Petronius Arbiter, 60AD
I AMONG THE RHETORICIANS  "But look here," I protested, "aren't you professors hounded by just these same Furies of inflated language and pompous heroics? How else can you account for all that wretched rant: Nay, but gentle sirs, mark ye well these wounds I suffered in the struggle to preserve our common liberties. 'Twas on thy behalf I made the supreme sacrifice of this eye. Vouchsafe me, therefore, a helping hand. Guide me to my children, for my withers are unwrung and support my frame no more . . . And so on. "No one would mind this claptrap if only it put our students on the road to real eloquence. But what with all these sham heroics and this stilted bombast you stuff their heads with, by the time your students set foot in court, they talk as though they were living in another world. No, I tell you, we don't educate our children at school; we stultify them and then send them out into the world half-baked. And why? Because we keep them utterly ignorant of real life. The common experience is something they never see or hear. All they know is pirates trooping up the beach in chains, tyrants scribbling edicts compel- ling sons to chop off their fathers' heads or oracles con- demning three virgins-but the more the merrier-to be slaughtered to stop some plague. Action or language, it's all the same: great sticky honey balls of phrases, every sentence looking as though it had been plopped and rolled in poppy seed and sesame.  A boy gorged on a diet like this can no more acquire real taste than a cook can stop stinking. What's more, if you'll pardon my bluntness, it was you rhetoricians who more than anyone else strangled true eloquence. By reducing everything to sound, you concocted this bloated puff paste of pretty drivel whose only real purpose is the pleasure of punning and the thrill of ambiguity Result? Language lost its sinew, its nerve. Eloquence died. "But in those great days when Sophocles and Euripides invariably found the exact word, talent had not yet been cramped into the mold of these set-speeches of yours Long before you academic pedants smothered genius with your arrogance, Pindar and the nine lyric poets were still so modest that they declined even to attempt the grand Homeric manner. Nor are my objections based on poetry Lone. What about Plato or Demosthenes? I never heard It said of them that they ever submitted to your sort of formal training. No, great language is chaste language-if you'll let me use a word like 'chaste' in this connection- not turgidity and worked-up purple patches. It soars to life through a natural, simple loveliness. But then, in our own time, that huge flatulent rhetoric of yours moved from Asia to Athens. Like a baleful star, it blighted the minds of the young; their talents shriveled at the very moment when they might have taken wing and gone on to greatness. And once the standards of good speech were corrupted, eloquence stopped dead or stuttered into silence. who, I ask you, has achieved real greatness of style since Thucydides and Hyperides? Poetry herself is sick, her natural glow of color leached away. All the literary arts, in fact, cloyed with this diet of bombast, have stunted or died, incapable of whitening naturally into an honest old age. And in painting you see the same decay: on the very day when Egyptian arrogance dared to reduce it to a set of sterile formulas, that great art died."  Agamemnon, however, refused to let me rant on an instant longer than it had taken him to sweat out his declamation in the classroom. "Young man," he broke in I see that you are a speaker of unusual taste and, what is even rarer, an admirer of common sense. So I shan't put you off with the usual hocus-pocus of the profession. But in all justice allow me to observe that we teachers should not be saddled with the blame for this bombast of which you complain. After all, if the patients are lunatics, surely a little professional lunacy is almost mandatory in the doctor who deals with them. And unless we professors spout the sort of twaddle our students admire, we run the risk of being, in Cicero's phrase, 'left alone at our lecterns.' Let me over you by way of analogy those professional sponges in the comic plays who scrounge their suppers by flattering the rich. Like us, they must devote their entire attention to one end-the satisfaction of their audience; for unless their little springes con their listeners' ears, they stand to lose their quarry. We are, that is, rather in the position of a fisherman: unless he baits his hook with the sort of tidbit the little fishes like, he is doomed to spend eternity sitting on his rock without a chance of a bite.  "So what should the verdict be? In my opinion, those parents who refuse to impose a stern discipline upon their sons must bear the blame. As with everything else, even their children are sacrificed on the altar of their ambition. Then, in their haste and greed to reap a harvest, they shove these callow, newborn babies into the public arena, and eloquence-that same eloquence which they profess to honor as the crown of a liberal education-is chopped down in size to fit a fetus. If, however, our students' lessons could be graded by order of difficulty; if the minds of the young could be molded and shaped by long years of intimacy with the minds of great thinkers; if these crude attempts to form a style could be ruthlessly chastened and these budding talents steeped in the study of great models, then, and only then, might our great lost art of oratory recover her old magnificence. But what do we find instead? The schoolrooms packed with children wasting their time and playing at learning; our recent graduates disgracing themselves in public life and, what is worst of all, the very things that they mislearned when young, they are reluctant to confess in old age. And lest you think l despise the simplicity and spontaneity of old Lucilius, let me extemporize my sentiments in verse:  ADVICE TO A YOUNG POET If greatness, poet, is your goal, the craft begins with self-control. For poems are of the poet part, and what he is decides his art. With character true poems begin. Poet, learn your discipline. Avoid ambition as the blight of talent. If the rich invite you out to dine, be proud; decline. Don't snub your genius in your wine nor pin your Muse to clique or claque. Avoid the postures of the hack. Whether Athena, poet, from her Parthenon smiles down upon your youth, or Spartan homestead gave you birth, or African Cyrene where the lovely Sirens sang, dedicate, I say, your early years to verse. Drink deep at the great Homeric font and satisfy your thirst. But when you've drunk your fill, then discipline your soul by study with the wise: let logic and the laws of thought be your curriculum and curb. And when at last the great Socratic troupe admits you as their friend, shake loose your reins and give your passions room to run: wield a free man's prose, those weapons forged in war by great Demosthenes. Then let the Roman writers guide you home from Greece; transform your borrowed taste and build a native style. Meanwhile, withdraw from court, and let the epic, martial Muse run proud and free to make such clangor as she, by lightning march and sudden ambush, may unloose. Make war your feast; sing such clamor you unleash the thundered verse of epic Cicero, bloody but unbowed. O poet, gird yourself with every goodness you can get, until the Muse herself usurps your swelling tongue and sets your name beside the great on Helicon! II GITON, ASCYLTUS, AND I  But while I was concentrating on Agamemnon's poem, I failed to see Ascyltus slink away . . . Some time later, while we were strolling through the garden, still hot in argument, a great crowd of students came pouring out into the portico, just leaving, I supposed, the speech of the professor who had followed Agamemnon. But while they were jeering away at the speaker's ideas and criticizing the whole structure of his speech, I seized my chance and quickly slipped away in pursuit of Ascyltus. But I had forgotten where our rooms were and kept losing my way. Worse, whichever road I took, I somehow kept coming back to the place where I had started. Finally, drenched with sweat and completely limp from running around in circles, I went up to a little old woman who was selling vegetables beside the road.  "Excuse me, ma'am," I asked, "but would you happen to know where I live?" Apparently charmed by this genteel stupidity, she said, "But I of course I do." With that, she rose to her feet and started off while I tagged tamely at her heels, thinking she must be a prophetess. A few minutes later, in a much shabbier section of town, she stopped before a door, pulled back the curtain and said, "This must be where you live." I was saying that I'd never seen the place before when I suddenly saw several women walking suggestively to and fro and a number of large posters, each stating a price. Slowly, much too slowly, it dawned on me that the treacherous old hag had led me to a whorehouse. I cursed the old bitch out, covered my head in my robes and sprinted straight through the whorehouse in the direction of the entrance on the next street. There in the doorway, just coming in, who should I meet but Ascyltus himself, looking half-dead and every bit as exhausted as myself. In fact, for an instant I wondered whether the same old woman had brought him there too. Then, with a great laugh of relief, I threw myself into his arms and asked him what in the world he was doing in a place like that.  "Gods," he gasped, mopping away the sweat, "if you only knew what I've been through!" "But what happened I asked. He was still panting so furiously he could barely speak. "I've been running around like crazy. I must have covered the whole city, but I couldn't find our rooms anywhere. Then a man came up, respectable family-man type, or so I thought, and very kindly offered to lead me to my rooms. Well, he steered me through a lot of back alleys and finally brought me here. Then he pulled out his wallet and began to proposition me. He'd already paid the Madam of the house for a room. The next thing I knew he was feeling me up, and if I hadn't been stronger than he was, I'd have been damn well raped by now. Every person in the place seemed to be completely drunk on aphrodisiacs . . . But by uniting our forces, we managed to repel the invaders attack...  Dimly, as through a thick fog, I caught sight of Giton standing at the corner of an alley and I raced over . . . When I asked the boy whether he had made our supper, he suddenly burst into tears, collapsed on the bed and lay there wiping his eyes with his thumb. Frantic at seeing him in such a state, I begged him to tell me what had happened. Only much later, after my pleas had turned into threats, did he speak, and even then with great reluctance. "It's that man," he sobbed, "the one you call your brother, your friend Ascyltus. He ran up to my garret a little while ago and tried to take me by force. When I screamed for help, he pulled out his sword. 'If you want to play Lucretia, boy,' he cried, 'you've met your Tarquin.' " Furious at such treachery, I rushed across to Ascyltus and shook my fist in his face. "What do you say to that?" I yelled. "You male whore, you! You bugger! Even your breath stinks of buggery!" At first he pretended to be insulted. Then he started throwing his fists around and yelling at the top of his voice. "Shut up!" he bellowed. "You stinking gladiator! Even in the arena you were a washout! Shut up! Thief! You cheap burglar! When were you ever man enough to take on a real woman? No, first it was me in the garden. Now it's this boy in the inn." "What's more," I said bitterly, "you sneaked away when the Professors were debating."  "What the hell was I supposed to do, sap?" he shrieked. "Die of hunger? Stand there and listen to that drivel, that rhetoric of broken bottles and cheap dream analysis? By god, you're ten times worse! Trying to scrounge a meal by buttering a poet!" Finally, however, the squalid argument ended and we soon found ourselves laughing and at peace with each other once more and went on to other things . . . But the memory of what Ascyltus had done kept coming back and rankling. Finally, I decided to have it out. "Ascyltus," I said, "let's face it: we're not compatible any more. Let's divide our few possessions and strike out for ourselves, each one on his own. You're an educated man, and so am I. But just so we don't tread on each other's toes, I'll arrange to take a different tutoring job. Otherwise we'll have a thousand run-ins every day and get ourselves gossiped about all over town." He agreed. However, for today," he added, 'let's keep together, since our position as professors is worth an invitation to dinner and we don't want to lose it. Then tomorrow, if that's what you want, I'll start looking for another bed and a little friend of my own." "But it's silly," I objected, "to postpone our decision." . . . It was sex, of course, that made us part ways so brusquely. For a long time now I had been anxious to remove this obstacle in the way of resuming my old relationship with Giton . . .  After wandering all over town in a fruitless search for work, I returned to the room. At last I was free to make love to Giton without restraint, and wrapping the boy in the closest of embraces, I took my fill of a bliss that even happy lovers might envy. We were still at it, however, when Ascyltus came tiptoeing up to the door. Finding it locked, he banged so violently that the bolts rattled loose, the door swung open, and he walked in and discovered us at our games. Amused at first, he clapped his hands and roared with laughter till the whole room shook. Then he snatched away the cloak I had thrown over Giton and myself. "Well, well," he sneered, "what's going on here, my saintly friend? Are you sharing something with our little friend?" And not content with sarcasm, he pulled a leather thong from his pack and began to flog me mercilessly, punctuating every blow with fresh sneers: "So that's your notion of sharing with your friends, is it?" III LOST TREASURE RECOVERED  It was just turning dark when we came into the market in the main square. There we saw a great deal of merchandise laid out for sale, most of it worthless stuff but its shoddiness or suspect provenance now decently obscured in the half-light. Happening to have the stolen mantle with us, we took advantage of the time and place and unrolled a small strip of it in a dark corner, hoping that the richness and color of the material might attract a buyer. We did not have long to wait. After a few minutes, a peasant-whose face seemed somehow familiar to me-came up, accompanied by a girl, and began to finger the mantle very closely. Ascyltus, for his part, could not keep his eyes off the shoulder of our peasant customer, and then I suddenly saw him blanch and gasp with astonishment. With growing excitement, I began to stare too, for the peasant was strikingly like the man who had found our tunic in the deserted place where we had left it. Finally there could be no doubt: it was the same man. Ascyltus, not daring to believe his eyes and terrified of alarming the man, went up closer and, lifting the hem of the tunic off his shoulder, started to scrutinize it like a prospective buyer.  By some absolutely incredible stroke of luck, the peasant had not yet stuck his meddling fingers into the seam; in fact, he was condescendingly offering the tunic for sale as though it were some beggar's castoff. Seeing that our cache was intact and that we were dealing with a fool, Ascyltus motioned me aside. "Friend," he whispered, "do you realize that our treasure has come back to us? That's the same tunic, the one I was so upset at having lost. And, so far as I can tell, the gold is still there in the seams, intact. But what should we do? Should we bring a formal complaint against him in court for the recovery of our property?" Enormously pleased, not only because we had recovered our lost cache, but because our stroke of luck had relieved me of a very ugly suspicion, I told Ascyltus that we should not beat around the bush, but take our complaint directly to the authorities and obtain a court order if the peasant refused to return our property.  