtain, Petronius, chap 7.
The arches under the circus were a favorite location for prostitutes;
ladies of easy virtue were ardent frequenters of the games of the circus
and were always ready at hand to satisfy the inclinations which the
spectacles aroused. These arcade dens were called "fornices," from which
comes our generic fornication. The taverns, inns, lodging houses, cook
shops, bakeries, spelt-mills and like institutions all played a prominent
part in the underworld of Rome. Let us take them in order:
Lupanaria--Wolf Dens, from lupa, a wolf. The derivation, according to
Lactantius, is as follows: "for she (Lupa, i. e., Acca Laurentia) was the
wife of Faustulus, and because of the easy rate at which her person was
held at the disposal of all, was called, among the shepherds, 'Lupa,'
that is, harlot, whence also 'lupanar,' a brothel, is so called." It may
be added, however, that there is some diversity of opinion upon this
matter. It will be discussed more fully under the word "lupa."
Fornix--An arch. The arcades under the theatres.
Pergulae--Balconies, where harlots were shown.
Stabulae--Inns, but frequently houses of prostitution.
Diversorium--A lodging house; house of assignation.
Tugurium--A hut. A very low den.
Turturilla--A dove cote; frequently in male part.
Casuaria--Road houses; almost invariably brothels.
The taverns were generally regarded by the magistrates as brothels and
the waitresses were so regarded by the law (Codex Theodos. lx, tit. 7,
ed. Ritter; Ulpian liiii, 23, De Ritu Nupt.). The Barmaid (Copa),
attributed to Virgil, proves that even the proprietress had two strings
to her bow, and Horace, Sat. lib. i, v, 82, in describing his excursion
to Brundisium, narrates his experience, or lack of it, with a waitress in
an inn. This passage, it should be remarked, is the only one in all his
works in which he is absolutely sincere in what he says of women. "Here
like a triple fool I waited till midnight for a lying jade till sleep
overcame me, intent on venery; in that filthy vision the dreams spot my
night clothes and my belly, as I lie upon my back." In the AEserman
inscription (Mommsen, Inscr. Regn. Neap. 5078, which is number 7306 in
Orelli-Henzen) we have another example of the hospitality of these inns,
and a dialogue between the hostess and a transient. The bill for the
services of a girl amounted to 8 asses. This inscription is of great
interest to the antiquary, and to the archoeologist. That bakers were
not slow in organizing the grist mills is shown by a passage from Paulus
Diaconus, xiii, 2: "as time went on, the owners of these turned the
public corn mills into pernicious frauds. For, as the mill stones were
fixed in places under ground, they set up booths on either side of these
chambers and caused harlots to stand for hire in them, so that by these
means they deceived very many,--some that came for bread, others that
hastened thither for the base gratification of their wantonness." From a
passage in Festus, it would seem that this was first put into practice in
Campania:--"harlots were called 'aelicariae', 'spelt-mill girls, in
Campania, being accustomed to ply for gain before the mills of the
spelt-millers." "Common strumpets, bakers' mistresses, refuse the
spelt-mill girls," says Plautus, i, ii, 54.
There are few languages which are richer in pornographic terminology
than the Latin.
Meretrix--Nomus Marcellus has pointed out the difference between this
class of prostitutes and the prostibula. "This is the difference between
a meretrix (harlot) and a prostibula (common strumpet): a meretrix is of
a more honorable station and calling; for meretrices are so named a
merendo (from earning wages) because they plied their calling only by
night; prostibulu because they stand before the stabulum (stall) for gain
both by day and night."
Prostibula--She who stands in front of her cell or stall.
Proseda--She who sits in front of her cell or stall. She who later
became the Empress Theodora belonged to this class, if any credit is to
be given to Procopius.
Nonariae--She that is forbidden to appear before the ninth hour.
Mimae--Mime players. They were almost invariably prostitutes.
Cymbalistriae--Cymbal players. They were almost invariably prostitutes.
Ambubiae--Singing girls. They were almost invariably prostitutes.
Citharistriae--Harpists. They were almost invariably prostitutes.
Scortum--A strumpet. Secrecy is implied, but the word has a broad usage.
Scorta erratica | Clandestine strumpets who were street walkers.
Busturiae--Tomb frequenters and hangers-on at funerals.
Famosae--Soiled doves from respectable families.
Doris--Harlots of great beauty. They wore no clothing.
Lupae--She wolves. Some authorities affirm that this name was given them
because of a peculiar wolflike cry they uttered, and others assert that
the generic was bestowed upon then because their rapacity rivalled that
of the wolf. Servius, however, in his commentary on Virgil, has assigned
a much more improper and filthy reason for the name; he alludes to the
manner in which the wolf who mothered Rotnulus and Reinus licked their
bodies with her tongue, and this hint is sufficient to confirm him in his
belief that the lupa; were not less skilled in lingual gymnastics. See
Lemaire's Virgil, vol. vi, p. 521; commentary of Servius on AEneid, lib.
Blitidae--A very low class deriving their name from a cheap drink sold in
the dens they frequented.
Forariae--Country girls who frequented the roads.
Gallinae--Thieving prostitutes, because after the manner of hens,
prostitutes take anything and scatter everything.
Diobolares--Two obol girls. So called from their price.
Amasiae, also in the diminutive--Girls devoted to Venus. Their best
expression in modern society would be the "vamps."
Amatrix--Female lover, frequently in male part.
Amica--Female friend, frequently a tribad.
Quadrantariae--The lowest class of all. Their natural charms were no
longer merchantable. She of whom Catullus speaks in connection with the
lofty souled descendants of Remus was of this stripe.
From many passages in the ancient authors it is evident that harlots
stood naked at the doors of their cells: "I saw some men prowling
stealthily between the rows of name-boards and naked prostitutes,"
Petronius, chap. 7. "She entered the brothel, cozy with its
crazy-quilt, and the empty cell--her own. Then, naked she stands, with
gilded nipples, beneath the tablet of the pretended Lysisca," Juvenal,
Sat. vi, 121 et seq. In some cases they had recourse to a gossamer
tissue of silk gauze, as was formerly the custom in Paris, Chicago, and
San Francisco. "The matron has no softer thigh nor has she a more
beautiful leg," says Horace, Sat. I, ii, "though the setting be one of
pearls and emeralds (with all due respect to thy opinion, Cerinthus),
the togaed plebeian's is often the finer, and, in addition, the beauties
of figure are not camouflaged; that which is for sale, if honest, is
shown openly, whereas deformity seeks concealment. It is the custom
among kings that, when buying horses, they inspect them in the open,
lest, as is often the case, a beautiful head is sustained by a tender
hoof and the eager purchaser may be seduced by shapely hocks, a short
head, or an arching neck. Are these experts right in this? Thou canst
appraise a figure with the eyes of Lynceus and discover its beauties;
though blinder than Hypoesea herself thou canst see what deformities
there are. Ah, what a leg! What arms! But how thin her buttocks are,
in very truth what a huge nose she has, she's short-waisted, too, and
her feet are out of proportion! Of the matron, except for the face,
nothing is open to your scrutiny unless she is a Catia who has dispensed
with her clothing so that she may be felt all over thoroughly, the rest
will be hidden. But as for the other, no difficulty there! Through the
Coan silk it is as easy for you to see as if she were naked, whether she
has an unshapely leg, whether her foot is ugly; her waist you can
examine with your eyes. As for the price exacted, it ranged from a
quadrans to a very high figure. In the inscription to which reference
has already been made, the price was eight asses. An episode related in
the life of Apollonius of Tyre furnishes additional information upon
this subject. The lecher who deflowered a harlot was compelled to pay a
much higher price for alleged undamaged goods than was asked of
"Master," cries the girl, throwing herself at his feet, "pity my
maidenhood, do not prostitute this body under so ugly a name." The
superintendent of maids replies, "Let the maid here present be dressed up
with every care, let a name-ticket be written for her, and the fellow who
deflowers Tarsia shall pay half a libra; afterwards she shall be at the
service of the public for one solidus per head."
The passage in Petronius (chap. viii) and that in Juvenal (Sat. vi, 125)
are not to be taken literally. "Aes" in the latter should be understood
to mean what we would call "the coin," and not necessarily coin of low
The origin of this vice (all peoples, savage and civilized, have been
infected with it) is lost in the mists which shroud antiquity. The Old
Testament contains many allusions to it, and Sodom was destroyed because
a long-suffering deity could not find ten men in the entire city who were
not addicted to its practice. So saturated was this city of the ancient
world with the vice that the very name of the city or the adjective
denoting citizenship in that city have transmitted the stigma to modern
times. That the fathers of Israel were quick to perceive the tortuous
ramifications of this vice is proved by a passage in Deuteronomy, chap.
22, verse .5: "the woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man,
neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are
abominations unto the Lord thy God." Here we have the first regulation
against fetishism and the perverted tendencies of gynandry and androgeny.
Inasmuch as our concern with this subject has to do with the Roman world
alone, a lengthy discussion of the early, manifestations of this vice
would be out of place here; nevertheless, a brief sketch should be given
to serve as a foundation to such discussion and to aid sociologists who
will find themselves more and more concerned with the problem in view of
the conditions in European society, induced by the late war. Their
problem will, however, be more intimately concerned with homosexuality
as it is manifested among women!
From remotest antiquity down to the present time, oriental nations have
been addicted to this practice and it is probably from this source that
the plague spread among the Greeks. I do not assert that they were
ignorant of this form of indulgence prior to their association with the
Persians, for Nature teaches the sage as well as the savage. Meier, the
author of the article "Paederastia" in Ersch and Grueber's encyclopedia
(1837) is of the opinion that the vice had its origin among the
Boeotians, and John Addington Symonds in his essay on Greek Love concurs
in this view. As the two scholars worked upon the same material from
different angles, and as the English writer was unacquainted with the
German savant's monograph until after Burton had written his Terminal
Essay, it follows that the conclusions arrived at by these two scholars
must be worthy of credence. The Greeks contemporary with the Homeric
poems were familiar with paederasty, and there is reason to believe that
it had been known for ages, even then. Greek Literature, from Homer to
the Anthology teems with references to the vice and so common was it
among them that from that fact it derived its generic; "Greek Love." So
malignant is tradition that the Greeks of the present time still suffer
from the stigma, as is well illustrated by the proverb current among
sailors: "Englisha man he catcha da boy, Johnnie da Greek he catcha da
blame." The Romans are supposed to have received their first
introduction to paederasty and homosexuality generally, from the
Etruscans or from the Greek colonists in Italy, but Suidas (Tharnyris)
charges the inhabitants of Italy; with the invention of this vice and it
would appear from Athenaeus (Deiphnos. lib. xiii) that the native peoples
of Italy and the Greek colonists as well were addicted to the most
revolting practices with boys. The case of Laetorius (Valerius Maximus
vi, 1, 11) proves that as early as 320 B. C., the Romans were no
strangers to it and also that it was not common among them, at that time.
