Satire II: On Hypocrisy
I long to escape from hence beyond the Sarmatians, and the frozen sea, whenever those fellows who pretend to be Curii and live like Bacchanals presume to read a lecture on morality. First of all, they are utterly unlearned, though you may find all their quarters full of busts of Chrysippus. For the most finished scholar among them is he that has bought an image of Aristotle or Pittacus, or bids his shelves retain originals of Cleanthes. There is no trusting to the outside! For what street is there that does not overflow with debauchees of demure exterior? Dost thou reprove abominations, that art thyself the most notorious sink among catamites who pretend to follow Socrates? Thy rough limbs indeed, and the stiff bristles on thy arms, seem to promise a vigorous mind within; but on thy smooth behind, the surgeon with a smile lances the swelling piles. These fellows affect a paucity of words, and a wonderful taciturnity, and the fashion of cutting their hair shorter than their eyebrows. There is therefore more frankness and sincerity in Peribomius; the man that by his very look and gait makes no secret of his depravity, I look upon as the victim of destiny. The plain-dealing of the latter class excites our pity; their very madness pleads for our forgiveness. Far worse are they who in Hercules' vein practice similar atrocities, and preaching up virtue, perpetrate the foulest vice. "Shall I feel any dread for thee, Sextus, unnatural thyself?" says the infamous Varillus. "How am I worse than thou? Let the straight-limbed, if you please, mock the bandy-legged; the fair European sneer at the Ethiop. But who could tolerate the Gracchi if they railed at sedition? Who would not confound heaven with earth, and sea with sky, if a thief were odious to Verres, or a murderer to Milo? If Clodius were to impeach adulterers, or Catiline Cethegus? If Sylla's three pupils were to declaim against Sylla's proscriptions? Such was the case of the adulterer recently defiled by incest, such as might be found in Greek tragedy, who then set himself to revive those bitter laws which all might tremble at, ay, even Venus and Mars, at the same time that Julia was relieving her fruitful womb by so many abortives, and gave birth to shapeless masses, the image of her uncle! Might not then, with all reason and justice, even the very worst of vices look with contempt on these counterfeit Scauri, and if censured turn and bite again?"
Lauronia could not endure some fierce reformer of this class so often exclaiming, "Where is now the Julian law? is it slumbering?" and thus silenced him with a sneer: "Blest days indeed! that set thee up as a censor of morals! Rome now must needs retrieve her honor! A third Cato has dropped from the clouds. But tell me, pray, where do you buy these perfumes that exhale from your neck, all hairy though it be! Do not be ashamed to tell the shopman's name. But if old laws and statutes are to be raked up, before all others the Scatinian ought to be revived. First scrutinize and look into the conduct of the men. They commit the greater atrocities; but it is their number protects them, and their phalanxes close serried with their shields. There is a wonderful unanimity among these effeminates. You will not find one single instance of such execrable conduct in our sex. Taedia does not caress Cluvia, nor Flora Catulla. Hispo acts both sex's parts, and is pale with two-handed lust. Do we ever plead causes? Do we study civil law? or disturb your courts with any clamor of our tongues? A few of us perhaps may wrestle, or diet themselves on the trainer's food; but only a few. You men, you spin wool, and carry home in women's baskets your finished tasks. You men twist the spindle big with its fine-drawn thread more deftly than Penelope, more nimbly than Arachne; work, such as the dirty drab does that sits crouching on her log. Every one knows why Hister at his death made his freedman his sole heir, while, when alive, he gave his maiden wife so many presents. She will be rich without a doubt, who will submit to lie third in the wide bed. Get married then, and hold your tongue, and earrings will be the guerdon of your silence! And after all this, forsooth, a heavy sentence is to be passed on us women! Censure acquits the raven, but falls foul of the dove!"
From this rebuke so true and undeniable, the counterfeit Stoics recoiled in confusion, For what grain of untruth was there in Lauronia's words? Yet, what will not others do, when thou, Creticus, adoptest muslin robes, and to the amazement of the people, inveighest in such a dress against Procula or Pollinea?