Ascyltus, having little faith in the authorities, disagreed. "Who can vouch for us here?" he objected. "Who knows us? If you ask me, I think we ought to buy it back, even though it's our own property, rather than risk a chancy lawsuit: What good are the laws where Money, is king, where the poor are always wrong, and even the mockers who scoff at the times will sell the truth for a song? The courts are an auction where justice is sold; the judge who presides bangs a gavel of gold." But except for one small coin which we had put aside to buy lupins and chickpeas, we had literally nothing. So to keep our quarry from leaving with our cache, we decided to sell the mantle cheap, thinking that our profit on the tunic would lighten the loss on the cloak. Acting quickly, we unrolled the mantle completely and the veiled girl who had come with the peasant began a minute inspection of the design. Suddenly she grabbed the cloak with both hands and started to scream Thief! Thief!" We, of course, panicked, but rather than do nothing, we started tuning away at our filthy tattered tunic and screamed "Thief!" too. But the discrepancy in what we were claiming was so great that even the tradesmen who had come running up at the outcry burst out in guffaws. Not without justice, I must admit, since we were struggling for a set of rags that couldn't even have been used for patches, while they were claiming a cloak worth a good sum of money. Finally Ascyltus succeeded in silencing them.  "It is obvious," he declared, "that each party prefers his own property Let them give us back our tunic and we'll give them the cloak." This suggestion proved perfectly acceptable to the peasant and the girl, but some local shysters-or better, sneak-thieves- anxious to clear a profit on the mantle, demanded that the articles in dispute should be deposited with them and the whole matter referred to the judge on the following day. Their concern, they said, was less the goods in dispute than the fact that both parties clearly fell under suspicion of theft, a much graver matter. Those in favor of impounding the articles were a majority, and one of the tradesmen, a bald fellow with a hideously splotched forehead who used to plead cases now and then, confiscated the cloak and said that he would produce it in evidence the next day. By now it was perfectly clear what their game was: they would make off with the cloak, while we, of course, would not dare appear in court for fear of being charged with theft. The suggestion was quite agreeable to us, and a lucky incident served both parties. For our peasant, livid with rage when we demanded that his tattered tunic be publicly exhibited, threw it in Ascyltus' face. Then, since we now had nothing to complain of, he demanded the return of the mantle, the sole article still under dispute. Having recovered our cache, or so we thought, we hurried back to our room, locked the door securely and burst out laughing both at the tradesmen whose sharp dealing had restored us our property and the naivete of our country opponent. Too easy victory I find repugnant to my pride. I like the savor of desire before I'm satisfied. IV THE PRIESTESS OF PRIAPUS  We had barely finished the supper prepared for us by Giton's kindness when there came a sudden imperious pounding at the door. The blood drained from our faces. "Who is it?" we managed to quaver in chorus. "Open the door and see for yourselves," said a voice. At that moment, of their own accord, the bolts on the door slid back and the door swung wide before the intruder. It was the veiled girl whom we had seen with the peasant in the market only an hour before. "So you thought you'd made a fool of me, did you?" she cried. "Listen. I am the maid of Quartilla, the lady whose secret rites in the grotto of Priapus you disturbed. My mistress has come here in person and asks to be allowed to speak with you. You needn't be alarmed. Far from having come to reproach you or punish you, she would like to know what god has brought two such charming young men into her vicinity."  To all this we said not a single word, neither yes or no. An instant later, Quartilla, followed by a little girl, made her entrance. Then, throwing herself down on my bed, she promptly burst into a flood of tears. For a considerable time she sat there sobbing away, while we looked on, too dumfounded by her sobs and this obviously prearranged display of grief to say a word. By degrees the melodramatic storm began to abate and the gusts of sobbing came less frequently. Proudly lifting her head, she removed her veil. Then, twisting her fingers until the knuckles cracked, she spoke: "I confess, gentlemen, I do not know what name to give to this incredible audacity of yours. Where have you learned this daring in which you surpass even the great rogues of mythology? Heaven knows, I pity you. No man on earth may look on forbidden things as you have done and escape punishment. Especially here, a land so infested with divinity that one might meet a god more easily than a man. You must not think I have come here for vengeance. No, the spectacle of your innocent youth moves me far more deeply than any wrong you have done me. Moreover, I believe that your terrible crime was done in youthful ignorance. But all night afterwards, l tossed in terror, shivering so horribly that I felt an attack of malaria coming on. So I asked for a cure in my dreams, and was commanded by a vision to track you down and cure my malaria by a certain stratagem. But it is not the cure that troubles me most; a greater grief ravages my heart and hurries me down to inevitable death. I am afraid that in your youthful indiscretion you may be led to reveal the things you saw in the chapel of Priapus and divulge our mysteries to the world. And so I kneel before you now with outstretched hands and I beg you, I beseech you, not to make a mockery of our nocturnal rites or reveal a secret so jealously guarded over the centuries, a secret which scarcely a thousand men have ever known."  She concluded this appeal to our pity by bursting into tears again, buried herself in my bed and lay there, shaken by protracted sobs. Torn as much by fear as pity, I tried to reassure her. On neither score, I said, need she feel concern. No one would betray her rites; as for her malaria, if some god had shown her a cure for it, we would do everything in our power to assist the will of heaven, even if it cost us our lives. Relieved by these promises, she began to brighten up, kissed me several times and ran a caressing hand through the long curls that tumbled down about my ears. "Very well," she laughed, "I'll make my peace with you and settle my case out of court. However, if you had refused to help me with my cure, I would have come here tomorrow with a whole regiment prepared to avenge my honor and wipe out my wrongs: The shame of defeat, the victor's disdain: I'd rather with neither live. The wise will fight when honor's at stake; the victors are those who forgive." Then suddenly clapping her hands, she burst out with such an explosive peal of laughter that we were terrified. The maid who had announced her promptly followed suit and even the little girl joined in.  For some time the whole room rang with shrieks of theatrical laughter, while we looked first at each other and then at the women, utterly bewildered by the abrupt change in their mood. "I have given strict orders," Quartilla announced, "that no man is to be allowed to set foot inside this inn today. I am determined to receive my malaria treatments In complete and uninterrupted privacy." At this announcement, Ascyltus went white, while I turned colder than a French winter and couldn't say a word. But on reflection the fact that there were three of us relieved me of my worst fears. After all, if it came to an attempt on our honor, three weak women were hardly a match for us. If nothing else, we had the strength of our sex in our favor and we were not hampered, as they were, by long billowing dresses. In fact, if matters came to a fight, I had already paired us off. I would take on Quartilla, Ascyltus would break a lance with the maid, and the little girl could be left to Giton. At this unexpected blow, we lost all determination to resist, and the shadow of certain death was already falling on our eyes . . .  "If you have anything worse than this in store for us, madam," I cried, "for god's sake, despatch us quickly. Our crime is surely not so terrible that we deserve to die in agony.". The maid, whose name was Psyche, carefully spread a blanket on the floor . . . With her hand she began to stroke that part of me which by now was cold as ice, shriveled with a thousand deaths . . . Thoroughly convinced by now of the dangers of meddling in the secrets of others, Ascyltus buried his head in his robes . . . Drawing two straps from her dress, Psyche proceeded to bind us hand and foot. The conversation was languishing when Ascyltus broke out: "Hey, don't I deserve a drink too?" Psyche, her little plan betrayed by my snickers, clapped her hands with amazement. "Young man," she said to me, "I put the glass beside you. Have you drunk all that medicine by yourself?" "Did he really?" cried Quartilla. "Encolpius drank all our aphrodisiac?" She shook all over with a wonderful rippling laugh . . . In the end even Giton could not keep from laughing too, especially when the little girl threw her arms around his neck and kissed the unresisting boy on the lips at least a thousand times . . .  In our misery we wanted to scream for help, but there was no one there to come to our aid. Worse, every time I tried to shout, Psyche gouged my cheek with a hairpin, while the little girl stood over poor Ascyltus with a sponge dipped in aphrodisiac . . . As the crowning touch to our miseries, in waddled a eunuch dressed in a robe of myrtle-green bound up with a sash . . . Springing at us again and again, he slobbered our faces with filthy kisses and ground away at us with his buttocks until Quartilla, holding her dress up above her knees, drove him off with a whale-bone-cane and ordered him to leave us poor wretches alone. We both of us swore the most solemn oaths that this terrible secret would die with us both . . . Several masseurs arrived next. After a generous rubdown with oil, we slowly began to revive. Then, feeling more or less ourselves again, we put on dinner-clothes and were conducted into the next room where we found three couches drawn up and a table, very luxuriously laid out, awaiting us. We were invited to take our seats, and the meal began with some sumptuous hors d'oeuvres. As for wine, we were fairly swimming in it, and it was fine Falernian at that. After several more courses we had begun to doze sleepily off, when Quartilla said: "No sleeping, gentlemen. Must I remind you again that the whole night has been consecrated to Priapus?"  Ascyltus, utterly exhausted by his ordeal, had just dozed off when the little maid whom he had driven off so rudely tiptoed up to him while he slept and smeared his face witch soot and painted his lips and shoulders a bright scarlet. By this time my own exhaustion was beginning to tell, and I must have dozed off briefly. The servants in both rooms had already fallen asleep. Some were slumped on the floor at the feet of the guests, others stood propped against the wall, while several lay sprawled, head to head, in the doorway. Meanwhile the oil-lamps had burnt low and gave out only a feeble dying flicker. Suddenly I woke with a start to see two Syrian slaves come gliding stealthily into the room and start to pocket the silver. In their greed, however, they began to fight over a large two-handled pitcher, each one tugging at a handle. Without warning the handles snapped and the pitcher landed with a crash on the table. The table promptly collapsed, showering silver and glassware in every direction, and one heavy goblet landed on the head of a maid who was lying curled up on the couch. The cut was deep, and she screamed with pain, alarming the two thieves and waking the rest of us from our drunken stupor. The Syrians, realizing that they had been discovered, threw themselves on the end of a couch and with great aplomb started to snore away as though they had been asleep for hours. The butler, awakened by the hubbub, rose and refilled the flickering lamps, while the servants, sleepily rubbing their eyes, returned to their posts at our elbows. Then with a great crash of cymbals a girl-musician strode in, woke up the remaining sleepers  and the party began all over again. Quartilla kept urging us to drink up, while the girl with the cymbals went marching around the room banging away to get us all back to the proper festive mood. At this point a second eunuch arrived, so incredibly insipid that he seemed a fitting representative of the whole menage. Clapping his hands for attention, he cleared his throat, grunted, and gave vent to the following: O fairies, O buggers, O eunuchs exotic! Come running, come running ye anal-erotic! With soft little hands, with flexible bums, Come, O castrati, unnatural ones! Having finished his effusion, he promptly started to slobber me with his loathsome kisses, and before I knew it, he had straddled me on the couch and, despite my resistance, pulled off my clothes. Then, for what seemed hours, he worked on me but without the slightest success. Meanwhile a river of sweat and perfume was streaming down his face, leaving his wrinkled cheeks so creviced with powder that he looked like some cracked wall standing desolate under a pelting rain.  Finally I was reduced to tears and in my agony cried out to Quartilla, "For god's sake, madam, help me. Even your passive support would be appreciated." At this she clasped her hands with delight. "Oh, what a funny little man it is! What a fountain of with she cried. ' But I'm giving you exactly what you want. Didn't you know we call these fellows passives?" But misery wants company, and so did I. "Madam, I protest," I cried. "Is Ascyltus the only man in the room who gets a holiday?" "That seems only fair," she said. "We must see that Ascyltus has his share of our passive support." The eunuch immediately changed horses and mounted Ascyltus, kissing him so furiously and battering him so hard with his buttocks that he almost murdered him. Giton, meanwhile, had come up closer to get a better view and was splitting with laughter at Ascyltus' plight. Eying him narrowly, Quartilla asked to whom he belonged. When I told her that he was a friend of mine, she said, "Well, doesn't your little friend have a kiss for me?" With that she called him over, pawed him and kissed him a bit and then reached her hand inside his tunic and playfully fondled that poor novice tool of his for some time. "Tomorrow," she laughed, "this will make a fine antipasto for my lechery. But today's entree stuffed me so full, I couldn't swallow even this little tidbit now."  