Sunday, October 31, 2004


mutua uiginti sestertia forte rogabam,
  quae uel donanti non graue munus erat.
quippe rogabatur felixque uetusque sodalis
  et cuius laxas arca flagellat opes.
is mihi 'diues eris, si causas egeris' inquit.
  quod peto da, Gai: non peto consilium.

I once happened to be asking for a loan of twenty thousand sesterces, which - even if it had been a gift - wasn't a burdensome gift for the giver. Indeed the person I was asking was an old and successful friend, and one whose strongbox whips up his ample wealth. This man said to me, 'You'll be rich if you plead court cases.' Give me what I'm asking for, Gaius: I'm not asking for advice!

Saturday, October 30, 2004


Rufe, uides illum subsellia prima terentem,
  cuius et hinc lucet sardonychata manus
quaeque Tyron totiens epotauere lacernae
  et toga non tactas uincere iussa niues,
cuius olet toto pinguis coma Marcelliano
  et splendent uolso bracchia trita pilo,
non hesterna sedet lunata lingula planta,
  coccina non laesum pingit aluta pedem,
et numerosa linunt stellantem splenia frontem?
  ignoras quid sit? splenia tolle, leges.

Rufus, do you see that man hanging about the front rows, whose hand even from here glitters with sardonyx, and his cloak, which has so often drunk up Tyrian dye, and his toga, commanded to outdo the untouched snow; whose oily hair smells throughout the Theatre of Marcellus, and whose arms, plucked of hair, gleam with smoothness; on whose shoe with its crescent rests a strap that is not yesterday's; whose foot, uninjured, soft scarlet leather adorns; and on whose spangled brow numerous patches are plastered? Don't you know what's going on? Take off the patches and you'll read.

Friday, October 29, 2004


rideto multum qui te, Sextille, cinaedum
  dixerit et digitum porrigito medium.
sed nec pedico es nec tu, Sextille, fututor,
  calda Vetustinae nec tibi bucca placet.
ex istis nihil es fateor, Sextille: quid ergo es?
  nescio, sed tu scis res superesse duas.

Guffaw loudly at anyone who calls you a bumboy, Sextillus, and stick out your middle finger at him. Yet you are neither an arse-fucker nor a cunt-fucker, Sextillus, nor does Vetustina's warm mouth give you pleasure. You are none of these, I admit, Sextillus. So what are you? I don't know, but you know that there are two things left over.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


laudantem Selium cenae cum retia tendit
  accipe, siue legas siue patronus agas:
'effecte! grauiter! cito! nequiter! euge! beate!
  hoc uolui! facta est iam tibi cena, tace.

Hear how Selius praises you when he's spreading his nets for dinner, whether you're reciting or pleading as an advocate: 'A strong performance! Grand! Quick-witted! Cunning! Hurrah! Lovely! That's just what I wanted!' You've got your dinner now. Be quiet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


quod querulum spirat, quod acerbum Naeuia tussit,
  inque tuos mittit sputa subinde sinus,
iam te rem factam, Bithynice, credis habere?
  erras: blanditur Naeuia, non moritur.

Just because Naevia breathes with a wheeze, just because she coughs harshly and keeps hurling spit into your bosom, do you think, Bithynicus, that you've already got it made? You're wrong. Naevia is chatting you up, not dying.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


das numquam, semper promittis, Galla, roganti.
  si semper fallis, iam rogo, Galla, nega.

You never give; you always promise, Galla, to him who asks. If you're always deceitful, now I'm asking you, Galla - say no!

Monday, October 25, 2004


si det iniqua tibi tristem Fortuna reatum,
  squalidus haerebo pallidiorque reo:
si iubeat patria damnatum excedere terra,
  per freta, per scopulos exulis ibo comes.
dat tibi diuitias: ecquid sunt ista duorum?
  das partem? multum est? Candide, das aliquid?
mecum eris ergo miser: quod si deus ore sereno
  adnuerit, felix, Candide, solus eris.