Fabulla, thou sayest, is an adulteress. Then let her be condemned, if you will have it so, and Carfinia also. Yet though condemned, she would not put on such a dress as that. "But it is July, it is raging hot, I am on fire!" Then plead stark naked! To be thought mad would be a less disgrace! Is that a dress to propound laws and statutes in, in the ears of the people when flushed with victory, with their wounds yet green, or that noble race, fresh from their plows? What an outcry would you make, if you saw such a dress on the person of a Judex! I ask, would such a robe be suitable even in a witness? Creticus! the implacable, the indomitable, the champion of liberty, is transparent! Contagion has caused this plague-spot, and will extend it to many more, just as a whole flock perishes, in the fields from the scab of one sheep, or pigs from mange, and the grape contracts the taint from the grape it comes in contact with. Ere long you will venture on something more disgraceful even than this dress. No one ever reached the climax of vice at one step. You will by degrees enter the band of those who wear at home long fillets round their brows, and cover their necks with jewels, and propitiate Bona Dea with the belly of a young sow and a huge bowl of wine; but by an inversion of the old custom women, kept far aloof, dare not cross the threshold. The altar of the goddess is accessible to males alone. "Withdraw, profane females!" is the cry. No minstrel here may make her cornet sound! Such were the orgies by the secret torch-light which the Baptae celebrated, who used to weary out even the Athenian Cotytto. One with needle held oblique adds length to his eyebrows touched with moistened soot, and raising the lids paints his quivering eyes. Another drains a Priapus-shaped glass, and confines his long thick hair with a caul of gold thread, clothed in sky-blue checks, or close-piled yellow stuffs; while his attendant also swears by Juno, the patron deity of his master. Another holds a mirror, the weapon wielded by the pathic Otho, "the spoil of Auruncan Actor," in which he surveyed himself when fully armed, before he gave the signal to engage—a thing worthy to be recorded in the latest annals and history of the day. A mirror! fit baggage for a civil war! O yes, forsooth! to kill old Galba shows the consummate general, to pamper one's complexion is the consistent occupation of the first citizen of Rome; to aspire to the empire as the prize on Bebriacum's plains, and then spread over his face a poultice applied with his fingers! Such an act as neither the quivered Semiramis perpetrated in the Assyrian realms, or Cleopatra flying dejected in her Actian galley. Among this crew there is neither decency of language, nor respect for the proprieties of the table. Here is the foul license that Cybele enjoins, the lisping speech, the aged priest with hoary hair, like one possessed, a prodigy of boundless appetite, open to hire. Yet why do they delay? since long ago they ought after the Phrygian custom to have removed with their knives the superfluous flesh.
Gracchus gave four hundred sestertia as his dowry, with himself, to a bugler, or else one that blew the straight trumpet. The marriage deeds were duly signed, the blessing invoked, a great dinner provided, the he-bride lay in the bridegroom's arms. O nobles! is it a censor we need, or an aruspex? You would without doubt be horrified, and deem it a prodigy of portentous import, if a woman gave birth to a calf, or a cow to a lamb. The same Gracchus puts on flounces, the long robe and flame-colored veil, who, when bearing the sacred shields swinging with mysterious thong, sweated beneath the Ancilia! Oh! father of our city! whence came such heinous guilt to the shepherds of Latium? Whence, O Gradivus, came this unnatural lust that has tainted thy race? See! a man illustrious in birth and rank is made over to a man! Dost thou neither shake thy helmet, nor smite the earth with thy lance? Dost thou not even appeal to thy father Jove? Begone then! and quit the acres of the Campus once so severe, which thou ceasest to care for! "I have some duty-work to perform to-morrow at break of day in the Quirinal valley." "What is the occasion?" "Why ask? my friend is going to be married; only a few are invited!" If we only live to see it, these things will be done in the broad light of day, and claim to be registered in the public acts. Meanwhile, there is one grievous source of pain that clings to these male-brides, that they are incapable of bearing, and retaining their lords' affections by bringing them children. No! better is it that nature in this case gives their minds no power over their bodies! They must die barren! Vain, in their case, is fat Lyde with her medicated box; vain the holding out their hands to the nimble Luperci.
Yet even this prodigy of crime is surpassed by the trident of Gracchus in his gladiator's tunic, when in full flight he traverses the middle of the arena. Gracchus! more nobly born than the Manlii, and Marcelli, and Catulus' and Paulus' race, and the Fabii, and all the spectators in the front row. Ay, even though you add to these the very man himself, at whose expense he cast his net as Retiarius.
That there are departed spirits, and realms beneath the earth—that Charon's pole exists, and the foul frogs in the Stygian whirlpool—and that so many thousand souls cross its waters in a single bark, not even boys believe, save those as yet too young to be charged for their bath. But do thou believe them true! What does Curius feel, and the two Scipios, what Fabricius and the shades of Camillus, what the legion cut off at Cremera, and the flower of Roman youth slaughtered at Cannae—so many martial spirits—what do they feel when such a shade as this passes from us to them? They would long to be cleansed from the pollution of the contact, could any sulphur and pine-torches be supplied to them, or could there be a bay-tree to sprinkle them with water.
To such a pitch of degradation are we come! We have, indeed, advanced our arms beyond Juverna's shore, and the Orcades recently subdued, and the Britons content with night contracted to its briefest span. But those abominations which are committed in the victorious people's city are unknown to those barbarians whom we have conquered. "Yet there is a story told of one, an Armenian Zalates, who, more effeminate than the rest of his young countrymen, is reported to have yielded to the tribune's lust." See the result of intercourse with Rome! He came a hostage! Here they learn to be men! For if a longer tarry in the city be granted to these youths, they will never lack a lover. Their plaids, and knives, and bits, and whips, will soon be discarded. Thus it is the vices of our young nobles are aped even at Artaxata.
End of Satire II: On Hypocrisy by Juvenal