Suddenly Psyche sidled up giggling, and whispered something into Quartilla's ear. "A splendid idea," said Quartilla, "I can't imagine a more opportune time for deflowering our little Pannychis." Immediately a rather pretty little girl-the same one who had come with Quartilla to our rooms-was led out. I doubt that she could have been more than seven, but with the exception of myself everybody present applauded the idea and demanded that the marriage be consummated instantly. I was shocked, however, and pointed out that Giton, a very bashful boy, could hardly be expected to undergo such drudgery yet. Besides, I protested, the girl was much too young to be assuming a woman's position. "Pish," snorted Quartilla. "Is she any younger than I was when I had my first man? May Juno strike me dead if I can ever remember being a virgin. When I was a little girl, I played ducks and drakes with the little boys; as I got bigger, I applied myself to bigger boys, until I reached my present age-whence I think the proverb arose, she'll bear the bull that bore the calf." Fearing that Giton might suffer something still worse if I refused, I rose reluctantly to help with the ceremony.  Psyche placed a saffron veil on the little girl's head, while a whole troop of drunken women, led by the eunuch with a blazing torch, marched off to prepare the room for this travesty of marriage. Quartilla, flushed and excited by the gross obscenity of the whole affair, took Giton by the hand and led him into the bedroom. In point of fact the boy made no objection and even the little girl appeared quite unmoved by the notion of being a bride. Finally the door was shut, the bolts shot, and we all took up our positions around the door. Then Quartilla, standing in the front row, treacherously cut a skit in the panel and peeked with lecherous curiosity at their innocent childish play. With a gentle caress she drew me to the chink to watch too, and since our faces were often close together, kept turning her lips to me and stealing kisses. We threw ourselves into bed and spent the remainder of the night unmolested . . . V DINNER WITH TRIMALCHIO At last the third day had come with its prospect of a free meal and perhaps our last meal on this earth. But by now our poor bodies were so bruised and battered that escape, even if it-cost us a meal, seemed preferable to staying where we were. While we were gloomily wondering how we could avoid the orgy in store for us with Quartilla, one of Agamemnon's slaves came up and dispelled our despair. "What's eating you?" he asked. "Have you forgotten where you're going tonight? Trimalchio's giving the meal. He's real swank. Got a great big clock in his dining room and a uniformed bugler who blows a horn every hour so the old man won't forget how fast his time is slipping away." Needless to say, we forgot our troubles fast when we heard this. We slipped into our best clothes, and when Giton very sweetly offered to act as our servant, we told him to attend us to the baths.  There we wandered around at first without getting undressed. Or rather we went joking around, mixing with various groups of bathers at their games. Suddenly we caught sight of an old, bald man in a long red undershirt, playing ball with a bunch of curly-headed slave boys. It wasn't so much the boys who took our eyes-though they were worth looking at-as the old man himself. There he stood, rigged out in undershirt and sandals, nothing else bouncing a big green ball the color of a leek. When he dropped one ball, moreover, he never bothered to stoop for it, but simply took another from a slave who stood beside him with a huge sack tossing out fresh balls to the players. This was striking enough, but the real refinement was two eunuchs standing on either side of the circle, one clutching a chamber pot of solid silver, the other ticking off the balls. He was not, however, scoring the players' points, but merely keeping count of any balls that happened to drop on the ground. While we were gawking at these elegant gymnastics, Menelaus came rushing up. "That's him!" he whispered, "that's the fellow who's giving the meal. What you're seeing now is just the prelude to the show." These words were hardly out when Trimalchio gave a loud snap with his fingers. The eunuch came waddling up with the chamber pot, Trimalchio emptied his bladder and went merrily on with his game. When he was done, he shouted for water, daintily dipped the tips of his fingers and wiped his hands in the long hair of a slave.  But the details of his performance would take too long to tell. We quickly undressed, went into the hot baths, and after working up a sweat, passed on to the cold showers. There we found Trimalchio again, his skin glistening all over with perfumed oil. He was being rubbed down, not with ordinary linen, but with cloths of the purest and softest wool. During this rubdown, right before his eyes, the three masseurs were guzzling away at the finest of his rare Falernian wines. In a minute, moreover, they were squabbling and in the next second the wine had spilled all over the floor. "Tut, a mere trifle," said Trimatchio, they were merely pouring me a toast." He was then bundled into a blazing scarlet wrapper, hoisted onto a litter and trundled off. Before him went four runners in spangled harness and a little wheelbarrow in which the old man's favorite rode, a little boy with a wrinkled face and bleary, mudded eyes, even uglier than his master. A musician with a miniature flute trotted along at Trimalchio's head and during the entire trip played into his master's ear as though whispering him little secrets. Drunk with admiration, we brought up the rear and Agamemnon joined us when we reached Trimalchio's door. Beside the door we saw a sign: ANY SLAVE LEAVING THE PREMISES WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION FROM THE MASTER WILL RECEIVE ONE HUNDRED LASHES! At the entrance sat the porter, dressed in that same leekgreen that seemed to be the livery of the house. A cherry colored sash was bound around his waist and he was busily shelling peas into a pan of solid silver. In the doorway hung a cage, all gold, and in it a magpie was croaking out his welcome to the guests.  I was gaping at all this in open-mouthed wonder when I suddenly jumped with terror, stumbled, and nearly broke my leg. For there on the left as you entered, in fresco, stood a huge dog straining at his leash. In large letters under the painting was scrawled: BEWARE OF THE DOG! The others burst out laughing at my fright. But when I'd recovered from the shock, I found myself following the rest of the frescoes with fascination. They ran the whole length of the wall. First came a panel showing a slave market with everything clearly captioned. There stood Trimalchio as a young man, his hair long and curly in slave fashion; in his hand he held a staff and he was entering Rome for the first time under the sponsorship of Minerva. In the next panel he appeared as an apprentice accountant, then as a paymaster-each step in his career portrayed in great detail and everything scrupulously labeled. At the end of the portico you came to the climax of the series: a picture of Mercury grasping Trimalchio by the chin and hoisting him up to the lofty eminence of the official's tribunal. Beside the dais stood the goddess Fortuna with a great cornucopia and the three Fates, busily spinning out Trimalchio's life in threads of gold, while in the background a group of runners were shown working out with their trainer. In the corner at the end of the portico was a huge wardrobe with a small built-in shrine. In the shrine were silver statuettes of the household gods, a Venus in marble, and a golden casket containing, I was told, the clippings from Trimalchio's first beard. I began questioning the attendant about some other frescoes in the middle. "Acenes from the Iliad and the Odyssey," he explained, "and the gladiator games given by Laenas."  But there was far too little time to ask about everything that took my eye. We approached the dining room next where we found the steward at the door making up his accounts. I was particularly struck by the doorposts. For fixed to the jamb were fasces, bundles of sticks with axes protruding from them; but on the lower side the bundles terminated in what looked like the brass ram of a ship, and on the brass this inscription had been engraved: TO GAIUS POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO, OFFICIAL OF THE IMPERIAL CULT, FROM HIS STEWARD CINNAMUS. Hanging from the ceiling on a long chain was a two- bracket lamp with the same inscription, and on each of the doorposts a wooden tablet had been put up. On one of these, if I remember rightly, this memo was written: "The Master will be dining in town on the 30th and 31st of December." On the other tablet was a diagram of the orbits of the moon and the seven planets, with the lucky and unlucky days all indicated by knobs of different colors. We duly noted these refinements and were just about to step into the dining room when suddenly a slave- clearly posted for this very job-shouted, RIGHT FEET FIRST!-" Well, needless to say, we froze. Who wants to bring down bad luck on his host by walking into his dining room in the wrong way? However, we synchronized our legs and were just stepping out, right feet first, when a slave, utterly naked, landed on the floor in front of us and implored us to save him from a whipping. He was about to be fiogged, he explained, for a trifling offense. He had let someone steal the steward's clothing, worthless stuff really, in the baths. Well, we pulled back our right feet, faced about and returned to the entry where we found the steward counting a stack of gold coins. We begged him to let the servant off. "Really, it's not the money I mind," he replied with enormous condescension, "so much as the idiot's carelessness. It was my dinner-suit he lost, a birthday present from one of my dependents. Expensive too, but then I've already had it washed. Well, it's a trifle. Do what you want with him."  We thanked him for his gracious kindness, but when we entered the dining room up ran the same slave whom we'd just begged off. He overwhelmed us with his thanks and then, to our consternation, began to plaster us with kisses. "You'll soon see whom you've helped," he said. "The master's wine will prove the servant's gratitude." At last we took our places. Immediately slaves from Alexandria came in and poured ice water over our hands. These were followed by other slaves who knelt at our feet and with extraordinary skill pedicured our toenails. Not for an instant, moreover, during the whole of this odious job, did one of them stop singing. This made me wonder whether the whole menage was given to bursts of song, so I put it to the test by calling for a drink. It was served immediately by a boy who trilled away as shrilly as the rest of them. In fact, anything you asked for was invariably served with a snatch of song, so that you would have thought you were eating in a concert-hall rather than a private dming room. Now that the guests were all in their places, the hors d'oeuvres were served, and very sumptuous they were. Trimalchio alone was still absent, and the place of honor- reserved for the host in the modern fashion- stood empty But I was speaking of the hors d'oeuvres. On a large tray stood a donkey made of rare Corinthian bronze; on the donkey's back were two panniers, one holding green olives, the other, black. Flanking the donkey were two side dishes, both engraved with Trimalchio's name and the weight of the silver, while in dishes shaped to resemble little bridges there were dormice, all dipped in honey and rolled in poppyseed. Nearby, on a silver grill, piping hot, lay small sausages, while beneath the grill black damsons and red pomegranates had been sliced up and arranged so as to give the effect of flames playing over charcoal  We were nibbling at these splendid appetizers when suddenly the trumpets blared a fanfare and Trimalchio was carried in, propped up on piles of miniature pillows in such a comic way that some of us couldn't resist impolitely smiling. His head, cropped close in a recognizable slave cut, protruded from a cloak of blazing scarlet; his neck, heavily swathed already in bundles of clothing, was wrapped in a large napkin bounded by an incongruous senatorial purple stripe with little tassels dangline down here and there. On the little finger of his left hand he sported an immense gilt ring; the ring on the last joint of his fourth finger looked to be solid gold of the kind the lesser nobility wear, but was actually, I think, an imitation, pricked out with small steel stars. Nor does this exhaust the inventory of his trinkets. At least he rather ostentatiously bared his arm to show us a large gold bracelet and an ivory circlet with a shiny metal plate.  He was picking his teeth with a silver toothpick when he first addressed us. "My friends," he said, "I wasn't anxious to eat just yet, but I ve ignored my own wishes so as not to keep you waiting. Still, perhaps you won't mind if I finish my game." At these words a slave jumped forward with a board of juniper wood and a pair of crystal dice. I noticed one other elegant novelty as well: in place of the usual black and white counters, Trimalchio had substituted gold and silver coins. His playing, I might add, was punctuated throughout with all sorts of vulgar exclamations. We, meanwhile, were still occupied with the hors d'oeuvres when a tray was carried in and set down before us. On it lay a basket, and in it a hen, carved from wood, with wings outspread as though sitting on her eggs. Then two slaves came forward and, to a loud flourish from the orchestra, began rummaging in the straw and pulling out peahen's eggs which they divided among the guests. Trimalchio gave the whole performance his closest attention. "Friends," he said, "I ordered peahen eggs to be set under that hen, but I'm half afraid they may have hatched already. Still, let's see if we can suck them." We were handed spoons-weighing at least half a pound apiece- and cracked open the eggs, which turned out to be baked from rich pastry. To tell the truth, I had almost tossed my share away, thinking the eggs were really addled. But I heard one of the guests, obviously a veteran of these dinners, say, "I wonder what little surprise we've got in here." So I cracked the shell with my hand and found inside a fine fat oriole, nicely seasoned with pepper.  By this time Trimalchio had finished his game. He promptly sent for the same dishes we had had and with a great roaring voice offered a second cup of mead to anyone who wanted it. Then the orchestra suddenly blared and the trays were snatched away from the tables by a troupe of warbling waiters. But in the confusion a silver side dish fell to the floor and a slave quickly stooped to retrieve it. Trimalchio, however, had observed the accident and gave orders that the boy's ears should be boxed and the dish tossed back on the floor. Immediately the servant in charge of the dishware came pattering up with a broom and swept the silver dish out the door with the rest of the rubbish. Two curly-haired Ethiopian slaves followed him as he swept, both carrying lithe skin bottles like the circus attendants who sprinkle the arena with perfume, and poured wine over our hands. No one was offered water. We clapped enthusiastically for this fine display of extravagance. "The god of war,' said Trimalchio, "ls a real democrat. That's why I gave orders that each of us should have a table to himself. Besides, these stinking slaves will bother us less than if we were all packed in together." Glass jars carefully sealed and coated were now brought in. Each bore this label: GENUINE FALERNIAN WINE GUARANTEED ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD! BOTTLED IN THE CONSULSHIP OF OPIMIUS. While we were reading the labels, Trimalchio clapped his hands for attention. "Just think, friends, wine lasts longer than us poor suffering humans. So soak it up, it's the stuff of life. I give you, gentlemen, the genuine Opimian vintage. Yesterday I served much cheaper stuff and the guests were much more important." While we were commenting on it and savoring the luxury, a slave brought in a skeleton, cast of solid silver, and fastened in such a way that the joints could be twisted and bent in any direction. The servants threw it down on the table in front of us and pushed it into several suggestive postures by twisting its joints, while Trimalchio recited this verse of his own making: Nothin but bones, that's what we are. Death hustles us humans away. Today we're here and tomorrow we're not, so live and drink while you may!  