As the character of the primitive Roman was essentially different from
that of the contemporary Greek, and as his struggle for existence was
severe in the extreme, there was little moral obliquity during the first
two hundred and fifty years. The "coelibes prohibeto" of the Twelve
Tables was also a powerful influence in preserving chastity. By the time
of Plautus, however, the practice of paederasty was much more general, as
is clearly proved by the many references which are found in his comedies
(Cist. iv, sc. 1, line 5) and passim. By the year 169 B. C., the vice
had so ravaged the populace that the Lex Scantinia was passed to control
it, but legislation has never proved a success in repressing vice and the
effectiveness of this law was no exception to the rule. Conditions grew
steadily worse with the passage of time and the extension of the Roman
power served to inoculate the legionaries with the vices of their
victims. The destruction of Corinth may well have avenged itself in
this manner. The accumulation of wealth and spoils gave the people more
leisure, increased their means of enjoyment, and educated their taste in
luxuries. The influx of slaves and voluptuaries from the Levant aided in
the dissemination of the vices of the orient among the ruder Romans. As
the first taste of blood arouses the tiger, so did the limitless power of
the Republic and Empire react to the insinuating precepts of older and
more corrupt civilizations. The fragments of Lucilius make mention of
the "cinaedi," in the sense that they were dancers, and in the earlier
ages, they were. Cicero, in the second Philippic calls Antonius a
catamite; but in Republican Rome, it is to Catullus that we must turn to
find the most decisive evidence of their almost universal inclination to
sodomy. The first notice of this passage in its proper significance is
found in the Burmann Petronius (ed. 1709): here, in a note on the correct
reading of "intertitulos, nudasque meretrices furtim conspatiantes," the
ancient reading would seem to have been "internuculos nudasque meretrices
furtim conspatiantes" (and I am not at all certain but that it is to be
preferred). Burmann cites the passage from Catullus (Epithalamium of
Manlius and Julia); Burmann sees the force of the passage but does not
grasp its deeper meaning. Marchena seems to have been the first scholar
to read between the lines. See his third note.
A few years later, John Colin Dunlop, the author of a History of Roman
Literature which ought to be better known among the teaching fraternity,
drew attention to the same passage. So striking is his comment that I
will transcribe it in full. "It," the poem, "has also been highly
applauded by the commentators; and more than one critic has declared that
it must have been written by the hands of Venus and the Graces. I wish,
however, they had excepted from their unqualified panegyrics the coarse
imitation of the Fescennine poems, which leaves in our minds a stronger
impression of the prevalence and extent of Roman vices, than any other
passage in the Latin classics. Martial, and Catullus himself, elsewhere,
have branded their enemies; and Juvenal in bursts of satiric indignation,
has reproached his countrymen with the most shocking crimes. But here,
in a complimentary poem to a patron and intimate friend, these are
jocularly alluded to as the venial indulgences of his earliest youth"
(vol. i, p. 453, second edition).
This passage clearly points to the fact that it was the common custom
among the young Roman patricians to have a bed-fellow of the same sex.
Cicero, in speaking of the acquittal of Clodius (Letters to Atticus, lib.
i, 18), says, "having bought up and debauched the tribunal"; charges that
the judges were promised the favors of the young gentlemen and ladies of
Rome, in exchange for their services in the matter of Clodius' trial.
Manutius, in a note on this passage says, "bought up, because the judges
took their pay and held Clodius innocent and absolved him: debauched,
because certain women and youths of noble birth were introduced by night
to not a few of them (there were 56 judges) as additional compensation
for their attention to duty" (Variorum Notes to Cicero, vol. ii,
pp. 339-340). In the Priapeia, the wayfarer is warned by Priapus to
refrain from stealing fruit under penalty of being assaulted from the
rear, and the God adds that, should this punishment hold no terrors,
there is still the possibility that his mentule may be used as a club by
the irate landowner. Again, in Catullus, 100, the Roman paederasty
shows itself "Caelius loves Aufilenus and Quintus loves Aufilena
--madly." As we approach the Christian era the picture darkens.
Gibbon (vol. i, p. 313) remarks, in a note, that "of the first fifteen
emperors, Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely
correct," but Claudius was a moron.
We come now to the bathing establishments. Their history in every
country is the same, in one respect: the spreading and fostering of
prostitution and paederastia. Cicero (Pro Coelio) accuses Clodia of
having deliberately chosen the site of her gardens with the purpose of
having a look at the young fellows who came to the Tiber to swim.
Catullus (xxxiii) speaks of the cimaedi who haunt the bathing
establishments: Suetonius (Tib. 43 and 44) records the desperate
expedients to which Tiberius had recourse to regain his exhausted
virility: the scene in Petronius (chap. 92). Martial (lib. i, 24)
"You invite no man but your bathing companion, Cotta, only the baths
supply you with a guest. I used to wonder why you never invited me, now
I know that you did not like the look of me naked." Juvenal (ix, 32 et
seq.), "Destiny rules over mankind; the parts concealed by the front of
the tunic are controlled by the Fates; when Virro sees you naked and in
burning and frequent letters presses his ardent suit, with lips foaming
with desire; nothing will serve you so well as the unknown measure of a
long member." Lampridius (Heliogab. v), "At Rome, his principal concern
was to have emissaries everywhere, charged with seeking out men with huge
members; that they might bring them to him so that he could enjoy their
impressive proportions." The quotations given above furnish a sufficient
commentary upon the bathing establishments and the reasons for lighting
them. In happier times, they were badly lighted as the apertures were
narrow and could admit but little light. Seneca (Epist. 86) describes
the bath of Scipio: "In this bath of Scipio there were tiny chinks,
rather than windows, cut through the stone wall so as to admit light
without detriment to the shelter afforded; but men nowadays call them
'baths-for-night-moths.'" Under the empire, however, the bathing
establishments were open to the eye of the passer-by; lighted, as they
were by immense windows. Seneca (Epist. 86), "But nowadays, any which
are disposed in such a way as to let the sunlight enter all day long,
through immense windows; men call baths-for-night-moths; if they are not
sunburned as they wash, if they cannot look out on the fields and sea
from the pavement. Sweet clean baths have been introduced, but the
populace is only the more foul." In former times, youth and age were not
permitted to bathe together (Valer. Max. ii, 7.), women and men used the
same establishments, but at different hours; later, however, promiscuous
bathing was the order of the day and men and women came more and more to
observe that precept, "noscetur e naso quanta sit hasta viro," which Joan
of Naples had always in mind. Long-nosed men were followed into the
baths and were the recipients of admiration wherever they were. As
luxury increased, these establishments were fitted up with cells and
attendants of both sexes, skilled in massage, were always kept upon the
premises, in the double capacity of masseurs and prostitutes (Martial,
iii, 82, 13); (Juvenal, vi, 428), "the artful masseur presses the
clitoris with his fingers and makes the upper part of his mistress thigh
resound under his hands." The aquarioli or water boys also included
pandering in their tour of duty (Juvenal, Sat. vi, 331) "some water
carrier will come, hired for the purpose," and many Roman ladies had
their own slaves accompany them to the baths to assist in the toilette:
(Martial, vii, 3.4) "a slave girt about the loins with a pouch of black
leather stands by you whenever you are washed all over with warn water,"
here, the mistress is taking no chances, her rights are as carefully
guarded as though the slave were infibulated in place of having his
generous virility concealed within a leather pouch. (Claudianus, 18,
106) "he combed his mistress' hair, and often, when she bathed, naked,
he would bring water, to his lady, in a silver ewer." Several of the
emperors attempted to correct these evils by executive order and
legislation, Hadrian (Spartianus, Life of Hadrian, chap. 18) "he assigned
separate baths for the two sexes"; Marcus Aurelius (Capitolinus, Life of
Marcus Antoninus, chap. 23) "he abolished the mixed baths and restrained
the loose habits of the Roman ladies and the young nobles," and Alexander
Severus (Lampridius, Life of Alex. Severus, chap. 24.) "he forbade the
opening of mixed baths at Rome, a practice which, though previously
prohibited, Heliogabalus had allowed to be observed," but,
notwithstanding their absolute authority, their efforts along those lines
met with little better success than have those of more recent times. The
pages of Martial and Juvenal reek with the festering sores of the society
of that period, but Charidemus and Hedylus still dishonor the cities of
the modern world. Tatian, writing in the second century, says (Orat. ad
Graecos): "paederastia is practiced by the barbarians generally, but is
held in pre-eminent esteem by the Romans, who endeavor to get together
troupes of boys, as it were of brood mares," and Justin Martyr (Apologia,
1), has this to say: "first, because we behold nearly all men seducing to
fornication, not merely girls, but males also. And just as our fathers
are spoken of as keeping herds of oxen, or goats, or sheep, or brood
mares, so now they keep boys, solely for the purpose of shameful usage,
treating them as females, or androgynes, and doing unspeakable acts. To
such a pitch of pollution has the multitude throughout the whole people
come!" Another sure indication of the prevalence of the vice of sodomy
is to be found in Juvenal, Sat. ii, 12-13, "but your fundament is smooth
and the swollen haemorrhoids are incised, the surgeon grinning the
while," just as the physician of the nineties grinned when some young
fool came to him with a blennorrhoeal infection! The ancient jest which
accounts for the shaving of the priest's crown is an inferential
substantiation of the fact that the evils of antiquity, like the legal
codes, have descended through the generations; survived the middle ages,
and been transmitted to the modern world. A perusal of the Raggionamente
of Pietro Aretino will confirm this statement, in its first premise, and
the experiences of Sir Richard Burton in the India of Napier, and Harry
Franck's, in Spain, in the present century, and those of any intelligent
observer in the Orient, today, will but bear out this hypothesis. The
native population of Manila contains more than its proportion of
catamites, who seek their sponsors in the Botanical Gardens and on the
Luneta. The native quarters of the Chinese cities have their "houses"
where boys are kept, just as the Egyptian mignons stood for hire in the
lupanaria at Rome. A scene in Sylvia Scarlett could be duplicated in any
large city of Europe or America; there is no necessity of appeal to
Krafft-Ebbing or Havelock Ellis. But there is still another and surer
method of gauging the extent of paederastic perversion at Rome, and that
is the richness of the Latin vocabulary in terms and words bearing upon
this repulsive subject. There are, in the Latin language, no less than
one hundred and fifteen words and expressions in general usage.