If unjust Fortune should put you in the dismal dock, I shall stand by you in mourning, more pale than the accused. If she should condemn you and order you to leave your native land, I shall go, the exile's companion, across the seas and through rocks. She gives you riches: do they not belong to two people? Do you give me a share? Is that a lot to ask? Candidus, are you giving anything? Well then, you will be with me when you are in misery: but if the god nods with serene face, in your happiness, Candidus, you will be alone.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


  non dicam, licet usque me rogetis,
  qui sit Postumus in meo libello,
  non dicam: quid enim mihi necesse est
  has offendere basiationes,
  quae se tam bene uindicare possunt?

I shall not say (although you ask me again and again) who Postumus is in my little book - I shall not say. Indeed, why ought I to offend those kisses, which can avenge themselves so well?

Saturday, October 23, 2004


quid mihi uobiscum est, o Phoebe nouemque sorores?
  ecce nocet uati Musa iocosa suo.
dimidio nobis dare Postumus ante solebat
  basia, nunc labro coepit utroque dare.

What do I want with you, O Phoebus and nine sisters? Behold, the playful Muse hurts her bard. Postumus used to kiss me with half his lips before, but now he's started kissing me with both.

Friday, October 22, 2004


basia das aliis, aliis das, Postume, dextram.
  dicis 'utrum mauis? elige.' malo manum.

You give some people kisses; you give others, Postumus, your right hand. You say, 'Which do you prefer? Choose!' I prefer the hand.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


carmina Paulus emit, recitat sua carmina Paulus.
  nam quod emas possis iure uocare tuum.

Paulus buys poems; Paulus recites his poems. For what you buy you can rightly call your own.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


felicem fieri credis me, Zoile, cena?
  felicem cena, Zoile, deinde tua?
debet Aricino conuiua recumbere cliuo,
  quem tua felicem, Zoile, cena facit.

Do you think I'm made happy, Zoilus, by dinner? And furthermore, made happy by a dinner of yours? That guest ought to recline on Aricia's slope, Zoilus, whom a dinner of yours makes happy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


capto tuam, pudet heu, sed capto, Maxime, cenam,
  tu captas aliam: iam sumus ergo pares.
mane salutatum uenio, tu diceris isse
  ante salutatum: iam sumus ergo pares.
sum comes ipse tuus tumidique anteambulo regis,
  tu comes alterius: iam sumus ergo pares.
esse sat est seruum, iam nolo uicarius esse.
  qui rex est regem, Maxime, non habeat.

I'm fishing for a dinner invitation from you, Maximus (oh, I'm ashamed of it, but I am fishing for it); you're looking for one from someone else, so now we are equals. In the morning I come to greet you; they say that you've already gone to greet someone else, so now we're equals. I'm your companion, walking in front of my puffed-up patron; you're another man's companion, so we're equal. It is enough to be a slave - I don't want to be a slave's slave any more. Anyone who is a patron, Maximus, should not have a patron.

Monday, October 18, 2004


  tonstrix Suburae faucibus sedet primis,
  cruenta pendent qua flagella tortorum
  Argique Letum multus obsidet sutor:
  sed ista tonstrix, Ammiane, non tondet,
  non tondet, inquam. quid igitur facit? radit.

A barberess sits right at the entrance of the Subura, where the bloody whips of the torturers hang, and where many a shoemaker occupies the Argiletum. But this barberess, Ammianus, does not cut hair; she does not cut hair, I say. So what does she do? She fleeces.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


Zoilus aegrotat: faciunt hanc stragula febrem.
  si fuerit sanus, coccina quid facient?
quid torus a Nilo, quid Sidone tinctus olenti?
  ostendit stultas quid nisi morbus opes?
quid tibi cum medicis? dimitte Machaonas omnis.
  uis fieri sanus? stragula sume mea.

Zoilus is ill. His bedclothes are causing this fever. If he gets well, what good will his scarlet bedcoverings do? What will his couch from the Nile do? What will one dyed with smelly Sidonian purple? What other than illness shows off silly riches? What do you need doctors for? Dismiss all your Machaons. Do you want to become well? Take my bedclothes.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


  quod nulli calicem tuum propinas
  humane facis, Horme, non superbe.