The course that followed our applause failed, however, to measure up to our expectations of our host, but it was so unusual that it took everybody's attention. Spaced around a circular tray were the twelve signs of the zodiac, and over each sign the chef had put the most appropriate food. Thus, over the sign of Aries were chickpeas, over Taurus a slice of beef, a pair of testicles and kidneys over Gemini, a wreath of flowers over Cancer, over Leo an African fig, virgin sowbelly on Virgo, over Libra a pair of scales with a tartlet in one pan and a cheesecake in the other, over Scorpio a crawfish, a lobster on Capricorn, on Aquarius a goose, and two mullets over the sign of the Fishes. The centerpiece was a clod of turf with the grass still green on top and the whole thing surmounted by a fat honeycomb. Meanwhile, bread in a silver chafing dish was being handed around by a black slave with long hair who was shrilling in an atrocious voice some song from the pantomime called Asafoetida. With some reluctance we began to attack this wretched fare, but Trimalchio kept urging us, "Eat up, gentlemen, eat up!"  Suddenly the orchestra gave another flourish and four slaves came dancing in and whisked off the top of the tray. Underneath, in still another tray, lay fat capons and sowbellies and a hare tricked out with wings to look like a little Pegasus. At the corners of the tray stood four little gravy boats, all shaped like the satyr Marsyas, with phalluses for spouts and a spicy hot gravy dripping down over several large fish swimming about in the lagoon of the tray. The slaves burst out clapping, we clapped too and turned with gusto to these new delights. Trimalchio, enormously pleased with the success of his little tour de force, roared for a slave to come and carve. The carver appeared instantly and went to work, thrusting with his knife like a gladiator practicing to the accompaniment of a waterorgan. But all the time Trimalchio kept mumbling in a low voice, "Carver, carver, carver carver . . ." I suspected that this chant was somehow connected with a trick, so I asked my neighbor, an old hand at these party surprises. "Look," he said, "you see that slave who's carving? Well he's called Carver, so every time Trimalchio says 'Carver,' he's also saying 'Carve 'er!' and giving him orders to carve."  This atrocious pun finished me: I couldn't touch a thing. So I turned back to my neighbor to pick up what gossip I could and soon had him blabbing away, especially when I asked him about the woman who was bustling around the room. "Her?" he said, "why, that's Fortunata, Trimalchio's wife. And the name couldn't suit her better. She counts her cash by the cartload. And you know what she used to be? Well, begging your Honor's pardon, but you wouldn't have taken bread from her hand. Now, god knows how or why, she's sitting pretty: has Trimalchio eating out of her hand. If she told him at noon it was night, he'd crawl into bed. As for him, he's so loaded he doesn't know how much he has. But that bitch has her finger in everything-where you'd least expect it too. A regular tightwad, never drinks, and sharp as they come. But she's got a nasty tongue; get her gossiping on a couch and she'll chatter like a parrot. If she likes you, you're lucky; if she doesn't, god help you. "As for old Trimalchio, that man's got more farms than a kite could flap over. And there's more silver plate stuffed in his porter's lodge than another man's got in his safe. As for slaves, whoosh! So help me, I'll bet not one in ten has ever seen his master. Your ordinary rich man is just peanuts compared to him; he could knock them all under a cabbage and you'd never know they were gone.  "And buy things? Not him. No sir, he raises everything right on his own estate. Wool, citron, pepper, you name it. By god, you'd find hen's milk if you looked around. Now take his wool. The homegrown strain wasn't good enough. So you know what he did? Imported rams from Tarentum, bred them into the herd. Attic honey he raises at home. Ordered the bees special from Athens. And the local bees are better for being crossbred too. And, you know, just the other day he sent off to India for some mushroom spawn. Every mule he owns had a wild ass for a daddy. And you see those pillows there? Every last one is stuffed with purple or scarlet wool. That boy's loaded! "And don't sneer at his friends. They're all ex-slaves, but every one of them's rich. You see that guy down there on the next to last couch? He's worth a cool half-million. Came up from nowhere. Used to tote wood on his back. People say, but I don't know, he stole a cap off a hob- goblin's head and found a treasure. He's the gods' fairhaired boy. That's luck for you, but I don't begrudge him. Not so long ago he was just a slave. Yes sir, he's doing all fight. Just a few days ago he advertised his apartment for rent. The ad went like this: APARTMENT FOR RENT AFTER THE FIRST OF JULY. AM BUYING A VILLA. SEE G. POMPEIUS DIOGENES. "And you see that fellow in the freedman's seat? He's already made a pile and lost it. What a life! But I don't envy him. After the first million the going got sticky. Right now I'll bet he's mortgaged every Hair on his head. But it wasn't his fault. He's too honest, that's his trouble, and his crooked friends stripped him to feather their own nests. One thing's sure: once your little kettle stops cooking and the business starts to slide, you get the brushoff from your friends. And, you know, he had a fine, respectable business too. Undertaking. Ate like a King: boars roasted whole, pastry as tall as buildings, pheasants, chefs, pastrycooks-the whole works. Why, he's had more wine spilled under his table than most men have in their cellars. Life? Hell, it was a dream Then when things started sliding, he got scared his creditors would think he was broke. So he advertised an auction: GAIUS JULIUS PROCULUS WILL HOLD AN AUCTION OF HIS SPARE FURNITURE!  By now the astrological course had been removed, the guests were gaily attacking the wine, and there was a loud hubbub of laughing and chatter. My neighbor's pleasant prattle, however, was interrupted by Trimalchio. Lounging back on his elbow, he burst out: "Gentlemen, I want you to savor this good wine. Fish must swim, and that's a fact. But I'd like to know if you were really taken in by that stuff you saw on the top tray. Is that what you think of me? What does our Vergil say? Is this what men report of great Ulysses? Not on your life. At dinner, I say, there should be culture as much as food. My old master-may his bones rest in peace-wanted me to be a man of the world and a gentleman of culture. And I think that last course will show you there isn't much that I don't know. Listen now, and I'll explain to you about the zodiac. This heaven, which is where the twelve gods live, changes into twelve signs. Now sometimes it turns into the Ram, that is, Aries. Everyone who gets himself born under the Ram owns heaps of sheep and lots of wool; besides, his head is hard, his forehead like brass and his horns like swords. That's why many professors and also muttonheads are born under the sign of the Ram." We all applauded our droll astrologer and he continued. "After the Ram, the Universe switches over to the Bull, who's sometimes called Taurus. The people who are born under the Bull include bullies and cowboys and people who lie down in soft pastures. Under the Twins, old Gemini, you get two-horse teams, yokes of oxen, lechers who are led around by their balls, and two-faced politicians. Cancer, or the Crab, is my sign; therefore I walk on many legs and my possessions stretch over land and sea, for the crab is at home in both those elements. That's why I avoided putting anything on my sign for a long time: I didn't want my birth- sign queered. Under Leo the Lion you get gluttons and big shots; under Virgo the Virgin you get useless women, deserters, and those who wear chains on their ankles, fetters for men, bracelets for women. Stinger Scorpio has poisoners and murderers. Under Archer Sagittarius you get cross-eyed thieves who cock an eye at the beets but snitch the ham. Under Capricorn, because it means goat-horn, come men who have horns or corns; corn-men are workers who sweat for their wages and horn-men are cuckolds all. Aquarius is a water carrier, so under him you find innkeepers who water the wine and people who are all wet. But Pisces is for Fishes and he gives us the fishier types of men: gape-mouthed lawyers or just plain fish peddlers. That's why things are as they are. The universe goes whizzing around like a millwheel and is always up to some mischief and people are either dying or just getting born. As for the hunk of earth you saw sitting in the middle, that was packed with meaning too. For dead in the center of everything sits old Mother Earth, as fat as an egg, and loaded with goodies like a honeycomb."  We all cheered and cried "Bravo" and swore that Aratus and Hipparchus were mere amateurs, not to be compared with our host. But while we were flattering him, servants came and draped our couches with special covers, each one entirely embroidered with hunting scenes -nets, hunters with spears lying in ambush, and all the rest. We were wondering what all this was leading up to, when suddenly there came a hideous uproar outside the room and then huge Spartan mastiffs came bounding in and began to gallop around the table. Following the dogs came servants with a tray on which we saw a wild sow of absolutely enormous size. Perched rakishly on the sow's head was the cap of freedom which newly freed slaves wear in token of their liberty, and from her tusks hung two baskets woven from palm leaves: one was filled with dry Egyptian dates, the other held sweet Syrian dates. Clustered around her teats were little suckling pigs made of hard pastry, gifts for the guests to take home as it turned out, but intended to show that ours was a broodsow. The slave who stepped up to carve, however, was not our old friend Carver who had cut up the capons, but a huge fellow with a big beard, a coarse hunting cape thrown over his shoulders, and his legs bound up in crossgaiters. He whipped out his knife and gave a savage slash at the sow's flanks. Under the blow the flesh parted, the wound burst open and dozens of thrushes came whirring outl But bird-catchers with limed twigs were standing by and before long they had snared all the birds as they thrashed wildly around the room. Trimalchio ordered that a thrush be given to each guest, adding for good measure; well, that old porker liked her acorns juicy all right.' Then servants stepped forward, removed the baskets hanging from the sow's nose, and divided the dry and sweet dates out equally among the guests.  Meanwhile I was desperately trying to figure out why the sow had been brought in with that freedom cap on her head. One after another, I tried all kinds of crazy far- fetched ideas; finally I mustered up my courage and asked my neighbor. 'Why, gods alive,' he snorted, "even your slave could have figured that one out. It's no riddle at all, clear as day. Look: yesterday this sow was served for dinner, but the guests were so stuffed they let it go Get it? They let it go. So today naturally she comes back to the table as a free sow." I cursed myself for being so slow and decided to ask no more questions. Altogether it was beginning to look as though I'd never dined in good company before. During this exchange a pretty little boy came into the room, wearing a wreath of vine leaves and ivy in his hair like a little Bacchus or Father Liber. He did us a number of imitations of Bacchus under various forms: as Lyaeus, Bromius, Evius, and so on. Then, warbling some of Trimalchio's poetry in a shrill soprano, he went around offering the guests grapes from his basket. Finally Trimalchio took notice of the boy's efforts and called him over. "Come here, you baby Dionysus. Little Father Liber, I hereby liberate you." At this the boy snatched the freedom can from the boar's head and stuck it on his own. Trimalchio wheeled back, laughing. "Well, gentlemen, how did you like that? I've liberated Liber. I ve set the wine-god free. So let it flow. And drink up, gentlemen. It's all on me!" We clapped our approval of his elaborate pun and kissed the little boy soundly as he made the round of the couches to be congratulated on his new freedom. At this point Trimalchio heaved himself up from his couch and waddled off to the toilet. Once rid of our table tyrant, the talk began to flow more freely. Damas called for larger glasses and led off himself. "What's one day? Bah, nothing at all. You turn round and it's dark. Nothing for it, I say, but jump right from bed to table. Brrrr. Nasty spell of cold weather we've been having. A bath hardly warmed me up. But a hot drink's the best overcoat of all; that's what I always say. Whoosh; I must have guzzled gallons. I'm tight and no mistake. Wine's gone right to my head . .  "As for me;" Seleucus broke in, "I don't take a bath every day. Your bath's a fuller; the water's got teeth like a comb. Saps your vital juices. But once I've had a slug of mead, then bugger the cold. Couldn't have had a bath today anyway. Had to go to poor old Chrysanthus' funeral. Yup, he's gone for good, folded his tent forever. And a grand little guy he was; they don't make 'em any better these days. I might almost be talking to him now. Just goes to show you. What are men anyway but balloons on legs, a lot of blown-up bladders? Flies that's what we are. No, not even flies. Flies have something inside. But a man's a bubble, all air, nothing else. And, you know, Chrysanthus might still be with us if he hadn't tried that starvation diet. Five days and not a crumb of bread, not a drop of water, passed his lips. Tch, tch. And now he's gone, joined the great majority. Doctors killed him. Maybe not doctors, call it fate. What good's a doctor but for peace of mind? But the funeral was fine, they did it up proper: nice bier, fancy drapes, and a good bunch of mourners turned out too. Mostly slaves he'd set free, of course. But his old lady was sure stingy with the tears. Not that he didn't lead her a hard life, mind. But women, they're a race of kites. Don't deserve love. You might as well drop it down a well. And old love's a real cancer . . ."  He was beginning to be tiresome and Phileros shouted him down. "Whoa there," he cut in, "let's talk about the living. He got what was coming to him. He lived well, he died well. What the hell more did he want? And got rich from nothing too. And no wonder, I say. That boy would have grubbed in the gutter for a coin and picked it out with his teeth too. God knows what he had salted away. Just got fatter and fatter, bloated with the stuff. Why, that man oozed money the way a honeycomb oozes honey. But I'll give you the lowdown on him, and no frills either. He talked tough, sure, but he was a born gabber. And a real scrapper too, regular pair of fists on legs. But you take his brother: now that's a real man for you, friendly and generous as they come, and what's more, he knows how to put on a spread. Anyway, as I was saying, what does our boy do but flop on his first big deal and end up eating crow? But come the vintage and he got right back on his feet and sold his wine at his own figure. What really gave him a boost was some legacy he got. And I don't mind telling you, he milked that legacy for all it was worth and then some. So what does the sap do next but pick a fight with his own brother and leave everything to a total strangers I mean, it just shows you. Run from your kin and you run a damn long ways, as the saying goes. Well, you know, he had some slaves and he listened to them as though they were a lot of oracles, so naturally they took him in the end. It's like I always say, a sucker gets screwed. And that goes double when a man's in business. But there's a saying, it isn't what you're given, but what you can get that counts. Well, he got the meat out of that one all his life. He was Lady Luck's fair-haired boy and no mistake. Lead turned to gold in his hand. Of course, it's easy when the stuff comes rolling in on its own. And you know how old he was when he died7 Seventy and then some. But carried it beautifully, hard as nails and his hair as black as a crow. I knew him for ages, and he was horny, right to the end. By god, I'll bet he even pestered the dog. Boys were what he really liked, but he wasn't choosy: he'd jump anything with legs. I don't blame him a bit, you understand. He won't have any fun where he's gone now."  