But it is in Martial that we are able to sense the abandoned and
cynical attitude of the Roman public toward this vice: the epigram upon
Cantharus, xi, 46, is an excellent example. In commentating upon the
meticulous care with which Cantharus avoided being spied upon by
irreverent witnesses, the poet sarcastically remarks that such
precautions would never enter the head of anyone were it merely a
question of having a boy or a woman, and he mentions them in the order
in which they are set forth here. No one dreads the limelight like the
utter debauchee, as has been remarked by Seneca. We find a parallel in
the old days in Shanghai, before the depredations of the American
hetairai had aroused the hostility of the American judge, in 1907-8. Men
of unquestioned respectability and austere asceticism were in the habit
of making periodic trips to this pornographic Mecca for the reason that
they could there be accommodated with the simultaneous ministrations of
two or even three soiled doves of the stripe of her of whom Martial (ix,
69) makes caustic mention:
"I passed the whole night with a lascivious girl whose naughtiness none
could surpass. Tired of a thousand methods of indulgence, I begged the
boyish favor: she granted my prayers before they were finished, before
even the first words were out of my mouth. Smiling and blushing, I
besought her for something worse still; she voluptuously promised it at
once. But to me, she was chaste. But, AEschylus, she will not be so to
you; take the boon if you want it, but she will attach a condition." In
all that could pertain to accomplished skill in their profession, the
"limit was the ceiling," they were there to serve, and serve they did,
as long as the recipient of their ministrations was willing to pay or as
long as his chits were good. With them, secrecy was the watchword.
Tiberius, probably more sinned against than sinning (he has had an able
defender in Beasley) is charged, by Suetonius, with the invention of an
amplification and refinement of this vice. The performers were called
"spinthriae," a word which signified "bracelet." These copulators could
be of both sexes though the true usage of the word allowed but one, and
that the male. They formed a chain, each link of which was an individual
in sexual contact with one or two other links: in this diversion, the
preference seems to have been in favor of odd numbers (Martial, xii, 44,
5), where the chain consisted of five links, and Ausonius, Epigram 119,
where it consisted of three.
CHAPTER 9. Gladiator obscene:--
The arena of his activities is, however, that of Venus and not Mars.
Petronius is fond of figurative language, and in several other passages,
he has made use of the slang of the arena: (chap. 61 ), "I used to fence
with my mistress herself, until even the master grew Suspicious"; and
again, in chapter 19, he says: "then, too, we were girded higher, and I
had so arranged matters that if we came to close quarters, I myself would
engage Quartilla, Ascyltos the maid, and Giton the girl."
Dufour, in commentating upon this expression, Histoire de la
Prostitution, vol. III, pp. 92 and 93, remarks: It is necessary to see in
Petronius the abominable role which the "obscene gladiator" played; but
the Latin itself is clear enough to describe all the secrets of the Roman
debauch. "For some women," says Petronius, in another passage, "will
only kindle for canaille and cannot work up an appetite unless they see
some slave or runner with his clothing girded up: a gladiator arouses
one, or a mule driver, all covered with dust, or some actor posturing in
some exhibition on the stage. My mistress belongs to this class, she
jumps the fourteen rows from the stage to the gallery and looks for a
lover among the gallery gods at the back."
On "cum fortiter faceres," compare line 25 of the Oxford fragment of the
sixth satire of Juvenal; "hic erit in lecto fortissimus," which Housman
has rendered "he is a valiant mattress-knight."
CHAPTER 17. "In our neighborhood there are so many Gods that it is
easier to meet one of them than it is to find a man."
Quartilla is here smarting under the sting of some former lover's
impotence. Her remark but gives color to the charge that, owing to the
universal depravity of Rome and the smaller cities, men were so worn out
by repeated vicious indulgences that it was no easy matter for a woman to
obtain satisfaction at their hands.
"Galla, thou hast already led to the nuptial couch six or seven
catamites; thou went seduced by their delicate coiffure and combed
beards. Thou hast tried the loins and the members, resembling soaked
leather, which could not be made to stand by all the efforts of the
wearied hand; the pathic husband and effeminate bed thou desertest, but
still thou fallest into similar couches. Seek out some one rough and
unpolished as the Curii and Fabii, and savage in his uncouth rudeness;
you will find one, but even this puritanical crew has its catamites.
Galla, it is difficult to marry a real man." Martial, vii, 57.
"No faith is to be placed in appearances. What neighborhood does not
reek with filthy practices'?" Juvenal, Sat. ii, 8.
"While you have a wife such as a lover hardly dare hope for in his
wildest prayers; rich, well born, chaste, you, Bassus, expend your
energies on boys whom you have procured with your wife's dowry; and thus
does that penis, purchased for so many thousands, return worn out to its
mistress, nor does it stand when she rouses it by soft accents of love,
and delicate fingers. Have some sense of shame or let us go into court.
This penis is not yours, Bassus, you have sold it." Martial, xii, 99.
"Polytimus is very lecherous on women, Hypnus is slow to admit he is my
Ganymede; Secundus has buttocks fed upon acorns. Didymus is a catamite
but pretends not to be. Amphion would have made a capital girl. My
friend, I would rather have their blandishments, their naughty airs,
their annoying impudence, than a wife with 3,000,000 sesterces." Martial
But the crowning piece of infamy is to be found in Martial's three
epigrams upon his wife. They speak as distinctly as does the famous
passage in Catullus' Epithalamium of Manilius and Julia, or Vibia, as
later editors have it.
"Wife, away, or conform to my habits. I am no Curius, Numa, or Tatius.
I like to have the hours of night prolonged in luscious cups. You drink
water and are ever for hurrying from the table with a sombre mien; you
like the dark, I like a lamp to witness my pleasures, and to tire my
loins in the light of dawn. Drawers and night gowns and long robes cover
you, but for me no girl can be too naked. For me be kisses like the
cooing doves; your kisses are like those you give your grandmother in
the morning. You do not condescend to assist in the performance by your
movements or your sighs or your hand; (you behave) as if you were taking
the sacrament. The Phrygian slaves masturbated themselves behind the
couch whenever Hector's wife rode St. George; and, however much Ulysses
snored, the chaste Penelope always had her hand there. You forbid my
sodomising you. Cornelia granted this favor to Gracchus; Julia to
Pompey, Porcia to Brutus. Juno was Jupiter's Ganymede before the Dardan
boy mixed the luscious cup. If you are so devoted to propriety--be a
Lucretia to your heart's content all day, I want a Lais at night." xi,
"Since your husband's mode of life and his fidelity are known to you, and
no woman usurps your rights, why are you so foolish as to be annoyed by
his boys, (as if they were his mistresses), with whom love is a transient
and fleeting affair? I will prove to you that you gain more by the boys
than your lord: they make your husband keep to one woman. They give what
a wife will not give. 'I grant that favor,' you say, 'sooner than that
my husband's love should wander from my bed.' It is not the same thing.
I want the fig of Chios, not a flavorless fig; and in you this Chian fig
is flavorless. A woman of sense and a wife ought to know her place. Let
the boys have what concerns them, and confine yourself to what concerns
you." xii, 97.
"Wife, you scold me with a harsh voice when I'm caught with a boy, and
inform me that you too have a bottom. How often has Juno said the same
to the lustful Thunderer? And yet he sleeps with the tall Ganymede. The
Tirynthian Hero put down his bow and sodomised Hylas. Do you think that
Megaera had no buttocks? Daphne inspired Phoebus with love as she fled,
but that flame was quenched by the OEbalian boy. However much Briseis
lay with her bottom turned toward him, the son of AEacus found his
beardless friend more congenial to his tastes. Forbear then, to give
masculine names to what you have, and, wife, think that you have two
vaginas." xi, 44
CHAPTER 26. "Quartilla applied a curious eye to a chink, purposely made,
watching their childish dalliance with lascivious attention."
Martial, xi, 46, makes mention of the fact that patrons of houses of ill
fame had reason to beware of needle holes in the walls, through which
their misbehaviour could be appreciatively scrutinized by outsiders; and
in the passage of our author we find yet another instance of the same
kind. One is naturally led to recall the "peep-houses" which were a
feature of city life in the nineties. There was a notorious one in
Chicago, and another in San Francisco. A beautiful girl, exquisitely
dressed, would entice the unwary stranger into her room: there the couple
would disrobe and the hero was compelled to have recourse to the "right
of capture," before executing the purpose for which he entered the house.
The entertainment usually cost him nothing beyond a moderate fee and a
couple of bottles of beer, or wine, if he so desired. The "management"
secured its profit from a different and more prurient source. The male
actor in this drama was sublimely ignorant of the fact that the walls
were plentifully supplied with "peep-holes" through which appreciative
onlookers witnessed his Corybantics at one dollar a head. There would
sometimes be as many as twenty such witnesses at a single performance.
CHAPTER 34. Silver Skeleton, et seq.
Philosophic dogmas concerning the brevity and uncertainty of life were
ancient even in the time of Herodotus. They have left their mark upon
our language in the form of more than one proverb, but in none is this
so patent as "the skeleton at the feast." In chapter lxxviii of Euterpe,
we have an admirable citation. In speaking of the Egyptians, he says:
"At their convivial banquets, among the wealthy classes, when they have
finished supper, a man carries round in a coffin the image of a dead body
carved in wood, made as life-like as possible in color and workmanship,
and in size generally about one or two cubits in length; and showing this
to each of the company, he says: 'Look upon this, then drink and enjoy
yourself; for when dead you will be like this.' This is the practice
they have at their drinking parties." According to Plutarch, (Isis and
Osiris, chapter 17.) the Greeks adopted this Egyptian custom, and there
is, of course, little doubt that the Romans took it from the Greeks.
The aim of this custom was, according to Scaliger, to bring the diners
to enjoy the sweets of life while they were able to feel enjoyment, and
thus to abandon themselves to pleasure before death deprived them of
everything. The verses which follow bring this out beautifully. In the
Copa of Virgil we find the following:
"Wine there! Wine and dice! Tomorrow's fears shall fools alone benumb!
By the ear Death pulls me. 'Live!' he whispers softly, 'Live! I come.'"
