Juvenal: Satire 1 Latin | Satire 1
English | Satire 1 English/Latin
Juvenal: Satire 2 Latin | Satire 2 English | Satire 2
Juvenal: Satire 3 Latin | Satire 3 English | Satire 3
THE SATIRES OF JUVENAL
DIFFICILE EST SATURAM NON SCRIBERE
WHAT? Am I to be a listener only all my days? Am I never to get my word inI that
have been so often bored by the Theseid of the ranting Cordus? Shall this one have
spouted to me his comedies, and that one his love ditties, and I be unavenged? Shall I
have no revenge on one who has taken up the whole day with an interminable Telephus or
with an Orestes which, after filling the margin at the top of the roll and the back as
well, hasn't even yet come to an end? No one knows his own house so well as I know the
groves of Mars, and the cave of Vulcan near the cliffs of Aeolus. What the winds are
brewing; whose souls Aeacus has on the rack; from what country another worthy is
carrying off that stolen golden fleece; how big are the ash trees which Monychus hurls
as missiles: these are the themes with which Fronto's plane trees and marble halls are
for ever ringing until the pillars quiver and quake under the continual recitations; such
is the kind of stuff you may look for from every poet, greatest or least. Well, I too have
slipped my hand from under the cane; I too have counselled Sulla to retire from public
life and take a deep sleep; it is a foolish clemency when you jostle against poets at
every corner, to spare paper that will be wasted anyhow. But if you can give me time, and
will listen quietly to reason, I will tell you why I prefer to run in the same course over
which the great nursling of Aurunca drove his horses.
22 When a soft eunuch takes to matrimony, and Maevia, with spear in hand and breasts
exposed, to pig-sticking in Etruria; when a fellow under whose razor my stiff youthful
beard used to grate challenges, with his single wealth, the whole nobility; when a
guttersnipe of the Nile like Crispinusa slave-born denizen of
Canopushitches a Tyrian cloak on to his shoulder, whilst on his sweating finger
he airs a summer ring of gold, unable to endure the weight of a heavier gemit is
hard not to write satire. For who can be so tolerant of this monstrous city, who so
iron of soul, as to contain himself when the brand-new litter of lawyer Matho comes along,
filled with his huge self; after him one who has informed against his noble patron and
will soon sweep away the remnant of our nobility already gnawed to the boneone whom
Massa dreads, whom Carus propitiates by a bribe, and to whom Thymele was sent
as envoy by the terrified Latinus; when you are thrust on one side by men who earn
legacies by nightly performances, and are raised to heaven by that now royal road to high
prefermentthe favours of an aged and wealthy woman? Each of the lovers will have his
share; Proculeius a twelfth part, Gillo eleven parts, each in proportion to the magnitude
of his services. By all means let each take the price of his own blood, and turn as pale
as a man who has trodden upon a snake bare-footed, or of one who awaits his turn to orate
before the altar at Lugdunum.
45 Why tell how my heart burns dry with rage when I see the people hustled by a mob of
retainers attending on one who has defrauded and debauched his ward, or on another who has
been condemned by a futile verdictfor what matters infamy if the cash be kept? The
exiled Marius carouses from the eighth hour of the day and revels in the wrath of
Heaven, while you, poor Province, win your cause and weep!
51 Must I not deem these things worthy of the Venusian's lamp? Must I not have my
fling at them? Should I do better to tell tales about Hercules, or Diomede, or the
bellowing in the Labyrinth, or about the flying carpenter and the lad who splashed
into the sea; and that in an age when the compliant husband, if his wife may not lawfully
inherits, takes money from her paramour, being well trained to keep his eyes upon the
ceiling, or to snore with wakeful nose over his cups; an age when one who has squandered
all his family fortunes upon horse-flesh thinks it right and proper to look for the
command of a cohort? See the youngster dashing at break-neck speed, like a very
Automedon, along the Flaminian way, holding the reins himself, while he shows himself
off to his great-coated mistress!