But Ganymedes struck in, "Stuff like that doesn't matter a bit to man or beast. But nobody mentions the real thing, the way the price of bread is pinching. God knows, I couldn't buy a mouthful of bread today. And this damn drought goes on and on. Nobody's had a bellyful for years now. It's those rotten officials, you take my word for it. They're in cahoots with the bakers: you scratch me and I'll scratch you. So the little people get it in the neck, but in the rich man's jaws it's jubilee all year. By god, if we only had the kind of men we used to have, the sort I found here when I arrived from Asia. Then life was something like living. Man, milk and honey day in and day out, and the way they'd wallop those blood-sucking officials, you'd have thought old Jupiter was having himself a tantrum. I remember old Safinius now. He used to live down by the old arch when I was a boy. More peppercorn than man. Singed the ground wherever he went. But honest and square and a real friend! Why, you could have matched coins with him in the dark. And in the townhall he'd lay it right on the line, no frills at all, just square on the target. And when he made a speech in the main square, he'd let loose like a bugle blowing. But neat as a pin all the time, never ruffled, never spat: there was something Asiatic about him. And you know, he always spoke to you, even remembered your name, just as though he were one of us. And bread was dirt-cheap in his day. For a penny you got a loaf that two men couldn't finish. Nowadays bulls' eyes come bigger than bread. But that's what I mean, things are just getting worse and worse. Why, this place is running downhill like a heifer's ass. You tell me, by god, the good of this threefig official of ours who thinks more of his graft than what's happening to us. Why, that boy's just living it up at home and making more in a day than most men ever inherit. If we had any balls, let me tell you, he'd be laughing out of the other side of his face. But not us. Oh no, we're big lions at home and scared foxes in public. Why, I've Practically had to pawn my clothes and if bread prices don't drop soon, I'll have to put my houses on the market. Mark my words, we're in for bad times if some man or god doesn't have a heart and take pity on this place. I'll stake my luck on it, the gods have got a finger in what's been happening here. And you know why? Because no one believes in the gods, that s why. Who observes the fast days any more, who cares a rap for Jupiter? One and all, bold as brass, they sit there pretending to pray, but cocking their eyes on the chances and counting up their cash. Once upon a time, let me tell you, things were different. The women would dress up in their best and climb barefoot up to the temple on the hill. Their hair was unbound and their hearts were pure and they went to beg Jupiter for rain. And you know what happened? Then or never, the rain would come sloshing down by the bucket, and they'd all stand there like a pack of drowned rats, just grinning away. Well, that's why the gods have stuffed their ears, because we've gotten unreligious. The fields are lying barren and . . .'  "For god's sake," the ragseller Echion broke in, "cut out the damned gloom, will you? Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad,' as the old peasant said when he sold the spotted pig. Luck changes. If things are lousy today, there's always tomorrow. That's life, man. Sure, the times are bad, but they're no better anywhere else. We're all in the same boat, so what's the fuss? If you lived anywhere else, you'd be swearing the pigs here went waddling around already roasted. And don't forget, there's a big gladiator show coming up the day after tomorrow. Not the same old fighters either; they've got a fresh shipment in and there's not a slave in the batch. You know how old Titus works. Nothing's too good for him when he lets himself go. Whatever it is, it'll be something special. I know the old boy well, and he'll go whole hog. Just wait. There'll be cold steel for the crowd, no quarter, and the amphitheater will end up looking like a slaughterhouse. He's got what it takes too. When the old man died -and a nasty way to die, I'm telling you-he left Titus a cool million. Even if he spent ten thousand, he'd never feel it, and people won't forget him in a hurry either. He's already raked together a troupe of whirling dervishes, and there's a girl who fights from a chariot. And don't forget that steward that Glyco caught in bed with his wife. You just wait, there'll be a regular free-for-all between the lovers and the jealous husbands. But that Glyco's a cheap bastard. Sent the steward down to be pulled to pieces by the wild beasts, you know. So that just gave his little secret away, of course. And what's the crime, I'd like to know, when the poor slave is told to do it? It's that piss-pot-bitch of his that ought to be thrown to the bulls, by god! Still, those who can't beat the horse must whop the saddle. But what stumps me is why Glyco ever thought old Hemmogenes' brat would turn out well anyway. The old man would have pared a hawk's claws in mid-air, and like father, like daughter, as I always say. But Glyco's thrown away his own flesh and blood; he'll carry the marks of this mess as long as he lives and only hell will burn it away. Yes sir, that boy has dug his own grave and no mistake. "Well, they say Mammaea's going to put on a spread. Mmmm, I can sniff it already. There'll be a nice little handout all around. And if he does, he'll knock old Norbanus out of the running for good. Beat him hands down. And what's Norbanus ever done anyway, I'd like to know. A lot of two-bit gladiators and half-dead at that: puff at them and they'd fall down dead. Why, I've seen better men tossed to the wild animals. A lot of little clay statues, barnyard strutters, that's what they were. One was an old jade, another was a clubfoot, and the replacement they sent in for him was half-dead and hamstrung to boot. There was one Thracian with some guts but he fought by the book. And after the fight they had to flog the whole lot of them the way the mob was screaming, 'Let'em have it!' Just a pack of runaway slaves. Well, says Norbanus, at least I gave you a show. So you did, says I, and you got my cheers for it. But tot it up and you'll see you got as much as you gave. So there too, and tit for tat, says I.  "Well, Agamemnon, I can see you're thinking, 'What's that bore blabbing about now?' You're the professor here, but I don't catch you opening your mouth. No, you think you're a cut above us, don't you, so you just sit there and smirk at the way we poor men talk. Your learning's made you a snob. Still, let it go. I tell you what. Someday you come down to my villa and look it over. We'll find something to nibble on, a chicken, a few eggs maybe. This crazy weather's knocked everything topsyturvy, but we'll come up with something you like. Don t worry your head about it, there'll be loads to eat. "You remember that little shaver of mine? Well, he'll be your pupil one of these days. He's already doing division up to four, and if he comes through all right, he'll sit at your feet someday. Every spare minute he has, he buries himself in his books. He's smart all right, and there's good stuff in him. His real trouble is his passion for birds. I killed three of his pet goldfinches the other day and told him the cat had got them. He found some other hobby soon enough. And, you know, he's mad about Painting. And he's already started wading into Greek and he's keen on his Latin. But the tutor's a little stuck on himself and won't keep him in line. The older boy now, he's a bit slow. But he's a hard worker and teaches the others more than he knows. Every holiday he spends at home, and whatever you give him, he's content. So I bought him some of those big red lawbooks. A smattering of law, you know, is a useful thing around the house. There's money in it too. He's had enough literature, I think. But if he doesn't stick it out in school, I'm going to have him taught a trade. Barbering or auctioneering, or at least a little law. The only thing that can take a man's trade away is death. But every day I keep pounding the same thing into his head: 'Son, get all the learning you can. Anything you learn is money in the bank. Look at Lawyer Phiteros. If he hadn't learned his law, he'd be going hungry and chewing on air. Not so long ago he was peddling his wares on his back; now hes running neck and neck with old Norbanus. Take my word for it, son, there's a mint of money in books, and learning a trade never killed a man yet.'"  Conversation was running along these lines when Trimalchio returned, wiping the sweat from his brow. He splashed his hands in perfume and stood there for a minute in silence. "You'll excuse me, friends," he began, "but I've been constipated for days and the doctors are stumped. I got a little relief from a prescription of pomegranate rind and resin in a vinegar base. Still, I hope my tummy will get back its manners soon. Right now my bowels are bumbling around like a bull. But if any of you has any business that needs attending to, go right ahead; no reason to feel embarrassed. There's not a man been born yet with solid insides. And I don't know any anguish on earth like trying to hold it in. Jupiter himself couldn't stop it from coming.-What are you giggling about! Fortunata? You're the one who keeps me awake all night with your trips to the potty. Well, anyone at table who wants to go has my permission, and the doctors tell us not to hold it in. Everything's ready outside-water and pots and the rest of the stuff. Take my word for it, friends, the vapors go straight to your bram. Poison your whole system. I know of some who've died from being too polite and holding it in." We thanked him for his kindness and understanding, but we tried to hide our snickers in repeated swallows of wine. As yet we were unaware that we had slogged only halfway through this "forest of refinements," as the poets put it. But when the tables had been wiped-to the inevitable music, of course-servants led in three hogs rigged out with muzzles and bells. According to the headwaiter, the first hog was two years old, the second three, but the third was all of six. I supposed that we would now get tumblers and rope dancers and that the pigs would be put through the kind of clever tricks they perform for the crowds in the street. But Trimalchio dispelled such ideas by asking, "Which one of these hogs would you like cooked for your dinner? Now your ordinary country cook can whip you up a chicken or make a Bacchante mincemeat or easy dishes of that sort. But my cooks frequently broil calves whole." With this he had the cook called in at once, and without waiting for us to choose our pig, ordered the oldest slaughtered. Then he roared at the cook, "What's the number of your corps, fellow?" "The fortieth, sir," the cook replied. "Were you born on the estate or bought?" "Neither, sir. Pansa left me to you in his will." "Well," barked Trimalchio, "see that you do a good job or I'll have you demoted to the messenger corps." The cook, freshly reminded of his master's power, meekly led the hog off toward the kitchen,  while Trimalchio gave us all an indulgent smile. "If you don't like the wine," he said, "we'll have it changed for you. I'll know by the amount you drink what you think of it. Luckily too I don't have to pay a thing for it. It comes with a lot of other good things from a new estate of mine near town. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm told it adjoins my lands at Terracina and Tarentum. Right now what I'd really like to do is buy up Sicily. Then I could go to Africa without ever stepping off my own property. "But tell me," he said, turning to Agamemnon, "what was the subject of your debate today? Of course, I'm no orator myself, but I've learnt a thing or two about law for use around the place. And don't think I'm one of those people who look down on learning. No sir, I've got two libraries, one Greek and the other Latin. So tell us, if you will, what your debate was about." "Well," said Agamemnon, "it seems that a rich man and a poor man had gone to court . . ." "A poor man?" Trimalchio broke in, "what's that?" "Very pretty, very pretty," chuckled Agamemnon and then launched out into an exposition of god knows which of his debating topics. But Trimalchio immediately interrupted him: "If that's the case, there's no argument; if it isn't the case, then what does it matter?" Needless to say, we pointedly applauded all of Trimalchio's sallies. "But tell me, my dear Agamemnon," continued our host, "do you remember the twelve labors of Hercules or the story about Ulysses and how the Cyclops broke his thumb trying to get the log out of his eye? When I was a kid, I used to read all those stories in Homer. And, you know, I once saw the Sibyl of Cumae in person. She was hanging in a bottle, and when the boys asked her, 'Sibyl, what do you want?' she said, 'I want to die.'"  He was still chattering away when the servants came in with an immense hog on a tray almost the size of the table. We were, of course, astounded at the chef's speed and swore it would have taken longer to roast an ordinary chicken, all the more since the pig looked even bigger than the one served to us earlier. Meanwhile Trimalchio had been scrutinizing the pig very closely and suddenly roared, "What! Whats this? By god, this hog hasn't even been gutted Get that cook in here on the double!" Looking very miserable, the poor cook came shuffling up to the table and admitted that he had forgotten to gut the Pig. "You forgot?" bellowed Trimalchio. "You forgot to gut a pig? And I suppose you think that's the same thing as merely forgetting to add salt and pepper. Strip that man! The cook was promptly stripped and stood there stark naked between two bodyguards, utterly forlorn. The guests to a man, however, interceded for the chef. "Accidents happen," they said, "please don't whip him. If he ever does it again, we promise we won't say a word for him " My own reaction was anger, savage and unrelenting. I could barely restrain myself and leaning over, I whispered to Agamemnon, "Did you ever hear of anything worse? Who could forget to gut a pig? By god, you wouldn't catch me letting him off, not if it was just a fish he'd forgotten to clean." Not so Trimalchio, however. He sat there, a great grin widening across his face, and said: "Well, since your memory's so bad, you can gut the pig here in front of us all." The cook was handed back his clothes, drew out his knife with a shaking hand and then slashed at the pig's belly with crisscross cuts. The slits widened out under the pressure from inside, and suddenly out poured, not the pig's bowels and guts, but link upon link of tumbling sausages and blood puddings.  