The practical philosophy of the indefatigable roues sums itself up in
this sentence uttered by Trimalchio. The verb "vivere" has taken a
meaning very much broader and less special, than that which it had at
the time when it signified only the material fact of existence. The
voluptuaries of old Rome were by no means convinced that life without
license was life. The women of easy virtue, living within the circle
of their friendships, after the fashion best suited to their desires,
understood that verb only after their own interpretation, and the
philologists soon reconciled themselves to the change. In this sense it
was that Varro employed "vivere," when he said: "Young women, make haste
to live, you whom adolescence permits to enjoy, to eat, to love, and to
occupy the chariot of Venus (Veneris tenere bigas)."
But a still better example of the extension in the meaning of this word
is to be found in an inscription on the tomb of a lady of pleasure. This
inscription was composed by a voluptuary of the school of Petronius.
ALIAE. RESTITVTAE. ANIMAE. DVLCISSIMAE.
BELLATOR. AVG. LIB. CONIVGI. CARISSIMAE.
AMICI. DVM. VIVIMVS. VIVAMUS.
In this inscription, it is almost impossible to translate the last three
words. "While we live, let us live," is inadequate, to say the least.
So far did this doctrine go that latterly it was deemed necessary to have
a special goddess as a patron. That goddess, if we may rely upon the
authority of Festus, took her name "Vitula" from the word "Vita" or from
the joyous life over which she was to preside.
CHAPTER 36. "At the corners of the tray we also noted four figures of
Marsyas and from their bladders spouted a highly seasoned sauce upon fish
which were swimming about as if in a tide-race."
German scholars have adopted the doctrine that Marsyas belonged to that
mythological group which they designate as "Schlauch-silen" or, as we
would say in English, "Wineskin-bearing Silenuses." Their hypothesis
seems to be based upon the discovery of two beautiful bas-reliefs of the
age of Vespasian, which were excavated near the Rostra Vetera in the
Forum. Sir Theodore Martin has a note on these bas-reliefs which I quote
"In the Forum stood a statue of Marsyas, Apollo's ill-starred rival. It
probably bore an expression of pain, which Horace humorously ascribes to
dislike of the looks of the Younger Novius, who is conjectured to have
been of the profession and nature of Shylock. A naked figure carrying a
wineskin, which appears upon each of two fine bas-reliefs of the time of
Vespasian found near the Rostra Vetera in the Forum during the
excavations conducted within the last few years by Signor Pietro Rosa,
and which now stand in the Forum, is said, by archaeologists, to
represent Marsyas. Why they arrive at this conclusion, except as
arguing, from the spot where these bas-reliefs were found, that they were
meant to perpetuate the remembrance of the old statue of Marsyas, is
certainly not very apparent from anything in the figure itself."
Martin's Horace, vol. 2, pp 145-6.
Hence German philologists render "utriculis" by the German equivalent for
"The Romans," says Weitzius, "had two sources of water-supply, through
underground channels, and through channels supported by arches. As
adjuncts to these channels there were cisterns (or castella, as they were
called). From these reservoirs the water was distributed to the public
through routes more or less circuitous and left the cisterns through
pipes, the diameter of which was reckoned in either twelfths or
sixteenths of a Roman foot. At the exits of the pipes were placed stones
or stone figures, the water taking exit from these figures either by the
mouth, private parts or elsewhere, and falling either to the ground or
into some stone receptacle such as a basket. Various names were given
these statuettes: Marsyae, Satyri, Atlantes, Hermae, Chirones, Silani,
No one who has been through the Secret Museum at Naples will find much
difficulty in recalling a few of these heavily endowed examples to mind,
and our author, in choosing Marsyae, adds a touch of sarcastic realism,
for statues of Marysas were often set up in free cities, symbolical, as
it were, of freedom. In such a setting as the present, they would be the
very acme of propriety.
"The figures," says Gonzala de Salas, "formerly placed at fountains, and
from which water took exit either from the mouth or from some other part,
took their forms from the several species of Satyrs. The learned
Wouweren has commented long and learnedly upon this passage, and his
emendation 'veretriculis' caused me to laugh heartily. And as a matter
of fact, I affirm that such a meaning is easily possible." Professor E.
P. Crowell, the first American scholar to edit Petronius, gravely states
in his preface that "the object of this edition is to provide for
class-room use an expurgated text," and I note that he has tactfully
omitted the "wineskins" from his edition.
In this connection the last sentence in the remarks of Wouweren, alluded
to above, is strangely to the point. After stating his emendation of
"veretriculis or veretellis" for "utriculis," he says: "Unless someone
proves that images of Marsyas were fashioned in the likeness of
bag-pipers," a fine instance of clarity of vision for so dark an age.
CHAPTER 40. "Drawing his hunting-knife, he plunged it fiercely into the
boar's side, and some thrushes flew out of the gash."
In the winter of 1895 a dinner was given in a New York studio. This
dinner, locally known as the "Girl in the Pie Dinner," was based upon
Petronius, Martial, and the thirteenth book of Athenaeus. In the summer
of 1919, I had the questionable pleasure of interviewing the chef-caterer
who got it up, and he was, at the time, engaged in trying to work out
another masterpiece to be given in California. The studio, one of the
most luxurious in the world, was transformed for the occasion into a
veritable rose grotto, the statuary was Pompeian, and here and there
artistic posters were seen which were nothing if not reminiscent of
Boulevard Clichy and Montmartre in the palmiest days. Four negro banjo
players and as many jubilee singers titillated the jaded senses of the
guests in a manner achieved by the infamous saxophone syncopating jazz of
the Barbary Coast of our times. The dinner was over. The four and one
half bottles of champagne allotted to each Silenus had been consumed, and
a well-defined atmosphere of bored satiety had begun to settle down when
suddenly the old-fashioned lullaby "Four and Twenty Blackbirds" broke
forth from the banjoists and singers. Four waiters came in bearing a
surprisingly monstrous object, something that resembled an impossibly
large pie. They, placed it carefully in the center of the table. The
negro chorus swelled louder and louder--"Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked
in a Pie."
The diners, startled into curiosity and then into interest, began to poke
their noses against this gigantic creation of the baker. In it they
detected a movement not unlike a chick's feeble pecking against the shell
of an egg. A quicker movement and the crust ruptured at the top.
A flash of black gauze and delicate flesh showed within. A cloud of
frightened yellow canaries flew out and perched on the picture frames and
even on the heads and shoulders of the guests.
But the lodestone which drew and held the eyes of all the revellers was
an exquisitely slender, girlish figure amid the broken crust of the pie.
The figure was draped with spangled black gauze, through which the girl's
marble white limbs gleamed like ivory seen through gauze of gossamer
transparency. She rose from her crouching posture like a wood nymph
startled by a satyr, glanced from one side to the other, and stepped
timidly forth to the table.
CHAPTER 56. Contumelia--Contus and Melon (malum).
All translators have rendered "contus" by "pole," notwithstanding the
fact that the word is used in a very different sense in Priapeia, x, 3:
"traiectus conto sic extendere pedali," and contrary to the tradition
which lay behind the gift of an apple or the acceptance of one. The
truth of this may be established by many passages in the ancient writers.
In the "Clouds" of Aristophanes, Just Discourse, in prescribing the rules
and proprieties which should in govern the education and conduct of the
healthy young man says:
"You shall rise up from your seat upon your elders' approach; you shall
never be pert to your parents or do any other unseemly act under the
pretence of remodelling the image of Modesty. You will not rush off to
the dancing-girl's house, lest while you gaze upon her charms, some whore
should pelt you with an apple and ruin your reputation."
"This were gracious to me as in the story old to the maiden fleet of foot
was the apple golden fashioned which unloosed her girdle long-time girt."
"I send thee these verses recast from Battiades, lest thou shouldst
credit thy words by chance have slipped from my mind, given o'er to the
wandering winds, as it was with that apple, sent as furtive love token by
the wooer, which out-leaped from the virgin's chaste bosom: for, placed
by the hapless girl 'neath her soft vestment, and forgotten--when she
starts at her mother's approach, out 'tis shaken: and down it rolls
headlong to the ground, whilst a tell-tale flush mantles the cheek of the
distressed girl." Catullus 1xv.
"But I know what is going on, and I intend presently to tell my master;
for I do not want to show myself less grateful than the dogs which bark
in defence of those who feed and take care of them. An adulterer is
laying siege to the household--a young man from Elis, one of the Olympian
fascinators; he sends neatly folded notes every day to our master's wife,
together with faded bouquets and half-eaten apples." Alciphron, iii, 62.
The words are put into the mouth of a rapacious parasite who feels that
the security of his position in the house is about to be shaken.
"I didn't mind your kissing Cymbalium half-a-dozen times, you only
disgraced yourself; but--to be always winking at Pyrallis, never to drink
without lifting the cup to her, and then to whisper to the boy, when you
handed it to him, not to fill it for anyone but her--that was too much!
And then--to bite a piece off an apple, and when you saw that Duphilus
was busy talking to Thraso, to lean forward and throw it right into her
lap, without caring whether I saw it or not; and she kissed it and put it
into her bosom under her girdle! It was scandalous! Why do you treat me
like this?" Lucian, Dial. Hetairae, 12. These words are spoken by
another apostle of direct speech; a jealous prostitute who is furiously
angry with her lover, and in no mood to mince matters in the slightest.
Aristxnetus, xxv, furnishes yet another excellent illustration.
The prostitute Philanis, in writing to a friend of the same ancient
profession, accuses her sister of alienating her lover's affections.
I avail myself of Sheridan's masterly version.
PHILANIS TO PETALA.
As yesterday I went to dine
With Pamphilus, a swain of mine,
I took my sister, little heeding
The net I for myself was spreading
Though many circumstances led
To prove she'd mischief in her head.
For first her dress in every part
Was studied with the nicest art
Deck'd out with necklaces and rings,
And twenty other foolish things;
And she had curl'd and bound her hair
With more than ordinary care
And then, to show her youth the more,
A light, transparent robe she wore--
From head to heel she seemed t'admire
In raptures all her fine attire:
And often turn'd aside to view
If others gazed with rapture too.
At dinner, grown more bold and free,
She parted Pamphilus and me;
For veering round unheard, unseen,
She slily drew her chair between.
Then with alluring, am'rous smiles
And nods and other wanton wiles,
The unsuspecting youth insnared,
And rivall'd me in his regard.--
Next she affectedly would sip
The liquor that had touched his lip.
He, whose whole thoughts to love incline,
And heated with th' enliv'ning wine,
With interest repaid her glances,
And answer'd all her kind advances.
Thus sip they from the goblet's brink
Each other's kisses while they drink;
Which with the sparkling wine combin'd,
Quick passage to the heart did find.
Then Pamphilus an apple broke,
And at her bosom aim'd the stroke,
While she the fragment kiss'd and press'd,
And hid it wanton in her breast.