You don't pass round your cup to anyone when you're drinking their health: you do this out of humanity, Hormus, not arrogance.

Friday, October 15, 2004


nil intemptatum Selius, nil linquit inausum,
  cenandum quotiens iam uidet esse domi.
currit ad Europen et te, Pauline, tuosque
  laudat Achilleos, sed sine fine, pedes.
si nihil Europe fecit, tunc Saepta petuntur,
  si quid Phillyrides praestet et Aesonides.
hinc quoque deceptus Memphitica templa frequentat,
  adsidet et cathedris, maesta iuuenca, tuis.
inde petit centum pendentia tecta columnis,
  illinc Pompei dona nemusque duplex;
nec Fortunati spernit nec balnea Fausti,
  nec Grylli tenebras Aeoliamque Lupi:
nam thermis iterumque iterumque iterumque lauatur.
  omnia cum fecit, sed renuente deo,
lotus ad Europes tepidae buxeta recurrit,
  si quis ibi serum carpat amicus iter.
per te perque tuam, uector lasciue, puellam,
  ad cenam Selium tu, rogo, taure, uoca.

Selius leaves nothing untried, nothing undared, whenever he sees that he has to dine at home. He runs to [the Portico of] Europa and praises you, Paulinus, and your Achillean feet - but interminably. If Europa does nothing, then he makes for the Saepta, in case Phillyra's son and Aeson's son can provide anything. Disappointed here too, he loiters at the Memphitic temple, and sits by your chairs, sorrowful heifer. From there he makes for the roof supported by a hundred columns, and from there the gifts of Pompey, and the double grove. And he does not scorn Fortunatus' or Faustus' baths, nor the Gryllus' shadows and Lupus' Aeolian cave. And he washes himself in the public baths again and again and again. When he has done everything, yet the god refuses, he runs, well washed, back to the boxwood trees of warm Europa, in case a friend is taking a late turn there. By you, naughty mount, and by your girl, I beg you, bull - you invite Selius to dinner!

Thursday, October 14, 2004


  et iudex petit et petit patronus:
  soluas censeo, Sexte, creditori.

Both the judge wants money and your lawyer wants money: I recommend, Sextus, that you pay back your creditor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


esse quid hoc dicam quod olent tua basia murram
  quodque tibi est numquam non alienus odor?
hoc mihi suspectum est, quod oles bene, Postume, semper:
  Postume, non bene olet qui bene semper olet.

What am I to say of the fact that your kisses smell of myrrh and that you never have any odour that is not from somewhere else? It seems suspicious to me that you always smell good, Postumus. Postumus, someone doesn't smell good if he smells good all the time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


  quod fronte Selium nubila uides, Rufe,
  quod ambulator porticum terit seram,
  lugubre quiddam quod tacet piger uultus,
  quod paene terram nasus indecens tangit,
  quod dextra pectus pulsat et comam uellit:
  non ille amici fata luget aut fratris,
  uterque natus uiuit et precor uiuat,
  salua est et uxor sarcinaeque seruique,
  nihil colonus uilicusque decoxit.
  maeroris igitur causa quae? domi cenat.

You see Selius with his clouded face, Rufus; as he walks he treads the portico late in the evening; his glum face keeps quiet something that troubles him; his unbecoming nose almost touches the ground; his right hand beats his breast and tears his hair. He doesn't grieve at the death of friend or brother, both his children live - and I pray they will continue to live - his wife is healthy, and his possessions, and his slaves; his tenant and bailiff have not squandered anything away. So what is the reason for his sorrow? He's dining at home.

Monday, October 11, 2004


basia dimidio quod das mihi, Postume, labro,
  laudo: licet demas hinc quoque dimidium.
uis dare maius adhuc et inenarrabile munus?
  hoc tibi habe totum, Postume, dimidium.

You give me kisses, Postumus, with half your lips, so I praise you: from this you can also subtract a half. Do you want to give a gift that is greater still and indescribable? Keep this whole half to yourself, Postumus.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


scripsi, rescripsit nil Naeuia, non dabit ergo.
  sed, puto, quod scripsi legerat: ergo dabit.