The slaves saluted the success of the hoax with a rousing, "LONG LIVE GAIUSI' The vindicated chef was presented with a silver crown and honored by the offer of a drink served on a platter of fabulous Corinthian bronze. Noticing that Agamemnon was admiring the platter, Trimalchio said, "I'm the only man in the world who owns genuine Corinthian bronze." I expected him to brag in his usual way that he'd had the stuff imported directly from Corinth, but he was way ahead of me "Perhaps he said, "you'd like to know why I'm the onis man who owns genuine Corinthian. Well, I'll tell you. It's because I have it made by a craftsman of mine called Corinthus, and what's Corinthian, I'd like to know, if not something Corinthus makes? And don't think I'm just a stupid half-wit. I know very well how Corinthian bronze got invented. You see, when Troy was taken, there was this fellow called Hannibal, a real swindler, and he ordered all the bronze and gold and silver statues to be melted down in a pile. Well, the stuff melted and made a kind of mixture. So the smiths came and started carting it off and turning out platters and side dishes and little statues. And that's how real Corinthian began, a kind of mishmash metal, and nothing on its own. Af you don't mind my saying so though, I like glass better. It doesn't stink like bronze, and if it weren't so breakable, I'd prefer it to gold. Besides, it's cheap as cheap.  "But, you know, there was once a workman who invented a little glass bottle that wouldn't break. Well he got in to see the emperor with this bottle as a present. Then he asked the emperor to hand it back to him and managed to drop it on the floor on purpose. Well, the emperor just about died. But the workman picked the bottle back up from the floor and, believe it or not, it was dented just a little, as though it were made out of bronze. So he pulled a little hammer out of his pocket and tapped it back into shape. Well, by this time he thought he had Jupiter by the balls, especially when the emperor asked him if anyone else was in on the secret. But you know what happened? When the workman told him that nobody else knew, the emperor ordered his head chopped off. Said that if the secret ever got out, gold would be as cheap as dirt.  "But silver's my real passion. I ve got a hundred bowls that hold three or four gallons apiece, all of them with the story of Cassandra engraved on them: how she killed her sons, you know, and the kids are lying there dead so naturally that you'd think they were still alive. And there's a thousand goblets too which Mummius left my old master. There's pictures on them too, things like Daedalus locking up Niobe in the Troian Horse. And on my cups, the heavy ones, I've got the fights of Hermeros and Petraites. No sir, I wouldn't take cash down for my taste in silver." In the midst of this harangue, a slave dropped a goblet on the floor. Once he had finished talking, Trimalchio wheeled on him and said, "Why don't you go hang your- self? You're no damn good to me." The slave began to whimper and beg for mercy. But Trimalchio was stem: "Why come whining to me for pity? As if I got you into your mess. Next time tell yourself not to be so damn dumb." However, we interceded once more and managed to get the slave off. The instant he was pardoned, he began to scamper around the table . . . Then Trimalchio shouted, "Out with the water, in with the wine!" We dutifully applauded the joke, and partic- ularly Agamemnon who was an old hand at wangling return invitations. By now Trimalchio was drinking heavily and was, in fact, close to being drunk. "Hey, everybody he shouted, "nobody's asked Fortunata to dance. Believe me, you never saw anyone do grinds the way she can." With this he raised his hands over his forehead and did an impersonation of the actor Syrus singing one of his numbers, while the whole troupe of slaves joined in on the chorus. He was just about to get up on the table when Fortunata went and whispered something in his ear, probably a warning that these drunken capers were undignified. Never was a man so changeable: sometimes he would bow down to Fortunata in anything she asked; at other times, as now, he went his own way.  But it was the secretary, not Fortunate, who effectively dampened his desire to dance, for quite without warning he began to read from the estate records as though he were reading some government bulletin. "Born," he began, "on July 26th, on Trimalchio's estate at Cumae, thirty male and forty female slaves. "Item, five hundred thousand bushels of wheat transferred from the threshing rooms into storage "On the same date, the slave Mithridates crucified alive for blaspheming the guardian spirit of our master Gaius. "On the same date, the sum of three hundred thousand returned to the safe because it could not be invested. "On the same date, in the gardens at Pompeii, fire broke out in the house of the bailiff Nasta . . ." "What?" roared Trimalchio. "When did I buy any gardens at Pompeii?" "Last year," the steward replied. "That's why they haven't yet appeared on the books." I don't care what you buy," stormed Trimalchio, "but if it's not reported to me within six months, I damn well won't have it appearing on the books at all!" The reading was then resumed. First came the directives of the superintendents on various estates and then the wills of the gamekeepers, each one excluding Trimalchio by a special clause. There followed a list of his overseers, the divorce of a freedwoman by a nightwatchman for being caught in flagrante with an attendant from the baths, and the banishment of a steward to Baiae. It closed with the accusation against a cashier and the verdict in a dispute between several valets. At long last the tumblers appeared. An extremely insipid clown held up a ladder and ordered a boy to climb up and do a dance on top to the accompaniment of several popular songs. He was then commanded to jump through burning hoops and to pick up a big jug with his teeth. No one much enjoyed this entertainment except Trimalchio who claimed that the stunts were extremefy difficult. Nothing on earth, he added, gave him such pleasure as jugglers and buglers; everything else, such as animal shows and concerts, was utter trash. "I once bought," he bragged, "several comic actors, but I used them for doing farces and I told my flutist to play nothing but Latin songs, the funny ones."  Just at this point the ladder toppled and the boy on top fell down landing squarely on Trimalchio. The slaves shrieked, tie guests screamed. We were not, of course, in the least concerned about the boy, whose neck we would have been delighted to see broken; but we dreaded the thought of possibly having to go into mourning for a man who meant nothing to us at all. Meanwhile, Trimalchio lay there groaning and nursing his arm as though it were broken. Doctors came rushing in, Fortunata at their head, her hair flying, a goblet in her hand, and filling the room with wails of distress. As for the boy, he was already clutching us by the legs and begging us to intercede for him. My own reaction was one of suspicion. I was afraid, that is, that these pleas for pity were simply the prelude to one more hoax; for the incident of the slave who had forgotten to gut the pig was still fresh in my mind. So I started to examine the room rather uneasily, half expecting, I suppose, that the walls would Split open and god knows what contraption would appear. And these suspicions were somewhat confirmed when they began flogging a servant for having bound up his master's wounded arm with white, rather than scarlet, bandages. Actually, as it turned out, I was not far wrong, for instead of having the boy whipped, Trimalchio ordered him to be set free, so that nobody could say that the great Trimalchio had been hurt by a mere slave.  We gave this ample gesture our approval and remarked on the uncertainties of human existence. "Yes," said Trimalchio, "it would be a shame to let an occasion like this pass by without some enduring record of it." He then called for writing materials and after a brief but harrowing effort produced the following lines: We think we're awful smart, we think we're awful wise, but when we're least expecting, comes the big surprise. Lady Luck's in heaven and we're her little toys, so break out the wine and fill your glasses, boysl From this beginning, the conversation went on to poetry, and for a considerable time somebody was maintaining that the best poet of all time was the Thracian poet, Movsus. Then Trimalchio turned to Agamemnon and said, "Professor, what's the difference between Cicero and Publilius in your opinion? To my way of thinking, Cicero jogs along better but Publilius has him all beat when it comes to the message. What, after all, could be more profound than this? Extravagance and Waste have breach'd our walls, and Mars' vast ramparts crumble down in ruin To please thy palate, Rome, that haughty birds the peacock, glisters in his cage to die; the cock Tom Afric strand thy victim is; upon thy Dlate the capon perisheth. Lot e'en the friendly stork, our peregrine, blest bird of piety that stalks on stilts, cold winter's refugee, who rattleth on the tiles and struts the roof in sign of Spring, now builds his final nest- upon the plate of Greedl Ah, and why should distant Ind produce the harvest of her pearl, that berried stone? That matrons should, forsooth, in baubles dress and raise their shameless legs upon the couch of lust? Why, why should emeralds make magnificence of green, and rubies glow with coruscation of expensive fire unless sweet Chastity, among such stones, ought better blaze her innocence abroad? O shame, that brides in gossamer should go, and filmy gauze their nakedness should glozel  "But next to literature," he continued, "which profession do you think has the roughest time of it? To my mind, doctors and money-changers are the worst off. Doctors, because they have to guess what's going on in the tummies of poor mankind and when the fever comes. But doctors I despise: they're always sticking me on a diet of roast duck. Money-changers come next because they have to detect the phony copper beneath the silver. Now of dumb animals the ones who have things worst are oxen and sheep. Poor dumb oxen, because it's their work that puts the bread in our mouths, and sheep because the clothes on our backs we owe to! them. And it's a dirty shame, I think, the way we eat their mutton and wear their wool when the poor dumb sheep pay the bill. But bees are really good; thegre almost like gods, I say, because they vomit honey and pretend they got it from Jupiter. Of course, they sting too, but that's because there's a bit of bitterness in all good things . . ." He had started in easing the philosophers out of their jobs when servants brought around jars from which we all drew slips. Then the boy whose task it was read each of our slips aloud. Every one contained some conundrum or pun which entitled us to a humorous present. Thus when the slip SOUR SILVER SAUCES SOW was read, a leg of ham topped by a silver cruet filled with vinegar was carried in. HEADREST earned a neck of mutton, while HINDSIGHT AND LAMBASTING was matched by a bowl of lamb gravy with buckeyes floating around in it. HORSERADISH AND PRUNES won a riding whip and a pruning knife, and several wrinkled plums and a jar of Attic honey went to the slip reading PLUMAGE AND FLYTRAP. For GOOD FOOD FOR FOOTWEAR? they produced a fillet of sole broiled on the sole of a sandal. SOMETHING FOR THE DOG, SOMETHING FOR THE FEET won a pair of rabbit-lined slippers, while MUSSELS AND SOME LETTERS IN AN ENVELOPE received a mouse tied between two eels and a pod of peas. We chuckled at these jokes, but there were hundreds of them and I have forgotten most of them by now.  Ascyltus, however, was no longer able to swallow his snickers and he finally tossed back his head and roared and guffawed until he was almost in tears. At this one of Trimalchio's freedmen friends, the man just above me at the table, took offense and flared out in wild rage. "You cheap muttonhead," he snarled, "what are you cackling about? Entertainment isn't good enough for the likes of you, I suppose? You're richer, huh? And eat better too? I'll bet! So help me, if you were down here by me, I'd stop your damn bleating "Some nerve he's not, laughing at us. Stinking runaway, that's what he is. A burglar. A bum. Bah, he's not worth a good boot in the ass. By god, if I tangle with him, he won't know where he's headed! So help me, I don't often fly off the handle like this Still, if the flesh is soft, I say, the worms will breed. "Still cackling, are you? Who the hell are you to snicker? Where'd your daddy buy you? Think you're made out of gold, eh? So that's it, you're a Roman knight? That makes me a king's son. Then why was I a slave? Because I wanted to be. Because I'd rather be a Roman slave than a tax-paying savage. And as I live and breathe, I hope no man thinks I'm funny. I walk like a free man. I don't owe any man a thing. I've never been hauled into court. That's right: no man ever had to tell me to pay up. I've bought a few little plots of land and a nice bit of silver plate. I feed twenty stomachs, not counting the dog. I bought my wife's freedom so no man could put his dirty paws on her. I paid a good two hundred for my own freedom. Right now, I'm on the board for the emperor's worship, and I hope when I die I won't have to blush for anything. But you're so damn busy sneering at us, you don't look at your own behind. You see the lice on us but not the ticks on yourself. Nobody but you thinks we're funny. Look at your old professor there: he aporeciates us. Bah, youre still sucking tit; you're limp feather, limper, no damn better. Oh you're rich, are you? Then cram down two lunches; bolt two suppers, sonny. As for me, I'd rather have my credit than all your cash. Who ever had to dun me twice? Forty years, boy and man, I spent as a slave, but no one could tell now whether I was slave or free. I was just a curly-headed kid when I came to this place. The town hall wasn't even built then. But I did everything I could do to please my master. He was a good man, a real gentleman, whose fingernail was worth more than your whole carcass. And there were some in that house who would have liked to see me stumble. But thanks to my master I gave them the slip. Those are real trials, those are real triumphs. But when you're born free everything's as easy as saying, 'Hurry on down.' Well, what are you gaping at now, like a goat in vetch?"  