But I, be sure, was in amaze,
To see my sister's artful ways:
"These are returns," I said, "quite fit
To me, who nursed you when a chit.
For shame, lay by this envious art;
Is this to act a sister's part?"
But vain were words, entreaties vain,
The crafty witch secured my swain.
By heavens, my sister does me wrong;
But oh! she shall not triumph long.
Well Venus knows I'm not in fault
'Twas she who gave the first assault
And since our peace her treach'ry broke,
Let me return her stroke for stroke.
She'll quickly feel, and to her cost,
Not all their fire my eyes have lost
And soon with grief shall she resign
Six of her swains for one of mine."
The myth of Cydippe and Acontius is still another example, as is the
legend of Atalanta and Hippomenes or Meilanion, to which Suetonius
(Tiberius, chap. 44) has furnished such an unexpected climax. The
emperor Theodosius ordered the assassination of a gallant who had given
the queen an apple. As beliefs of this type are an integral part of the
character of the lower orders, I am certain that the passage in Petronius
is not devoid of sarcasm; and if such is the case, "contus" cannot be
rendered "pole." The etymology of the word contumely is doubtful but I
am of the opinion that the derivation suggested here is not unsound. A
recondite rendering of "contus" would surely give a sharper point to the
joke and furnish the riddle with the sting of an epigram.
CHAPTER 116. "You will see a town that resembles the fields in time of
In tracing this savage caricature, Petronius had in mind not Crotona
alone; he refers to conditions in the capital of the empire. The
descriptions which other authors have set down are equally remarkable for
their powerful coloring, and they leave us with an idea of Rome which is
positively astounding in its unbridled luxury. 'We will rest content
with offering to our readers the following portrayal, quoted from
Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xiv, chap. 6, and lib. xxviii, chap. 4. will
not presume to attempt any translation after having read Gibbon's version
of the combination of these two chapters.
"The greatness of Rome was founded on the rare and almost incredible
alliance of virtue and of fortune. The long period of her infancy was
employed in a laborious struggle against the tribes of Italy, the
neighbors and enemies of the rising city. In the strength and ardor of
youth she sustained the storms of war, carried her victorious arms beyond
the seas and the mountains, and brought home triumphal laurels from every
country of the globe. At length, verging towards old age, and sometimes
conquering by the terror only of her name, she sought the blessings of
ease and tranquillity. The venerable city, which had trampled on the
necks of the fiercest nations, and established a system of laws, the
perpetual guardians of justice and freedom, was content, like a wise and
wealthy parent, to devolve on the Caesars, her favorite sons, the care of
governing her ample patrimony. A secure and profound peace, such as had
been once enjoyed in the reign of Numa, succeeded to the tumults of a
republic; while Rome was still adored as the queen of the earth, and the
subject nations still reverenced the name of the people and the majesty
of the senate. But this native splendor is degraded and sullied by the
conduct of some nobles, who, unmindful of their own dignity, and of that
of their country, assume an unbounded license of vice and folly. They
contend with each other in the empty vanity of titles and surnames, and
curiously select or invent the most lofty and sonorous appellations
--Reburrus or Fabunius, Pagonius or Tarrasius--which may impress the ears
of the vulgar with astonishment and respect. From a vain ambition of
perpetuating their memory, they affect to multiply their likeness in
statues of bronze and marble; nor are they satisfied unless those statues
are covered with plates of gold, an honorable distinction, first granted
to Achilius the consul, after he had subdued by his arms and counsels the
power of King Antiochus. The ostentation of displaying, of magnifying
perhaps, the rent-roll of the estates which they possess in all the
provinces, from the rising to the setting sun, provokes the just
resentment of every man who recollects that their poor and invincible
ancestors were not distinguished from the meanest of the soldiers by the
delicacy of their food or the splendor of their apparel. But the modern
nobles measure their rank and consequence according to the loftiness of
their chariots and the weighty magnificence of their dress. Their long
robes of silk and purple float in the wind; and as they are agitated, by
art or accident, they occasionally discover the under-garments, the rich
tunics, embroidered with the figures of various animals. Followed by a
train of fifty servants, and tearing up the pavement, they move along the
streets with the same impetuous speed as if they travelled with
post-horses, and the example of the senators is boldly imitated by the
matrons and ladies, whose covered carriages are continually driving
round the immense space of the city and suburbs. Whenever these persons
of high distinction condescend to visit the public baths, they assume,
on their entrance, a tone of loud and insolent command, and appropriate
to their own use the conveniences which were designed for the Roman
people. If, in these places of mixed and general resort, they meet any
of the infamous ministers of their pleasures, they express their
affection by a tender embrace, while they proudly decline the
salutations of their fellow-citizens, who are not permitted to aspire
above the honor of kissing their hands or their knees. As soon as they
have indulged themselves in the refreshment of the bath, they resume
their rings and the other ensigns of their dignity, select from their
private wardrobe of the finest linen, such as might suffice for a dozen
persons, the garments the most agreeable to their fancy, and maintain
till their departure the same haughty demeanor which perhaps might have
been excused in the great Marcellus after the conquest of Syracuse.
Sometimes, indeed, these heroes undertake more arduous achievements.
They visit their estates in Italy, and procure themselves, by the toil
of servile hands, the amusements of the chase. If at any time, but more
especially on a hot day, they have courage to sail in their galleys from
the Lucrine lake to their elegant villas on the seacoast of Puteoli and
the Caieta, they compare their own expeditions to the marches of Caesar
and Alexander. Yet should a fly presume to settle on the silken folds of
their gilded umbrellas, should a sunbeam penetrate through some
unguarded and imperceptible chink, they deplore their intolerable
hardships, and lament in affected language that they were not born in
the land of the Cimmerians, the regions of eternal darkness. In these
journeys into the country the whole body of the household marches with
their master. In the same order as the cavalry and infantry, the heavy
and the light armed troops, the advanced guard and the rear, are
marshalled by the skill of their military leaders, so the domestic
officers, who bear a rod as an ensign of authority, distribute and
arrange the numerous train of slaves and attendants. The baggage and
wardrobe move in the front, and are immediately followed by a multitude
of cooks and inferior ministers employed in the service of the kitchens
and of the table. The main body is composed of a promiscuous crowd of
slaves, increased by the accidental concourse of idle or dependent
plebeians. The rear is closed by the favorite band of eunuchs,
distributed from age to youth, according to the order of seniority.
Their numbers and their deformity excite the horror of the indignant
spectators, who are ready to execrate the memory of Semiramis for the
cruel art which she invented of frustrating the purposes of nature, and
of blasting in the bud the hopes of future generations. In the exercise
of domestic jurisdiction the nobles of Rome express an exquisite
sensibility for any personal injury, and a contemptuous indifference for
the rest of the human species. When they have called for warm water, if
a slave has been tardy in his obedience, he is instantly chastised with
three hundred lashes; but should the same slave commit a wilful murder,
the master will mildly observe that he is a worthless fellow, but that,
if he repeats the offense, he shall not escape punishment. Hospitality
was formerly the virtue of the Romans; and every stranger who could
plead either merit or misfortune was relieved or rewarded by their
generosity. At present, if a foreigner, perhaps of no contemptible
rank, is introduced to one of the proud and wealthy senators, he is
welcomed indeed in the first audience with such warm professions and
such kind inquiries that he retires enchanted with the affability of his
illustrious friend, and full of regret that he had so long delayed his
journey to Rome, the native seat of manners as well as of empire.
Secure of a favorable reception, he repeats his visit the ensuing day,
and is mortified by the discovery that his person, his name, and his
country are already forgotten. If he still has resolution to persevere,
he is gradually numbered in the train of dependents, and obtains the
permission to pay his assiduous and unprofitable court to a haughty
patron, incapable of gratitude or friendship, who scarcely deigns to
remark his presence, his departure, or his return. Whenever the rich
prepare a solemn and popular entertainment, whenever they celebrate with
profuse and pernicious luxury their private banquets, the choice of the
guests is the subject of anxious deliberation. The modest, the sober,
and the learned are seldom preferred; and the nomenclators, who are
commonly swayed by interested motives, have the address to insert in the
list of invitations the obscure names of the most worthless of mankind.
But the frequent and familiar companions of the great are those
parasites who practice the most useful of all arts, the art of flattery;
who eagerly applaud each word and every action of their immortal patron,
gaze with rapture on his marble columns and variegated pavements, and
strenuously praise the pomp and elegance which he is taught to consider
as a part of his personal merit. At the Roman tables the birds, the
dormice, or the fish, which appear of an uncommon size, are contemplated
with curious attention; a pair of scales is accurately applied to
ascertain their real weight; and, while the more rational guests are
disgusted by the vain and tedious repetition, notaries are summoned to
attest by an authentic record the truth of such a marvellous event.
Another method of introduction into the houses and society of the great
is derived from the profession of gaming, or, as it is more politely
styled, of play. The confederates are united by a strict and
indissoluble bond of friendship, or rather of conspiracy; a superior
degree of skill in the Tesserarian art is a sure road to wealth and
reputation. A master of that sublime science who in a supper or an
assembly is placed below a magistrate displays in his countenance the
surprise and indignation which Cato might be supposed to feel when he
was refused the praetorship by the votes of a capricious people. The
acquisition of knowledge seldom engages the curiosity of the nobles, who
abhor the fatigue and disdain the advantages of study; and the only
books which they peruse are the Satires of Juvenal and the verbose and
fabulous histories of Marius Maximus. The libraries which they have
inherited from their fathers are secluded, like dreary sepulchres, from
the light of day. But the costly instruments of the theatre-flutes, and
enormous lyres, and hydraulic organs--are constructed for their use; and
the harmony of vocal and instrumental music is incessantly repeated in
the palaces of Rome. In those palaces sound is preferred to sense, and
the care of the body to that of the mind. It is allowed as a salutary
maxim that the light and frivolous suspicion of a contagious malady is
of sufficient weight to excuse the visits of the most intimate friends
and even the servants who are dispatched to make the decent inquiries
are not suffered to return home till they have undergone the ceremony of
a previous ablution. Yet this selfish and unmanly delicacy occasionally
yields to the more imperious passion of avarice. The prospect of gain
will urge a rich and gouty senator as far as Spoleto; every sentiment of
arrogance and dignity is subdued by the hopes of an inheritance, or even
of a legacy; and a wealthy childless citizen is the most powerful of the
Romans. The art of obtaining the signature of a favorable testament,
and sometimes of hastening the moment of its execution, is perfectly
understood; and it has happened that in the same house, though in
different apartments, a husband and a wife, with the laudable design of
overreaching each other, have summoned their respective lawyers to
declare at the same time their mutual but contradictory intentions. The
distress which follows and chastises extravagant luxury often reduces
the great to the use of the most humiliating expedients. When they
desire to borrow, they employ the base and supplicating style of the
slave in the comedy; but when they are called upon to pay, they assume
the royal and tragic declamation of the grandsons of Hercules. If the
demand is repeated, they readily procure some trusty sycophant,
instructed to maintain a charge of poison or magic against the insolent
creditor, who is seldom released from prison till he has signed a
discharge for the whole debt. These vices, which degrade the moral
character of the Romans, are mixed with a puerile superstition that
disgraces their understanding. They listen with confidence to the
predictions of haruspices, who pretend to read in the entrails of
victims the signs of future greatness and prosperity; and there are many
who do not presume either to bathe or to dine, or to appear in public,
till they have diligently consulted, according to the rules of
astrology, the situation of Mercury and the aspect of the moon. It is
singular enough that this vain credulity may often be discovered among
the profane sceptics who impiously doubt or deny the existence of a
CHAPTER 116. "They either take in or else they are taken in."