I have written, Naevia has written nothing back, so she won't be giving me one. But, I think, she did read what I wrote: so she will be giving me one.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


si qua uidebuntur chartis tibi, lector, in istis
  siue obscura nimis siue Latina parum,
non meus est error: nocuit librarius illis
  dum properat uersus adnumerare tibi.
quod si non illum sed me peccasse putabis,
  tunc ego te credam cordis habere nihil.
'ista tamen mala sunt.' quasi nos manifesta negemus!
  haec mala sunt, sed tu non meliora facis.

If anything in these pages, reader, seems to you either too obscure or barely Latin, the fault is not mine: the copyist damaged them while he was hastening to count up the verses for you. If you think that it's not him but me that has erred, then I will believe you have no sense. 'But these are bad!' As if I were denying what's obvious! These are bad, but you don't make any that are better.

Friday, October 08, 2004


declamas belle, causas agis, Attale, belle;
  historias bellas, carmina bella facis;
componis belle mimos, epigrammata belle;
  bellus grammaticus, bellus es astrologus,
et belle cantas et saltas, Attale, belle;
  bellus es arte lyrae, bellus es arte pilae.
nil bene cum facias, facias tamen omnia belle,
  uis dicam quid sis? magnus es ardalio.

You declaim beautifully, Attalus, you plead cases beautifully, you make beautiful histories and beautiful poems; you compose mimes beautifully, epigrams beautifully; you're a beautiful grammarian, a beautiful astrologer, and you sing beautifully, and dance beautifully, Attalus; you're beautiful in the art of the lyre, you're beautiful in the art of the ball. Since you do nothing well, but you do everything beautifully, do you want me to tell you what you are? You are a great dabbler.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


  i nunc, edere me iube libellos.
  lectis uix tibi paginis duabus
  spectas eschatocollion, Seuere,
  et longas trahis oscitationes.
  haec sunt, quae relegente me solebas
  rapta exscribere, sed Vitellianis;
  haec sunt, singula quae sinu ferebas
  per conuiuia cuncta, per theatra;
  haec sunt aut meliora si qua nescis.
  quid prodest mihi tam macer libellus,
  nullo crassior ut sit umbilico,
  si totus tibi triduo legatur?
  numquam deliciae supiniores.
  lassus tam cito deficis uiator,
  et cum currere debeas Bouillas,
  interiungere quaeris ad Camenas?
  i nunc, edere me iube libellos.

Go on, tell me to publish my little books. When you've hardly read a couple of pages you look at the last page, Severus, and draw forth long yawns. These are the ones which you used to grab hold of, when I was reading them again, and copy out - on Vitellian tablets no less; these are the ones which you used to carry individually in your pocket to every party, to the theatres; these are those ones, or maybe some better ones which you don't know. What good to me is such a thin little book, no fatter than any rolling-stick, if you would need three days to read the whole thing? Never have aesthetes been more languid. When you are travelling do you tire so quickly, and when you ought to be trundling along to Bovillae, do you want to rest the horses at the Camenae? Go on, tell me to publish my little books.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


ne ualeam, si non totis, Deciane, diebus
  et tecum totis noctibus esse uelim.
sed duo sunt quae nos disiungunt milia passum:
  quattuor haec fiunt, cum rediturus eam.
saepe domi non es; cum sis quoque, saepe negaris:
  uel tantum causis uel tibi saepe uacas.
te tamen ut uideam, duo milia non piget ire;
  ut te non uideam, quattuor ire piget.

May I lose my health, Decianus, if I wouldn't like to be with you all day and all night. But there are two miles that separate us: they become four when I go and come back. You're often not at home; and even when you are, you're often said not to be: you often have time only for your legal cases or for yourself. But I'm not bothered about going two miles to see you; what does bother me is going four not to see you.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


  o quam blandus es, Ammiane, matri!
  quam blanda est tibi mater, Ammiane!
  fratrem te uocat et soror uocatur.
  cur uos nomina nequiora tangunt?
  quare non iuuat hoc quod estis esse?
  lusum creditis hoc iocumque? non est:
  matrem, quae cupit esse se sororem,
  nec matrem iuuat esse nec sororem.

