Download document


Satire VI:114-135 What about Messalina?

Are you worried by Eppia’s tricks, of a non-Imperial kind?

Take a look at the rivals of the gods; hear how Claudius

Suffered. When his wife, Messalina, knew he was asleep,

She would go about with no more than a maid for escort.

The Empress dared, at night, to wear the hood of a whore,

And she preferred a mat to her bed in the Palatine Palace.

Dressed in that way, with a blonde wig hiding her natural

Hair, she’d enter a brothel that stank of old soiled sheets,

And make an empty cubicle, her own; then sell herself,

Her nipples gilded, naked, taking She-Wolf for a name,

Displaying the belly you came from, noble Britannicus,

She’d flatter her clients on entry, and take their money.

Then lie there obligingly, delighting in every stroke.

Later on, when the pimp dismissed his girls, she’d leave

Reluctantly, waiting to quit her cubicle there, till the last

Possible time, her taut sex still burning, inflamed with lust,

Then she’d leave, exhausted by man, but not yet sated,

A disgusting creature with filthy face, soiled by the lamp’s

Black, taking her brothel-stench back to the Emperor’s bed.

Shall I speak of spells and love-potions too, poisons brewed,

And stepsons murdered? The sex do worse things, driven on

By the urgings of power: their crimes of lust are the least of it.

Satire VI:136-160 The Rich and Beautiful

‘Then why does Caesennia’s husband swear she’s the perfect wife?’

She brought him ten thousand in gold, enough to call her chaste.

He’s not been hit by Venus’s arrows, or scorched by her torch:

It’s the money he’s aflame with, her dowry launched the darts.

Her freedom’s bought. She can flirt, wave her love-letters in his

Face: she’s a single woman still: a rich man marries for greed.

‘Why then does Sertorius burn with love, for Bibula, his wife?

If you want the truth, it’s the face he fell for, and not the bride.

The moment she’s a wrinkle or two, her skin’s dry and flabby,

Her teeth become discoloured, her eyes like beads in her head,

‘Pack your bags’ she’ll hear his freedman cry, ‘Away with you.

Nothing but a nuisance now, always blowing your nose. Be off,

Make it snappy. There’s a dry nose coming to take your place.’

Meanwhile she’s hot, she reigns, demanding of her husband

Canusian sheep and shepherds, demanding Falernian vines –

Such tiny requests! – his house-slaves, those in the prison gangs,

Whatever her neighbour has, her house lacks, must be bought.

Then from the Campus where the booths hide Jason in winter,

His Argonauts too, concealed, behind their whitened canvas,

She’ll bear away crystal vases, huge, the largest pieces of agate,

And some legendary diamond made the more precious by once

Gracing Berenice’s finger, a gift to his incestuous sister from

Barbarous Herod Agrippa, a present for her, in far-off Judaea,

Where barefoot kings observe their day of rest on the Sabbath,

And their tradition grants merciful indulgence to elderly pigs.