"Captare" may be defined as to get the upper hand of someone; and
"captari" means to be the dupe of someone, to be the object of interested
flattery; "captator" means a succession of successful undertakings of the
sort referred to above. Martial, lib. VI, 63, addresses the following
verses to a certain Marianus, whose inheritance had excited the avarice
of one of the intriguers:
"You know you're being influenced,
You know the miser's mind;
You know the miser, and you sensed
His purpose; still, you're blind."
Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis, lib. XIV, chap. i, writes in
scathing terms against the infamous practice of paying assiduous court
to old people for the purpose of obtaining a legacy under their wills.
"Later, childlessness conferred advantages in the shape of the greatest
authority and Lower; undue influence became very insidious in its quest
of wealth, and in grasping the joyous things alone, debasing the true
rewards of life; and all the liberal arts operating for the greatest good
were turned to the opposite purpose, and commenced to profit by
sycophantic subservience alone."
And Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. XVIII, chap. 4, remarks: "Some there are
that grovel before rich men, old men or young, childless or unmarried, or
even wives and children, for the purpose of so influencing their wishes
and them by deft and dextrous finesse."
That this profession of legacy hunting is not one of the lost arts is
apparent even in our day, for the term "undue influence" is as common in
our courts as Ambrose Bierce's definition of "husband," or refined
cruelty, or "injunctions" restraining husbands from disposing of
property, or separate maintenance, or even "heart balm" and the
consequent breach of promise.
CHAPTER 119. The rite of the Persians:
Castration has been practiced from remote antiquity, and is a feature of
the harem life of the Levant to the present day. Semiramis is accused of
having been the first to order the emasculation of a troupe of her boy
"Whether the first false likeness of men came to the Assyrians through
the ingenuity of Semiramis; for these wanton wretches with high timbered
voices could not have produced themselves, those smooth cheeks could not
reproduce themselves; she gathered their like about her: or, Parthian
luxury forbade with its knife, the shadow of down to appear, and fostered
long that boyish bloom, compelling art-retarded youth to sink to Venus'
calling," Claudianus, Eutrop. i, 339 seq.
"And last of all, the multitude of eunuchs, ranging in age, from old men
to boys, pale and hideous from the twisted deformity of their features;
so that, go where one will, seeing groups of mutilated men, he will
detest the memory of Semiramis, that ancient queen who was the first to
emasculate young men of tender age; thwarting the intent of Nature, and
forcing her from her course." Ammianus Marcellinus, book xiv, chap. vi.
The Old Testament proves that the Hebrew authorities of the time were no
strangers to the abomination, but no mention of eunuchs in Judea itself
is to be found prior to the time of Josiah. Castration was forbidden the
Jews, Deuteronomy, xxiii, 1, but as this book was probably unknown before
the time of Josiah, we can only conjecture as to the attitude of the
patriarchs in regard to this subject; we are safe, however, in inferring
that it was hostile. "Periander, son of Cypselus, had sent three hundred
youths of the noblest young men of the Corcyraeans to Alyattes, at
Sardis; for the purpose of emasculation." Herodotus, iii, chapter 48.
"Hermotimus, then, was sprung from these Pedasians; and, of all men we
know, revenged himself in the severest manner for an injury he had
received; for, having been captured by an enemy and sold, he was
purchased by one Panionius, a Chian, who gained a livelihood by the most
infamous practices; for whenever he purchased boys remarkable for their
beauty, having castrated them, he used to take them to Sardis and Ephesus
and sell them for large sums; for with the barbarians, eunuchs are more
valued than others, on account of their perfect fidelity. Panionius,
therefore, had castrated many others, as he made his livelihood by this
means, and among them, this man.
"Hermotimus, however, was not in every respect unfortunate, for he went
to Sardis, along with other presents for the king, and in process of time
was the most esteemed by Xerxes of all his eunuchs.
"When the king was preparing to march his Persian army against Athens,
Hermotimus was at Sardis, having gone down at that time, upon some
business or other, to the Mysian territory which the Chians possess, and
is called Atarneus, he there met with Panionius. Having recognized him,
he addressed many friendly words to him, first recounting the many
advantages he had acquired by this means, and secondly, promising him how
many favors he would confer upon him in requital, if he would bring his
family and settle there; so that Panionius joyfully accepted the proposal
and brought his wife and children. But when Hermotimus got him with his
whole family into his power, he addressed him as follows:
"'O thou, who, of all mankind, hast gained thy living by the most
infamous acts, what harm had either I, or any of mine, done to thee,
or any of thine, that of a man thou hast made me nothing?
"'Thou didst imagine, surely, that thy machinations would pass unnoticed
by the Gods, who, following righteous laws, have enticed thee, who hath
committed unholy deeds, into my hands, so that thou canst not complain of
the punishment I shall inflict upon thee.'
"When he had thus upbraided him, his sons being brought into his
presence, Panionius was compelled to castrate his own sons, who were four
in number; and, being compelled, he did it; and after he had finished it,
his sons, being compelled, castrated him. Thus did vengeance and
Hermotimus overtake Panionius." Herodotus, viii, ch. 105-6.
Mention of the Galli, the emasculated priests of Cybebe should be made.
Emasculation was a necessary first condition of service in her worship.
(Catullus, Attys.) The Latin literature of the silver and bronze ages
contains many references to castration. Juvenal and Martial have
lavished bitter scorn upon this form of degradation, and Suetonius and
Statius inform us that Domitian prohibited the practice, but it is in the
"Amoures" attributed to Lucian that we find a passage so closely akin to
the one forming a basis of this note, that it is inserted in extenso:
"Some pushed their cruelty so far as to outrage Nature with the
sacrilegious knife, and, after depriving men of their virility, found in
them the height of pleasure. These miserable and unhappy creatures, that
they may the longer serve the purposes of boys, are stunted in their
manhood, and remain a doubtful riddle of a double sex, neither preserving
that boyhood in which they were born, nor possessing that manhood which
should be theirs. The bloom of their youth withers away in a premature
old age: while yet boys, they suddenly become old, without any interval
of manhood. For impure sensuality, the mistress of every vice, devising
one shameless pleasure after another, insensibly plunges into
unmentionable debauchery, experienced in every form of brutal lust." The
jealous Roman husband's furious desire to prevent the consequences of his
wife's incontinence was by no means well served by the use of such
agents; on the contrary, the women themselves profited by the
arrangement. By means of these eunuchs, they edited the morals of their
maids and hampered the sodomitical hankerings, active or otherwise, of
their husbands: Martial, xii, 54: but when the passions and suspicions of
both heads of the family were mutually aroused, the eunuchs fanned them
into flame and gained the ascendancy in the home. They even went so far
as to marry: Martial, xi, 82, and Juvenal, i, 22.
In the third century a certain Valesius formed a sect which, following
the example set by Origen, acted literally upon the text of Matthew, v,
28, 30, and Matthew, xix, 12. Of this sect, Augustine, De Heres. chap.
37, said: "the Valesians castrate themselves and those who partake of
their hospitality, thinking that after this manner, they ought to serve
God." That injustice was done upon the wrong member is very evident, yet
in an age so dark, so dominated by austere asceticism, this clean cut
perception of the best interests of suffering humanity, is only to be
rivalled by the French physician in the time of the black plague. He had
observed that sthenic patients, when bled, died: the superstition and
medical usage of the age prescribed bleeding, and when the fat abbots
came to be bled, he bled them freely and with satisfaction. Justinian
decreed that anyone guilty of performing the operation which deprived an
individual of virility should be subjected to a similar operation, and
this crime was later punished with death. In the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries we encounter another and even viler reason for this
practice: that "the voice of such a person" (one castrated in boyhood)
"after arriving at adult age, combines the high range and sweetness of
the female with the power of the male voice," had long been known, and
Italian singing masters were not slow in putting this hint to practical
use. The poor sometimes sold their children for this purpose, and the
castrati and soprani are terms well known to the musical historian.
These artificial voices disgraced the Italian stage until literally
driven from it by public hostility, and the punishment of death was the
reward of the individual bold enough to perform such an operation. The
papal authority excommunicated those guilty of the crime and those upon
whom such an operation had been performed, but received artificial
voices, which were the result of accident, into the Sistine choir.
This pretext served the church well and, until the year 1878, when
the disgrace was wiped out by Pope Leo XIII, the Sistine choir was an
eloquent commentary upon the attitude of an institution placed, as it
were, "between love and duty." It should be recorded that this choir, in
its recent visit to the United States, had but one artificial voice, and
its owner was the oldest member of the choir.
Young home-born slaves were bought up by the dealers, castrated, because
of the increased price they brought when in this condition, and sold for
huge sums: Seneca, Controv. x, chap. 4; and kidnapping was frequently
resorted to, just as it is in Africa today.
In Russia there is a sect called the "skoptzi," whose tenets, in this
respect, are indicated by their name. This sect is first mentioned in
the person of a certain Adrian, a monk, who came to Russia about the
year 1001. In 1041, l090 to 1096, 1138 to 1147, 1326, they are noticed,
and in 1721 to 1724 they are prominent. They call themselves "white
doves" and are divided into smaller congregations which, in their
allegorical terminology, they call "ships"; the leader of each
congregation is called the "pilot" and the female leader, the "pilot's
mate." Their tenets provide for two degrees of emasculation: complete
and incomplete, and, in the case of the former, he who submitted to the
operation had the "royal seal" affixed to him, this being their name for
complete emasculation: in the case of the latter, the neophyte had
reached the "Second Degree of Purity." The operation was performed with
a red-hot knife or a hot iron, and this was known as the "baptism by
In the case of female converts, the breasts were amputated, either with a
red-hot knife or a pair of red-hot shears (Kudrin trial, Moscow, 1871;
testimony of physicians and examination of the accused) which served the
double purpose of checking haemorrhage, as would a thermo-cautery, and
avoiding infection. Another method consisted in searing the orifice of
the vagina so that the scar tissue would contract it in such a manner as
to effectually prevent the entrance of the male.