O how affectionate you are, Ammianus, to your mother! How affectionate your mother is to you, Ammianus! She calls you 'brother' and is called 'sister'. Why do rather naughty names attract you two? Why aren't you happy to be what you are? Do you think it's a game and a joke? It's not: a mother who wants to be a sister is not happy to be either mother or sister.

Monday, October 04, 2004


Sexte, nihil debes, nil debes, Sexte, fatemur:
  debet enim, si quis soluere, Sexte, potest.

Sextus, you have no debts. You have no debts, Sextus, I admit. For one has a debt, Sextus, only if one is able to repay it.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


Creta dedit magnum, maius dedit Africa nomen,
  Scipio quod uictor quodque Metellus habet;
nobilius domito tribuit Germania Rheno,
  et puer hoc dignus nomine, Caesar, eras.
frater Idumaeos meruit cum patre triumphos,
  quae datur ex Chattis laurea, tota tua est.

Crete gave a great name, Africa a greater one: Scipio the victor has one, and Metellus has the other. Germany granted a nobler name when the Rhine had been subdued, and even as a boy, Caesar, you were worthy of this name. Your brother earned Idumaean triumphs together with your father, but the laurel given for the Chatti is totally yours.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


ter centena quidem poteras epigrammata ferre,
  sed quis te ferret perlegeretque, liber?
at nunc succincti quae sint bona disce libelli.
  hoc primum est, breuior quod mihi charta perit;
deinde, quod haec una peragit librarius hora,
  nec tantum nugis seruiet ille meis;
tertia res haec est, quod si cui forte legeris,
  sis licet usque malus, non odiosus eris.
te conuiua leget mixto quincunce, sed ante
  incipiat positus quam tepuisse calix.
esse tibi tanta cautus breuitate uideris?
  ei mihi, quam multis sic quoque longus eris!

You could bear three hundred epigrams, but then who would bear you or read you all the way through, my book? Learn now what are the good points of a compact little book. The first is this: I get through less paper. Then there's the fact that the copyist goes through it in a single hour, and he won't be solely in the service of my trifles. Here's the third thing: if, by any chance, you are read by someone, then however bad you are you won't be tiresome. The dinner-guest will read you when his five measures have been mixed, but before the cup set before him has begun to cool. Do you think you have put up your guard by means of so much brevity? Goodness me, in the minds of many people how long you will be nonetheless!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Book Two : Preface


'quid nobis' inquis 'cum epistola? parum enim tibi praestamus, si legimus epigrammata? quid hic porro dicturus es quod non possis uersibus dicere? uideo quare tragoedia aut comoedia epistolam accipiant, quibus pro se loqui non licet; epigrammata curione non egent et contenta sunt sua, id est mala, lingua. in quacumque pagina uisum est, epistolam faciunt. noli ergo, si tibi uidetur, rem facere ridiculam et in toga saltantis inducere personam. denique uideris an te delectet contra retiarium ferula. ego inter illos sedeo qui protinus reclamant.' puto me hercules, Deciane, uerum dicis. quid si scias cum qua et quam longa epistola negotium fueris habiturus? itaque quod exigis fiat. debebunt tibi si qui in hunc librum inciderint, quod ad primam paginam non lassi peruenient.


'What,' you say, 'do we need a letter for? Aren't we doing enough for you if we read your epigrams? And besides, what are you going to say here which you couldn't say in verse? I can see why tragedy or comedy get a letter [i.e. a prologue], since they aren't allowed to speak for themselves; epigrams do not need a herald, and they are content with their own - that is, their wicked - tongue. On whatever page seems good to them they make a letter. So - if you please - don't do a ridiculous thing and bring on stage a character dancing in a toga. In brief: consider whether you like fighting with a stick against a net-fighter. I sit among those who protest straight away.' Goodness, Decianus, I think what you're saying is right. What if you knew what a letter - and what a long letter - you would have had to deal with? So let it be as you demand. If anyone comes across this book they will be indebted to you because they won't reach the first page tired out.