63 Would you not like to fill up a whole note-book at the street crossings when you see
a forger borne along upon the necks of six porters, and exposed to view on this side and
on that in his almost naked litter, and reminding you of the lounging Maecenas one who by
help of a scrap of paper and a moistened seal has converted himself into a fine and
69 Then up comes a lordly dame who, when her husband wants a drink, mixes toad's blood
with his mellow Calenian, and improving upon Lucusta herself, teaches her artless
neighbours to brave the talk of the town and carry forth to burial the blackened corpses
of their husbands. If you want to be anybody nowadays, you must dare some crime that
merits narrow Gyara or a gaol; honesty is praised and left to shiver. It is to their
crimes that men owe their pleasure-grounds and palaces, their fine tables and old silver
goblets with goats standing out in relief. Who can get sleep for thinking of a
money-loving daughter-in-law seduced, of brides that have lost their virtue, or of
adulterers not out of their 'teens? Though nature say me nay, indignation will prompt my
verse, of whatever kind it besuch verse as I can write, or Cluvienus!
81 From the day when the rain-clouds lifted up the waters, and Deucalion climbed that
mountain in his ship to seek an oraclethat day when stones grew soft and warm with
life, and Pyrrha showed maidens in nature's garb to menall the doings of mankind,
their vows, their fears, their angers and their pleasures, their joys and goings to and
fro, shall form the motley subject of my page. For when was Vice more rampant? When did
the maw of Avarice gape wider? When was gambling so reckless? Men come not now with purses
to the hazard of the gaming table, but with a treasure-chest beside them. What battles
will you there see waged with a cashier for armour-bearer! Is it a simple form of madness
to lose a hundred thousand sesterces, and not have a shirt to give to a shivering slave?
Which of our grandfathers built such numbers of villas, or dined by himself off seven
courses? Look now at the meagre dole set down upon the threshold for a toga-clad mob to
scramble for! Yet the patron first peers into your face, fearing that you may be claiming
under someone else's name: once recognised, you will get your share. He then bids the
crier call up the Trojan-blooded noblesfor they too besiege the door as well as we:
"The Praetor first," says he, "and after him the Tribune." "But I
was here first," says a freedman who stops the way; "why should I be afraid, or
hesitate to keep my place? Though born on the Euphratesa fact which the little
windows in my ears would testify though I myself denied ityet I am the owner of five
shops which bring me in four hundred thousand sesterces. What better thing does the
Broad Purple bestow if a Corvinus herds sheep for daily wage in the Laurentian
country, while I possess more property than either a Pallas or a Licinus?" So let
the Tribunes await their turn; let money carry the day; let the sacred office give way
to one who came but yesterday with whitened feet into our city. For no deity is held
in such reverence amongst us as Wealth; though as yet, O baneful money, thou hast no
temple of thine own; not yet have we reared altars to Money in like manner as we worship
Peace and Honour, Victory and Virtue, or that Concord that clatters when we salute her
117 If then the great officers of state reckon up at the end of the year how much the
dole brings in, how much it adds to their income, what shall we dependants do who, out of
the self same dole, have to find ourselves in coats and shoes, in bread and smoke at home?
A mob of litters comes in quest of the hundred farthings; here is a husband going the
round, followed by a sickly or pregnant wife; another, by a clever and well-known trick,
claims for a wife that is not there, pointing, in her stead, to a closed and empty chair:
"My Galla's in there," says he; "let us off quick, will you not?"
"Galla, put out your head!" "Don't disturb her, she's asleep!"
127 The day itself is marked out by a fine round of business. First comes the dole;
then the courts, and Apollo learned in the law, and those triumphal statues among
which some Egyptian Arabarch or other has dared to set up his titles; against whose
statue more than one kind of nuisance may be committed! Wearied and hopeless, the old
clients leave the door, though the last hope that a man relinquishes is that of a dinner;
the poor wretches must buy their cabbage and their fuel. Meanwhile their lordly patron
will be devouring the choicest products of wood and sea, lying alone upon an empty couch;
yes, at a single meal from their many fine large and antique tables they devour whole
fortunes. Ere long no parasites will be left! Who can bear to see luxury so mean? What a
huge gullet to have a whole boaran animal created for convivialityserved up to
it! But you will soon pay for it, my friend, when you take off your clothes, and with
distended stomach carry your peacock into the bath undigested! Hence a sudden death, and
an intestate old age; the new and merry tale runs the round of every dinner-table, and the
corpse is carried forth to burial amid the cheers of enraged friends!