A peculiar attribute of this sect is the character of many of its
members: bankers, civil service officials, navy officers, army officers
and others of the finest professions. Leroy-Beaulieu, in discussing
their methods of obtaining converts says: "they prefer boys and youths,
whom they strive to convince of the necessity of 'killing the flesh.'
They sometimes succeed so well, that cases are known of boys of fifteen
or so resorting to self-mutilation, to save themselves from the
temptations of early manhood. These apostles of purity do not always
scruple to have recourse to violence or deceit. They ensnare their
victims by equivocal forms of speech, and having thus obtained their
consent virtually upon false pretences, they reveal to the confiding
dupes the real meaning of the engagement they have entered into only at
the last moment, when it is too late for them to escape the murderous
knife. One evening, two men, one of them young and blooming, the other
old, with sallow and unnaturally smooth face, were conversing, while
sipping their tea, in a house in Moscow. 'Virgins will alone stand
before the throne of the Most High,' said the elder man. 'He who looks
on a woman with desire commits adultery in his heart, and adulterers
shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.' 'What then should we sinners
doe' asked the young man. 'Knowest thou not,' replied the elder, 'the
word of the Lord? If thy right eye leadeth thee into temptation, pluck
it out and cast it from thee; if thy right hand leadeth thee into
temptation, cut it off and cast it from thee. What ye must do is to kill
the flesh. Ye must become like unto the disembodied angels, and that may
be attained only, through being made white as snow.' 'And how can we be
made thus white?' further inquired the young man. 'Come and see,' said
the old man. 'He took his companion down many stairs, into a cellar
resplendent with lights. Some fifteen white robed men and women were
gathered there. In a corner was a stove, in which blazed a fire. After
some prayers and dances, very like those in use among the Flagellants,
the old man announced to his companion: 'now shalt thou learn how sinners
are made white as snow.' And the young man, before he had time to ask a
single question, was seized and gagged, his eyes were bandaged, he was
stretched out on the ground, and the apostle, with a red-hot knife,
stamped him with the 'seal of purity.' This happened to a peasant,
Saltykov by name, and certainly not to him alone. He fainted away under
the operation, and when he came to himself, he heard the voices of his
chaste sponsors give him the choice between secrecy and death."
Catherine II signed the first edict against this sect in 1772, but
agitation was more or less constant until the Imperial government began
vigorous prosecutions in 1871, and many were sentenced to hard labor in
Siberia. When prosecutions were instituted, large numbers emigrated to
Roumania and there took the name of "Lipovans." Women, especially one of
the name of Anna Romanovna, have had a great share in the invention and
diffusion of the doctrine. Not infrequently it is the women who, with
their own hands, transform the men to angels.
In 1871 their number was estimated to be about 3000, in 1874 they
numbered 5444, including 1465 women, and in 1847, 515 men and 240 women
were transported to Siberia. The sect still holds its own in Russia.
They are millennarians and the messiah will not come for them until their
sect numbers 144,000.
Antiquity knew three varieties of eunuch:
Castrati: Scrotum and testicles were amputated.
Spadones: Testicles were torn out.
Thlibiae: Testicles were destroyed by crushing.
CHAPTER 127. "Such sweetness permeated her voice as she said this, so
entrancing was the sound upon the listening air that you would have
believed the Sirens' harmonies were floating in the breeze."
Many scholars have drawn attention to the ethereal beauty of this
passage. Probably the finest parallel is to be found in Horace's ode to
Calliope. After the invocation to the muse he thinks he hears her
"Hark! Or is this but frenzy's pleasing dream?
Through groves I seem to stray
Of consecrated bay,
Where voices mingle with the babbling stream,
And whispering breezes play."
Sir Theodore Martin's version.
Another exquisite and illuminating passage occurs in Catullus, 51, given
in Marchena's fourth note.
CHAPTER 131. "Then she kneaded dust and spittle and, dipping her middle
finger into the mixture, she crossed my forehead with it."
Since the Fairy Tale Era of the human race, sputum has been employed to
give potency to charms and to curses. It was anciently used as anathema
and that use is still in force to this day. Let the incredulous critic
spit in some one's face if he doubts my word.
But sputum had also a place in the Greek and Roman rituals. Trimalchio
spits and throws wine under the table when he hears a cock crowing
unseasonably. This, in the first century. Any Jew in Jerusalem hearing
the name of Titus mentioned, spits: this in 1903. In the ceremony of
naming Roman children spittle had its part to play: it was customary for
the nurse to touch the lips and forehead of the child with spittle. The
Catholic priest's ritual, which prescribes that the ears and nostrils of
the infant or neophyte, as the case may be, shall be touched with
spittle, comes, in all probability from Mark, vii, 33, 34, viii, 23, and
John, ix, 6, which, in turn are probably derived from a classical
original. It should be added that fishermen spit upon their bait before
casting in their hooks.
CHAPTER 131. Medio sustulit digito:
There is more than a suggestion in the choice of the middle finger, in
this instance. Among the Romans, the middle finger was known as the
Infami digito et lustralibus ante salivis
Expiat, urentes oculos inhibere perita.
Persius, Sat. ii
See also Dio Chrysostom, xxxiii. "Neither," says Lampridius, Life of
Heliogabalus, "was he given to demand infamies in words when he could
indicate shamelessness with his fingers," Chapter 10. "With tears in his
eyes, Cestos often complains to me, Mamurianus, of being touched by your
finger. You need not use your finger, merely: take Cestos all to
yourself, if nothing else is wanting in your establishment,"
Martial, i, 93
To touch the posteriors lewdly with the finger, that is, the middle
finger put forth and the two adjoining fingers bent down, so that the
hand might form a sort of Priapus, was an obscene sign to attract
catamites. That this position of the fingers was an indecent symbol is
attested by numerous passages in the classical writers. "He would extend
his hand, bent into an obscene posture, for them to kiss," Suetonius,
Caligula, 56. It may be added that one of that emperor's officers
assassinated him for insulting him in that manner. When this finger was
thus applied it signified that the person was ready to sodomise him whom
he touched. The symbol is still used by the lower orders.
"We are informed by our younger companions that gentlemen given to
sodomitical practices are in the habit of frequenting some public place,
such as the Pillars of the County Fire Office, Regent St., and placing
their hands behind them, raising their fingers in a suggestive manner
similar to that mentioned by our epigrammatist. Should any gentleman
place himself near enough to have his person touched by the playful
fingers of the pleasure-seeker, and evince no repugnance, the latter
turns around and, after a short conversation, the bargain is struck. In
this epigram, however, Martial threatens the eye and not the anus." The
Romans used to point out sodomites and catamites by thus holding out the
middle finger, and so it was used as well in ridicule (or chaff, as we
say) as to denote infamy in the persons who were given to these
"If anyone calls you a catamite, Sextillus," says Martial, ii, 28,
"return the compliment and hold out your middle finger to him."
According to Ramiresius, this custom was still common in the Spain of his
day (1600), and it still persists in Spanish and Italian countries, as
well as in their colonies. This position of the fingers was supposed to
represent the buttocks with a priapus inserted up the fundament; it was
called "Iliga," by the Spaniards. From this comes the ancient custom of
suspending little priapi from boys' necks to avert the evil eye.
Aristophanes, in the "Clouds," says:
SOCRATES: First they will help you to be pleasant in company, and to
know what is meant by OEnoplian rhythm and what by the Dactylic.
STREPSIADES: Of the Dactyl (finger)? I know that quite well.
SOCRATES: What is it then?
STREPSIADES: Why, 'tis this finger; formerly, when a child, I used this
(Daktulos means, of course, both Dactyl (name of a metrical foot) and
finger. Strepsiades presents his middle finger with the other fingers
and thumb bent under in an indecent gesture meant to suggest the penis
and testicles. It was for this reason that the Romans called this finger
the "unseemly finger.")
SOCRATES: You are as low minded as you are stupid.
[See also Suetonius: Tiberius, chapter 68.]
CHAPTER 138. "OEnothea brought out a leathern dildo."
This instrument, made from glass, wax, leather, or other suitable
material such as ivory or the precious metals (Ezekiel xvi, 17), has been
known from primitive times; and the spread of the cult of Priapus was a
potent factor in making the instrument more common in the western world.
Numerous Greek authors make mention of it: Aristophanes, Lucian,
Herondas, Suidas and others. That it was only too familiar to the Romans
is shown by their many references to it: Catullus, Martial, the apostle
Paul, Tertullian, and others.
Aristophanes, Lysistrata: (Lysistrata speaking) "And not so much as
the shadow of a lover! Since the day the Milesians betrayed us, I have
never once caught sight of an eight-inch-long dildo even, to be a
leathern consolation to us poor widows." Her complaint is based upon the
fact that all the men were constantly absent upon military duty and the
force of the play lies in her strategic control of a commodity in great
demand among the male members of society. Quoting again from the same
play: Calonice: "And why do you summon us, Lysistrata dear? What is it
all about?" Lysistrata: "About a big affair." Calonice: "And is it
thick, too'?" Lysistrata: "Indeed it is, great and big too." Calonice:
"And we are not all on the spot!" Lysistrata: "Oh! If it were what you
have in mind, there would never be an absentee. No, no, it concerns a
thing I have turned about and about, this way and that, for many
sleepless nights." When the plot has been explained, viz.: that the
women refuse intercourse to their husbands until after peace has been
declared--Calonice: "But suppose our poor devils of husbands go away and
leave us"' Lysistrata: "Then, as Pherecrates says, 'we must flay a
skinned dog,' that's all."
Lucian, Arnoures, says: "but, if it is becoming for men to have
intercourse with men, for the future let women have intercourse with
women. Come, O new generation, inventor of strange pleasures! as you
have devised new methods to satisfy male lust, grant the same privilege
to women; let them have intercourse with one another like men, girding
themselves with the infamous instruments of lust, an unholy imitation of
a fruitless union."
Herondas, Mime vi:
KORITTO | Two women friends
A Female Domestic.
Time, about 300 B. C.