At these last words, Giton, who was sitting at our feet, went rudely off into a great gale of whooping laughter which he had been trying to stifle for some time. Ascyltus' tormentor promptly trained his fire on the boy. "So you're snorting too, are you, you frizzle-headed scallion? You think it's time for capers, do you, carnival days and cold December? When Aid you pay your freedom tax, eh? Well, what are you smirking at, you little gallowsbird? Look, birdbait, I'll give it to you proper and the same for that master who won't-keep you in line. May I never eat bread again, if I let you off for anyone except our host here; if it weren't for him, I'd fix you right now. We were all feeling good, nice happy party, and then those half-baked masters of yours let you cut out of line. Like master, like slave, I always say. "Damnation, I'm so hopping mad, I can't stop. I'm no sorehead either, but when I let go, I don't give a damn for my own mother. Just you wait, I'll catch you out in the street someday. You mouse, you little potato! And when I do, if I don't knock your master into the cabbage patch, my name's not Hermeros. You can holler for Jupiter on Olympus as loud as you like, and it won't help you one little bit. By god, I'll fix those frizzle-curls of yours, and I'll fix your two-bit master too! You'll feel my teeth, sonny boy. And you won't snicker then, or I don t know who I am. No, not if your beard were made out of golds By god, I'll give you Athena's own anger, and that goes for the blockhead who set you free! I never learned geometry or criticism or hogwash of that kind, but I know how to read words carved in stone and divide up to a hundred, money, measure, or weights. Come on, l'll lay you a little bet. I'll stake a piece of my silver set. You may have learned some rhetoric in school, but let me prove your daddy wasted his money educating you. Ready? Then answer me this: 'I come long and I come broad. What am I?' I'll give you a clue. One of us runs, the other stays put. One grows bigger; the other stays small. Well, that's you, skittering around, bustling and gaping like a mouse in a jug. So either shut up or don't bother your elders and betters who don't know you exist. Or do you think I'm impressed by those phony gold rings of yours? Swipe them from your girl? Sweet Mercury, come down to the main square in town and try to take out a loan. Then you'll see this plain iron ring of mine makes plenty of credit. Hah, that finished you. You look like a fox in the rain. By god, if I don't pull up my toga and hound you all over town, may I fail in my business and die broke! So help me! And isn't he something, that professor who taught you your manners? Him a professor? A bum, that's what he is. In my time, a teacher was a teacher. Why, my old teacher used to say, 'Now, boys, is everything in order? Then go straight home. No dawdling, no gawking on the way. And don't be sassy to your elders.' But nowadays teachers are trash. Not worth a damn. As for me, I'm grateful to my old teacher for what he taught me . . ."  Ascyltus was on the point of replying, but Trimalchio, charmed by his friend's eloquence, broke in first: "Come on now. That's enough. No more hard feelings. I want everyone feeling good. As for you, Herrneros, don't be too hard on the boy. He's a little hotheaded, so show him you're made of better stuff. It's the man who gives ground in arguments like this who wins every time. Besides, when you were just a little bantam strutting around the yard, you were all cockadoodledoo and no damn sense. So let bygones be bygones. Come on, everybody, smiled The rhapsodes are going to perform for us now." Immediately a troupe of rhapsodes burst into the room, all banging away on their shields with spears. Trimalchio hoisted himself up on his pillows and while the rhapsodes were gushing out their Greek poetry with the usual bombast, he sat there reading aloud in Latin. At the end there was a brief silence; then Trimalchio asked us if we knew the scene from Homer the rhapsodes had just recited. "Well," he said, "I'll tell you. You see, there were these two brothers, Ganymede and Diomedes. Now they had this sister called Helen, see. Well, Agamemnon eloped with her and Diana left a deer as a fill-in for Helen. Now this poet called Homer describes the battle between the Trojans and the people of a place called Paros, which is where Paris came from. Well, as you'd aspect, Agamemnon won and gave his daughter Iphigeneia to Achilles in marriage. And that's why Ajax went mad, but here he comes in person to explain the plot himself." At this the rhapsodes burst into cheers, the slaves went scurrying about and promptly appeared with a barbecued calf, with a cap on its head, reposing on a huge platter-it must have weighed two hundred pounds at the very least. Behind it came Trimalchio's so-called Ajax. He pulled out his sword and began slashing away at the calf, sawing up and down, first with the edge and then with the flat of his blade. Then with the point of the sword he neatly skewered the slices of veal he had cut and handed them around to the astounded guests.  Our applause for this elaborate tour de force, however, was abruptly cut short. For all at once the coffered ceiling began to rumble and the whole room started to shake. I jumped up in terror, expecting that some acrobat was about to come swinging down through the roof. The other guests, equally frightened, lay there staring at the roof as though they were waiting for a herald from heaven. Suddenly the paneling slid apart and down through the fissure in the ceiling an immense circular hoop, probably knocked off some gigantic cask, began slowly to descend. Dangling from the hoop were chaplets of gold and little jars of perfume, all, we were informed, presents for us to take home. I filled my pockets and then, when I looked back at the table, saw a tray garnished with little cakes; in the center stood a pastry statuette of Priapus with the usual phallus propping up an apron loaded with fruits and grapes of every vanety. You can imagine how greedily we all grabbed, but then a fresh surprise sent us off again into fresh laughter. For at the slightest touch the cakes and fruit all squirted out jets of liquid saffron, splattering our faces with the smelly stuff. Naturally enough, the use of the sacred saffron made us conclude that this course must be part of some religious rite, so we all leaped to our feet and shouted in chorus, LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR, FATHER OF OUR COUNTRY! Even this act of homage, however, failed to prevent some of the guests from pilfering the fruit and stuffine their napkins full. And I, of course, was among the chief offenders, thinking nothing in this world too good to fill the pockets of my Giton. Meanwhile three slaves dressed in snowy tunics had made their entrance. Two of them set out Trimalchio's household gods, small statues with the usual gold medallion of the owner on the chest. The third boy brought around a bowl of wine and solemnly intoned a prayer to the gods for blessings on the house and guests. The names of his household gods, Trimalchio told us, were Fat Profit, Good Luck, and Large Income. And because we saw all the other guests piously kissing Trimalchio's medallion, we felt embarrassed not to do likewise.  We then offered our congratulations to our host and wished him the best of health and soundness of mind. Trimalchio now turned to his old friend Niceros. "You used to be better company, my friend," he said, "but now you're solemn and glum, and I don't know why. But if you'd like to make your host happy, why not tell us the story of your famous adventure?' Niceros was delighted to have been singled out. "So help me," he said, but may I never earn a thing, if I'm not ready to burst at your kind words. Well, here goes. Happiness here we come! Though I confess I'm a bit nervous our learned professors are going to laugh me down. Still, so what? I'll tell you my story and let them snicker. Better to tell a joke than be one, I say." With these "winged words" our storyteller began. "When I was still a slave, we used to live in a narrow little street about where Gavilla's house stands now. There the gods decreed that I should fall in love with the wife of the tavernkeeper Terentius. You remember Melissa, don't you? Came from Tarentum and a buxom little package, if ever I saw one. But, you know, I loved her more for her moral character than her body. Whatever I wanted, she gladly supplied, and we always went halves. I gave her everything I had, and she'd stow it all safely away. What's more, she never cheated. "Well, one day, down at the villa, her husband died. Needless to say, I moved heaven and earth to get to her, for a friend in need is a friend indeed.  By a stroke of real luck my master had gone off to Capua to do some odds and ends of business. So I grabbed my chance and persuaded one of our guests to go with me as far as the fifth milestone. He was a soldier and strong as the devil. Well, we stumbled off at cockcrow with the moon shining down as though it were high noon. But where the road leads down between the graves, my man went off among the tombstones to do his business, while I sat by the road mumbling a song to keep my courage up and counting the graves. After a while I started looking around for him and suddenly I caught sight of him standing stark naked with all his clothes piled up on the side of the road. Well, you can imagine: l stood frozen, stiff as a corpse, my heart in my mouth. The next thing I knew he was pissing around his clothes and then, presto! he changed into a wolf. Don't think I'm making this up. I wouldn't kid you for anything. But like I was saying, he turned into a wolf, then started to howl and loped off for the woods. At first I couldn't remember where I was. Then I went to get his clothes and discovered they'd been changed into stones. By now, let me tell you, I was scared. But I pulled out my sword and slashed away at the shadows all the way to my girlfriend's house. I arrived as white as a ghost, almost at the last gasp, with the sweat pouring down my crotch and my eyes bugging out like a corpse. I don't know how I ever recovered. Melissa, of course, was surprised to see me at such an hour and said, 'If you'd only come a little earlier, you could have lent us a hand. A wolf got into the grounds and attacked the sheep. The place looked like a butchershop, blood all over. He got away in the end, but we had the last laugh. One of the slaves nicked him in the throat with a spear.' "That finished me. I couldn't sleep a wink the rest of the night and as soon as it was light, I went tearing back home like a landlord chasing the tenants. When I reached the spot where my friend's clothing had been turned into stones there was nothing to be seen but blood. But when I got home, I found the soldier stretched out in bed like a poleaxed bull and the doctor inspecting his neck. By now, of course, I knew he was a werewolf and you couldn't have made me eat a meal with him to save my own life. You're welcome to think what you like of my story, but may the gods strike me dead if I'm feeding you a lie."  Far from douing him, we were all dumb with astonishment. "I, for one," said Trimalchio, "wouldn't dream of doubting you. In fact, if you'll believe me, I had goosebumps all over. I know old Niceros and he's no liar. Nope, he's truth itself and never exaggerates. But now I'm going to tell you a horrible story of my own, as weird as an ass on the roof. "When I was just a little slave with fancy curls- I've lived in the lap of luxury from my boyhood on, as coddled as they come-my master's pet slave happened to die one day. He was a jewel all right, a little Dearl of perfection, clever as hell and good as good. Well, while his mother was tearing out her hair and the rest of us were helping out with the funeral, suddenly the witches started to howl. They sounded like a whole pack of hounds on the scent of a hare. Now at that time we had a slave from Cappadocia, a giant of a man, scared of nothing and strong as iron. That boy could have picked up a mad bull with one hand. Well, this fellow whips out his sword and rushes outside with his left arm wrapped in his cloak for a shield. The next thing we knew he had stabbed one of those wild women right through the guts- just about here, heaven preserve the spot! Then we heard groans and when we hooked out, so help me, there wasn't a witch to be seen. Well, our big bruiser came stumbling in and collapsed on a bed. He was covered from head to toe with black and blue spots as though he'd been flogged though we knew it was that evil hand that had touched him. We shut the door and went back to work. But when his mother went to give him a hug, she found there was nothing there but a bundle of straw. No heart, no guts, no anything. As I see it, the witches had made off with the body and left a straw dummy in its place. But it just goes to show you: there are witches and the ghouls go walking at night, turning the whole world upside downs. As for our big meathead, after the witches brought him back, he was never the same again, and died raving mad a few days later."  We were, of course, dumfounded, and no less credulous than amazed. So we kissed the table and implored the spirits who walk by night to keep to themselves and leave us in peace when we went home from dinner that night. I must admit that by this time I was beginning to see the lamps burning double and the whole room seemed to be whirling around. But Trimalchio was in splendid form and turned to another of his guests. "Come on, Plocamus," he joshed him, "won't you entertain us with a story? You used to be better company, you know. Remember those bits from the plays you used to recite and the songs you sang? Oh well, I suppose we're all getting along now and we're not what we used to be. So it goes, so it goes." "My rcing days ended," declared Plocamus, "the day I got the gout. But when I was younger, I almost got T.B. from singing so much. Remember? The dancing and the recitations and the good old times we had at the barbershop? Why, except for Apelles, I doubt the world has ever seen my equal." With that, he clapped his hand over his mouth and mumbled some hideous doggerel which he later boasted was Greek. Not to be outdone, Trimalchio promptly launched into an imitation of a bugler. That over, he turned his attention to his pet slave, that cruddy-eyed little boy with hideously stained teeth whom he called Croesus. At the moment Croesus was busily engaged in wrapping up a disgustingly fat lapdog with a Ereen shawl and at the same time trying to force half a loaf of bread down the poor dog's throat, though the dog was on the point of throwing up. This little tableau gave Trimalchio the brilliant idea of having Bowser, "the guardian of my hearth and home," as he expressed it, brought in. Immediately an immense mastiff on a leash was leil into the room and ordered by a kick from the porter to lie down beside the table. Tnmalchio tossed him several chunks of white bread. "Nobody in this whole house," he declared, "loves me as much as that mutt." Croesus, instantly jealous of this handsome praise of Bowser, dropped his lapdog to the floor and sicked him on to yap at the big dog. Dowser naturally responded by filling the room with ear-splitting barks and nearly tore Croesus' dog to pieces. The uproar continued until someone knocked the chandelier onto the table, smashing all the crystal goblets and splattering several of the guests with burning oil. Wishing to appear unruffled by the damage, Trimalchio kissed Croesus and told him to clamber up on his shoulders. This the boy promptly did, riding his master piggyback, beating him with the palms of his hands, and shrieking, "Horsey, horsed guess how many fingers I'm holding upl" For a while the utter confusion and uproar silenced even Trimalchio. But at the first opportunity he ordered a great vat of wine to be mixed and divided among the slaves who were standing about ready to serve us. "If anyone refuses," he barked, "dump it on his head. The day's for work, the evening's for pleasure."  Following this extravagant display of kindness came a course the very memory of which, if you will believe me, I still find sickening. For instead of the usual small bird or thrush, each one of us was served a plump chicken and several goose eggs sporting little pasty caps. Trimalchio insisted that we sample the eggs, saying that they were nothing but geese minus the bones. Meanwhile someone was hammering at the door and before long a carouser dressed in a splendid white robe and accompanied by a throng of slaves made his entrance. His face was dignified and stern, so stern in fact that I took him for the oraetor, slammed my bare feet onto the cold floor and mady ready to run for it. But Agamemnon laughed at my fright and said, "Relax, you idiot, it's only Hatinnas. He's an oflficial of the impenal cult and a mason by trade. They say he makes first-rate tombstones." Somewhat reassured, I sat down again but continued to observe Habinnas' entrance with mounting amazement He was already half-drunk and was propping himself up by holding on to his wife's shoulders with both hands. He was literally draped in garlands of flowers and a stream of perfumed oil was running down his forehead and into his eyes. When he reached the place reserved for the praetor, he sat down and called for wine and warm water. Trimalchio was delighted to see his friend in such spirits and called for bigger glasses before asking him how he had eaten. "Only one thing was missing," Habinnas smiled, "and that was you. My heart was really here the whole time. But, by god, Scissa did it up brown. She put on one fine spread for that poor slave's funeral, I'll say that for her. What's more, she set him free after his death. And what with the 5 per cent tax, I'll bet that gesture cost her a pretty penny. The slave himself was valued at about two thousand. Still, it was very nice, though it cut across my grain to have to pour out half my drinks as an offering to the poor boy's bones."  