147 To these ways of ours Posterity will have nothing to add; our grandchildren will do
the same things, any desire the same things, that we do. All vice is at its acme; up with
your sails and shake out every stitch of canvas! Here perhaps you will say, "Where
find the talent to match the theme? Where find that freedom of our forefathers to write
whatever the burning soul desired? 'What man is there that I dare not name? What matters
it whether Mucius forgives my words or no?"' But just describe Tigellinus and
you will blaze amid those faggots in which men, with their throats tightly gripped, stand
and burn and smoke, and you trace a broad furrow through the middle of the arena.
158 What? Is a man who has administered aconite to half a dozen uncles to ride by and
look down upon me from his swaying feather-pillows? "Yes; and when he comes near you,
put your finger to your lip: he who but says the word, 'That's the man!' will be counted
an informer. You may set Aeneas and the brave Rutulian a-fighting with an easy mind;
it will hurt no one's feelings to hear how Achilles was slain, or how Hylas was
searched for when he tumbled after his pitcher. But when Lucilius roars and rages as if
with sword in hand, the hearer, whose soul is cold with crime, grows red; he sweats with
the secret consciousness of sin. Hence wrath and tears. So turn these things over in your
mind before the trumpet sounds; the helmet once donned, it is too late to repent you of
the battle." Then I will try what I may say of those worthies whose ashes lie under
the Flaminian and Latin roads.
 An epic poem.
 Names of tragedies.
 One of the judges in Hades.
 A Centaur, alluding to the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapithae.
 A rich patron who lends his house for recitations.
 Referring to the retirement of Sulla from public life in B.C. 79. Such themes would
be prescribed to schoolboys as rhetorical exercises, of the kind called suasoriae.
See Mayor's n. and Sat. vii. 150-70.
 Lucilius, the first Roman satirist, B.C. 180-103.
 Some barber who had made a fortune. The line is repeated in x. 226.
 A favourite aversion of Juvenal's as a rich Egyptian parvenu who had risen to be princeps
equitum. See iv. 1, 14, 108.
 A city in the Nile Delta.
 Notorious informers under Domitian.
 Both actors: the allusion is not known.
 Alluding to a rhetorical contest instituted at Lyons by Caligula (Suet. Cal.
20). Severe and humiliating punishments were inflicted on those defeated in these
 Condemned for extortion in Africa in A.D. 100.
 Horace was born at Venusia B.C. 65.
 i.e. be legally incapacitated from taking an inheritance.
 The charioteer of Achilles.
 Calenian and Falernian were two of the most famous Roman wines.
 A notorious poisoner under Nero.
 A small island in the Aegean Sea on which criminals were confined.
 Unknown; some scribbler of the day.
 The fortune required of a knight (the census equestris) was 400,000
 The broad purple stripe (latus clavus) on the tunic of senators.
 One of an ancient Roman family.
 Pallas and Licinus were wealthy freedmen. See p.338, n. 1.
 The persons of the Tribunes of the Plebe were sacrosanct.
 Slaves imported for sale had white chalk-marks on their feet.
 The temple of Concord, near the Capitol. Storks built their nests on the temple.
 A statue of Apollo in the Forum Augusti.
 Probably an allusion to Julius Alexander, a Jew who was Prefect of Egypt A.D.
 The phrase is difficult. Duff translates " Vice always stands above a sheer
descent," and therefore soon reaches its extreme point.
 Apparently a quotation from Lucilius, being an attack on P. Mucius Scaevola.
 An infamous favourite of Nero's.
 i e. "your body." The passage refers to the burning of the early
Christians, and the dragging of their remains across the arena.
 Turnus, king of the Rutulians.
 A favourite of Hercules, who was drawn into a well by the Naids.
 The sides of the great roads leading out from Rome were lined with monuments to