Scene, Koritto's sitting room.
KORITTO: (Metro has just come to call) Take a seat, Metro; (to the slave
girl) Get up and get the lady a chair; I have to tell you to do
everything; you're such a fool you never do a thing of your own accord.
You're only a stone in the house, you're not a bit like a slave except
when you count up your daily allowance of bread: you count the crumbs
when you do that, though, and whenever the tiniest bit happens to fall
upon the floor, the very walls get tired of listening to your grumbling
and boiling over with temper, as you do all day long--now, when we want
to use that chair you've found time to dust it off and rub up the polish
--you may thank the lady that I don't give you a taste of my hand.
METRO: You have as hard a time as I do, Koritto, dear--day and night
these low servants make me gnash my teeth and bark like a dog, just like
they do you.--But I came to see you about--(to the slave girl) get out of
here, get out of my sight, you trouble maker, you're all ears and tongue
and nothing else, all you do is to sit around Koritto--dear, now please
don't tell me a fib, who stitched that red dildo of yours?
KORITTO: Metro, where did you see that?
METRO: Why Nossis, the daughter of Erinna, had it three days ago. Oh but
it was a beauty!
KORITTO: So Nossis had it, did she? Where did she get it, I wonder?
METRO: I'm afraid you'll say something if I tell you.
KORITTO: My dear Metro, if anybody hears anything you tell me, from
Koritto's mouth, I hope I go blind.
METRO: It was given to her by Eubole of Bitas, and she cautioned her not
to let a soul hear of it.
KORITTO: That woman will be my undoing, one of these days; I yielded to
her importunity and gave it to her before I had used it myself, Metro
dear, but to her it was a godsend--, now she takes it and gives it to
some one who ought not to have it. I bid a long farewell to such a
friend as she; let her look out for another friend instead of me. As for
Nossis, Adrasteia forgive me. I don't want to talk bigger than a lady
should--I wouldn't give her even a rotten dildo; no, not even if I had a
METRO: Please don't flare up so quickly when you hear something
unpleasant. A good woman must put up with everything. It's all my fault
for gossiping. My tongue ought to be cut out; honestly it should: but to
get back to the question I asked you a moment ago: who stitched the
dildo? Tell me if you love me! What makes you laugh when you look at
me? What does your coyness mean? Have you never set eyes on me before?
Don't fib to me now, Koritto, I beg of you.
KORITTO: Why do you press me so? Kerdon stitched it.
METRO: Which Kerdon? Tell me, because there are two Kerdons, one is that
blue-eyed fellow, the neighbor of Myrtaline the daughter of Kylaithis;
but he couldn't even stitch a plectron to a lyre--the other one, who
lives near the house of Hermodorus, after you have left the street, was
pretty good once, but he's too old, now; the late lamented Kylaithis--may
her kinsfolk never forget her--used to patronize him.
KORITTO: He's neither of those you've mentioned, Metro; this fellow is
bald headed and short, he comes from Chios or Erythrai, I think--you
would mistake him for another Prexinos, one fig could not look more like
another, but just hear him talk, and you'll know that he is Kerdon and
not Prexinos. He does business at home, selling his wares on the sly
because everyone is afraid of the tax gatherers. My dear! He does do
such beautiful work! You would think that what you see is the handiwork
of Athena and not that of Kerdon! Do you know that he had two of them
when he came here! And when I got a look at them my eyes nearly burst
from their sockets through desire. Men never get--I hope we are alone
--their tools so stiff; and not only that, but their smoothness was as
sweet as sleep and their little straps were as soft as wool. If you went
looking for one you would never find another ladies' cobbler cleverer
METRO: Why didn't you buy the other one, too?
KORITTO: What didn't I do, Metro dear'? And what didn't I do to persuade
him'? I kissed him, I patted his bald head, I poured out some sweet wine
for him to drink, I fondled him, the only thing I didn't do was to give
him my body.
METRO: But you should have given him that too, if he asked it.
KORITTO: Yes, and I would have, but Bitas slave girl commenced grinding
in the court, just at the wrong moment; she has reduced our hand mill
nearly to powder by grinding day and night for fear she might have four
obols to pay for having her own sharpened.
METRO: But how did he happen to come to your house, Koritto dear? You'll
tell me the truth won't you, now?
KORITTO: Artemis the daughter of Kandas directed him to me by pointing
out the roof of the tanner's house as a landmark.
METRO: That Artemis is always discovering something new to help her make
capital out of her skill as a go-between. But anyhow, when you couldn't
buy them both you should have asked who ordered the other one.
KORITTO: I begged him to tell me but he swore he wouldn't, that's how
much he thought of me, Metro dear.
METRO: You mean that I must go and find Artemis now to learn who the
Kerdon is--good-bye KORITTO. He (my husband) is hungry by now, so it's
time I was going.
KORITTO: (To the slave girl) Close the doors, there, chicken keeper, and
count the chickens to see if they're all there; throw them some grain,
too, for the chicken thieves will steal them out of one's very lap.
A lascivious dance of the old Greek comedy. Any person who performed
this dance except upon the stage was considered drunk or dissolute.
That the dance underwent changes for the worse is manifest from the
representation of it found on a marble tazza in the Vatican (Visconti,
Mus. Pio-Clem. iv, 29), where it is performed by ten figures, five
Finns and five Bacchanals, but their movements, though extremely lively
and energetic, are not marked by any particular indelicacy. Many ancient
authors and scholiasts have commented upon the looseness and sex appeal
of this dance. Meursius, Orchest., article Kordax, has collected the
majority of passages in the classical writers, bearing upon this subject,
but from this disorderly collection it is impossible to arrive at any
definite description of the cordax. The article in Coelius Rhodiginus.
Var. Lect. lib. iv, is conventional. The cordax was probably not
unlike the French "chalhut," danced in the wayside inns, and it has been
preserved in the Spanish "bolero" and the Neapolitan "tarantella." When
the Romans adopted the Greek customs, they did not neglect the dances
and it is very likely that the Roman Nuptial Dance, which portrayed the
most secret actions of marriage had its origin in the Greek cordax. The
craze for dancing became so menacing under Tiberius that the Senate was
compelled to run the dancers and dancing masters out of Rome but the evil
had become so deep rooted that the very precautions by which society was
to be safeguarded served to inflame the passion for the dance and
indulgence became so general and so public that great scandal resulted.
Domitian, who was by no means straight laced, found it necessary to expel
from the Senate those members who danced in public. The people imitated
the nobles, and, as fast as the dancers were expelled, others from the
highest and lowest ranks of society took their places, and there soon
came to be no distinction, in this matter, between the noblest names of
the patricians and the vilest rabble from the Suburra. There is no
comparison between the age of Cicero and that of Domitian. "One could do
a man no graver injury than to call him a dancer," says Cicero, Pro
Murena, and adds: "a man cannot dance unless he is drunk or insane."
Probably the most realistic description of the cordax, conventional, of
course, is to be found in Merejkovski's "Death of the Gods." The passage
occurs in chapter vi. I have permitted myself the liberty of supplying
the omissions and euphemisms in Trench's otherwise excellent and spirited
version of the novel. "At this moment hoarse sounds like the roarings of
some subterranean monster came from the market square. They were the
notes, now plaintive, now lively, of a hydraulic organ. At the entrance
to a showman's travelling booth, a blind Christian slave, for four obols
a day, was pumping up the water which produced this extraordinary
harmony. Agamemnon dragged his companions into the booth, a great tent
with blue awnings sprinkled with silver stars. A lantern lighted a
black-board on which the order of the program was chalked up in Syriac
and Greek. It was stifling within, redolent of garlic and lamp oil soot.
In addition to the organ, there struck up the wailing of two harsh
flutes, and an Ethopian, rolling the whites of his eyes, thrummed upon an
Arab drum. A dancer was skipping and throwing somersaults on a
tightrope, clapping his hands to the time of the music, and singing a
Hue, huc, convenite nunc
"This starveling snub-nosed dancer was old, repulsive, and nastily gay.
Drops of sweat mixed with paint were trickling from his shaven forehead;
his wrinkles, plastered with white lead, looked like the cracks in some
wall when rain has washed away the lime. The flutes and organ ceased
when he withdrew, and a fifteen-year-old girl ran out upon the stage.
She was to perform the celebrated cordax, so passionately adored by the
mob. The Fathers of the Church called down anathema upon it, the Roman
laws prohibited it, but all in vain. The cordax was danced everywhere,
by rich and poor, by senators' wives and by street dancers, just as it
had been before.
"'What a beautiful girl,' whispered Agamemnon enthusiastically. Thanks
to the fists of his companions, he had reached a place in the front rank
of spectators. The slender bronze body of the Nubian was draped only
about the hips with an almost airy colorless scarf. Her hair was wound
on the top of her head, in close fine curls like those of Nubian woven.
Her face was of the severest Egyptian type, recalling that of the Sphinx.
"She began to dance languidly, carelessly, as if already weary. Above
her head she swung copper bells, castanets or 'crotals,'--swung them
lazily, so that they tinkled very faintly. Gradually her movements
became more emphatic, and suddenly under their long lashes, yellow eyes
shone out, clear and bright as the eyes of a leopardess. She drew her
body up to her full height and the copper castanets began to tinkle with
such challenge in their piercing sound that the whole crowd trembled with
emotion. Vivid, slender, supple as a serpent, the damsel whirled
rapidly, her nostrils dilated, and a strange cry came crooning from her
throat. With each impetuous movement, two dark little breasts held tight
by a green silk net, trembled like two ripe fruits in the wind, and their
sharp, thickly painted nipples were like rubies, as they protruded from
"The crowd was beside itself with passion. Agamemnon, nearly mad, was
held back by his companions. Suddenly the girl stopped as if exhausted.
A slight shudder ran through her, from her head down the dark limbs to
her feet. Deep silence prevailed. The head of the Nubian was thrown
back as if in a rigid swoon but above it the crotals still tinkled with
an extraordinary languor, a dying vibration, quick and soft as the wing
flutterings of a captured butterfly. Her eyes grew dim but in their
inner depths glittered two sparks; the face remained severe, impersonal,
but upon the sensuous red lips of that sphinx-like mouth a smile
trembled, faint as the dying sound of the crotals."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Double capacity of masseurs and prostitutes
Empress Theodora belonged to this class
High fortune may rather master us, than we master it
Legislation has never proved a success in repressing vice
One could do a man no graver injury than to call him a dancer
Russia there is a sect called the skoptzi
She is chaste whom no man has solicited--Ovid
Tax on bachelors
While we live, let us live