0'But what did they give you to eat?" Trimalchio pressed him "If I can remember, I'll tell you," said Habinnas. "But my memory's so bad these days, I sometimes can't even remember my own name. Let's see, first off we had some roast pork garnished with loops of sausage and flanked with more sausages and some giblets done to a turn. And there were pickled beets and some wholewheat bread made without bleach. I prefer it to white, you know. It's better for you and less constipating too. Then came a course of cold tart with a mixture of some wonderful Spanish wine and hot honey. I took a fat helping of the tart and scooped up the honey generously. Then there were chickpeas and lupins, no end of filberts, and an apple apiece. I took two apples and I've got one wrapped up in my napkin here. If I forgot to bring a little present to my pet slave, I'd be in hot water. And oh yes, my wife reminds me: the main course was a roast of bearmeat. Scintilla was silly enough to try some and almost chucked up her supper. But it reminds me of roast boar, so I put down about a pound of it. Besides, I'd like to know, if bears eat men, why shouldn't men eat bears? To wind up, we had some soft cheese steeped in fresh wine, a snail apiece, some tripe hash, liver in pastry boats and eggs topped with more pastry and turnips and mustard and beans bolted in the pod and-but enough's enough. Oh yes, and they passed around a dish of olives pickled in caraway, and some of the guests had the nerve to walk off with three fistfuls. But we sent the ham back untasted.  See here, Gaius, why isn't Fortunata eating?" "You know how she is," said Trimalchio. "Until she's put the silver away and divided the leftovers among the servants, she won't touch even a drop of water." "Well, if she doesn't come and eat right now," said Habinnas, "I'm leaving." With that he started to rise and probably would have left if Trimalchio had not signaled and the whole corps of slaves shouted four or five times in chorus: "FORTUNATA!" She promptly appeared, her dress bound up so high by a pale green sash that beneath her cherry-colored tunic I could glimpse her massive ankle-rings of twisted gold and a pair of golden slippers. She wiped her fingers on the handkerchief she wore around her neck and sat down on the couch beside Habinnas' wife, Scintilla. Scintilla clapped her hands, Fortunata kissed her and burst out, "Why, darling, it's been just ages since I've seen youl" In this way the two women chattered on for some time. The next thing I knew Fortunata was undoing the bracelets on her grotesquely fat arms and showing them off for Scintilla to admire. Then she undid her anklets and finally her hair net, which she kept insisting was woven of pure gold. Trimalchio, who was observing this byplay with interest, ordered all her jewelry brought to him. "Gentlemen," he said, "I want you to see the chains and fetters our women load themselves with; this is how we poor bastards are bankrupted. By god, she must be wearing six and a half pounds of solid gold. Still, I must admit I've got a bracelet that weighs a good ten pounds on its own. That was the value of two or three thousandths of my profits for the year, the same amount I give to Mercury as the patron-god of business." To prove his boast, he ordered a pair of scales brought in and the weights passed around for us to test. For her part, Scintilla was not to be outdone and took off the large locket which she wore around her neck and called her "lucks piece." Out of it she drew a pair of golden earrings and handed them over for Fortunata's inspection. "They're a present from my husband," she said. "Thanks to his generosity, no woman on earth has a finer pair." "Generosity, my ass," snorted Habinnas. "You'd pester the life out of me to get a couple of glass beans. If I had a daughter, so help me, I'd have her ears chopped off. If it weren't for the women, things would be as cheap as dirt. But money-they waste it like water. Swallow it cold and good and piss it hot and useless." By this time both the women were high and sat there giggling and exchanging little hugs and kisses, Fortunata boasting about her abilities as a housekeeper and Scintilla complaining of her husband's favorites and his indifference to her. At one point during this tender scene Habinnas rose stealthily to his feet, tiptoed over behind their couch and, grabbing Fortunata by the knees, toppled her over backwards onto the couch. As she fell her tunic slipped up above her knees. Fortunata gave a piercing shriek, threw herself into Scintilla's arms and tried to hide her blushes in her handkerchief.  Once the confusion had died down, Trimalchio ordered the dessert brought on. The servant immediately removed not merely the dirty dishes but the tables themselves and replaced them with fresh ones. The floor was sprinkled with saffron sawdust and powdered mica, something I had never seen used for this purpose before. "Behold your dessert, gentlemen, these fresh tables," said Trimalchio. I've made a clean sweep of everything, and that's all you get. That's what you deserve; that's your dessert. Haw, haw. But if there's still anything in the kitchen worth eating, boys, bring it on." Meanwhile an Alexandrian slave was passing us hot water for our wine and at the same time doing an imitation of a nightingale, but Trimalchio kept muttering, "Change that stinking tune." Then the slave seated at Habinnas feet and clearly acting on his master's orders started to chant a passage from Vergil, the one beginning: Meanwhile Aeneas' fleet still rode the heavy swell . . . Altogether it was the most atrocious sound that ever fell on my ears. Not only was his pronunciation barbarous, a kind of sing-song rising and fading of the pitch, but he also jumbled in verses from some obscene farce, so that for the first time in my life Vergil actually jarred on me. At the end, however, Habinnas clapped enthusiastically and said: "You wouldn't believe it, but he's never had any formal training. I sent him off to learn from the hawkers at the fairs, and he can't be beat at imitating muledrivers and barkers. And he's real smart, does everything: makes shoes, cooks, bakes . . . In fact, he'd be perfect if he didn't have two bad points: he's been circumcised and he snores. He's cross-eyed too, but I don't mind that. Venus has a bit of a squint, they say. And I bought him for next to nothing . . ."  "You haven't mentioned all the little bugger's tricks," broke in Scintilla angrily. "He's a little pimp and a fairy, that's what he is, and someday I'll see he's branded for it." Trimalchio guffawed at this. "Come on, Scintilla, don't be jealous. We know what the score is with you too. And why not, I'd like to know. Cross my heart and hope to die, if I didn't have a few tussles in the sheets with my old master's wife too. In fact, the old man got suspicious, so much so that he shipped me off to a farm in the country. But stop wagging, tongue, and I'll give you some bread to munch." At this point that damned slave of Habinnas, obviously under the impression that we had been praising him, Dulled a clay lamp with a spout out of his tunic and for a Pull half hour sat there mimicking a bugler while Habinnas hummed and fiddled his lower lip up and down in a kind of jew's harp accompaniment. Then, to crown all this, the stave stepped out before us all and first parodied with two straws the flutists at the plays and next, waving a whip and twisting himself in his cloak, did an imitation of a muledriver. Habinnas called him over finally, gave him a kiss and a glass of wine and said, "Nice work, Massa. I'll see that you get a pair of shoes for this." This deadly entertainment would never have ended if the servants had not brought on another course, consisting of pastry thrushes with raisin and nut stuffing, followed by qunces with thorns stuck in them to resemble sea urchins. We could have put up with these dishes, if the last and most sickening course of all had not killed our appetites completely. When it was first brought in, we took it for a fat goose surrounded by fish and little birds of all kinds. But Trimalchio declared, "My friends, everything you see on that Platter has been made from one and the same substance." I, of course, not the man to be deceived by appearances, had to turn and whisper to Agamemnon, ''I'd be very surprised if everything there hadn't been made out of plain mud or clay. At the Carnival in Rome, I've seen whole meals made from stuff like that."  I was still whispering when Trimalchio said, "As surely as I hope to get richer-but not fatter, please god- my cook baked all that junk out of roast pork. In fact, I doubt if there's a more valuable chef in the whole world. Just say the word, and he'll whip you up a fish out of sowbelly, pigeons out of bacon, doves from ham and chicken from pigs' knuckles. That's why I've named him Daedalus, and it suits him to a T. And because he's an inventor and a genius, I've brought him back some fine cutlery from Rome." He then ordered the knives brought in and passed around for us to admire and inspect. He also gave us permission to test the blades on the stubble of our cheeks. Suddenly two slaves came rushing in looking as though they'd had an argument while drawing water at the well at least they were carrying large jars on their backs and were obviously furious with each other. Trimalchio offered to act as arbiter of their argument but they refused to abide by his decision and began to pummel each other with their sticks. We were appalled by this drunken insolence but nonetheless kept our eyes glued to the fight. Suddenly we noticed that oysters and mussels were sloshing over from the jugs and a slave caught them as they fell and handed them around in a dish. Unwilling to be outstripped in extravagance, the clever chef matched the oysters by bringing around hot buttered snails on a silver grill and singing all the time in a hideously dismal, quavering voice. What happened next was an extravagance so fantastic that I am almost embarrassed to mention it. However, young slaves with long flowing curls came around to each of us in turn, wreathed our legs and ankles with garlands of flowers and anointed our feet with perfume from a silver bowl. Then a generous amount of this same perfume was poured into the oil lamps and even into the wine bowl. By now Fortunata was almost desperate to dance and Scintilla was clapping her hands even more frequently than she opened her mouth. Suddenly Trimalchio had an idea. "You there, Philargyrus," he called out to a slave, "I know you're a fan of the Greens in the races, but come and sit with us anyway. You too, Cario, and tell your wife to do the same." Well, you can imagine what happened. The dining room was by now so packed with slaves that in the rush for seats the guests were almost shoved bodily from the couches. For my part, I had to endure seeing the cook-the one who had made the goose out of pork and who reeked of pickles and hot sauce-installed just above me on the couch. Worst of all, not content with a place at the table, he had to do an imitation of the tragic actor Ephesus and then had the brass to bet his master that the Greens would win the next race in the Circus.  But Trimalchio was charmed by the challenge. "My friends," he brayed, "slaves are human too. They drink the same mother's milk that we do, though an evil fate grinds them down. But I swear that it won t be long -if nothing happens to me-before they all taste the good water of freedom. For I plan to free them all in my will. To Philargyrus here I leave a farm and his woman. Cario inherits a block of flats and the tax on his freedom and his bed and bedding. To my dear Fortunata I leave everything I have, and I commend her to the kindness of my friends. But I'm telling you the contents of my will so my whole household will Love me as much when I'm still alive as after I'm dead." Once the slaves heard this, of course, they burst out with cheers and eflusive thanks. But Trimalchio suddenly began to take the whole farce quite seriously and ordered his will brought out and read aloud from beginning to end while the slaves sat there groaning and moaning. At the close of the reading, he turned to Habinnas. "Well, old friend, will you make me my tomb exactly as I order it? First, of course, I want a statue of myself. But carve my dog at my feet, and give me garlands of flowers, jars of perfume and every fight in Petraites' career. Then, thanks to your good offices, I'll live on long after I'm gone. In front, I want my tomb one hundred feet long, but two hundred feet deep. Around it I want an orchard with every known variety of fruit tree. You'd better throw in a vineyard too. For it's wrong, I think, that a man should concern himself with the house where he lives his life but give no thought to the home he'll have forever. But above all I want you to carve this notice: THIS MONUMENT DOES NOT PASS INTO THE POSSESSION OF MY HEIRS. In any case I'll see to it in my will that my grave is protected from damage after my death. I'll appoint one of my ex-slaves to act as custodian to chase off the people who might come and crap on my tomb. Also, I want you to carve me several ships with all sail crowded and a picture of myself sitting on the judge's bench in official dress with five gold rings on my fingers and handing out a sack of coins to the people. For it's a fact, and you're my witness, that I gave a free meal to the whole town and a cash handout to everyone. Also make me a dining room, a frieze maybe, but however you like, and show the whole town celebrating at my expense. On my right I want a statue of Fortunata with a dove in her hand. And oh yes, be sure to have her pet dog tied to her girdle. And don't forget my pet slave. Also I'd like huge jars of wine, well stoppered so the wine won't slosh out. Then sculpt me a broken vase with a little boy sobbing out his heart over it. And in the middle stick a sundial so that anyone who wants the time of day will have to read my name. And how will this do for the epitaph? HERE LIES GAIUS POMPEIUS TRIMALCHIO MAECENATIANUS, VOTED IN ABSENTIA AN OFFICIAL OF THE IMPERIAL CULT. HE COULD HAVE BEEN REGISTERED IN ANY CATEGORY OF THE CIVIL SERVICE AT ROME BUT CHOSE OTHERWISE PIOUS AND COURAGEOUS, A LOYAL FRIEND, HE DIED A MILLONAIRE, THOUGH HE STARTED LIFE WITH NOTHING LET IT ME SAID TO HIS ETERNAL CREDIT THAT HE NEVER LISTENTD TO PHILOSOPHERS. PEACE TO HIM. FAREWELL.  At the end he burst into tears. Then Fortunata started wailing, Habinnas began to cry, and every slave in the room burst out sobbing as though Trimalchio were dying then and there. The whole room throbbed and pulsed to the sound of mouring. I was almost in tears myself, when Trimalchio suddenly cried, "We all have to die, so let's live while we're walting! Come on, everybody, smile, be happy. We'll all go down to the bath for a dip. The water's hot as an oven." "Hurrah!" shouted Habinnas. "We'll make one day do the work of twol" With that he leaped up in his bare feet and ran after Trimalchio who was clapping his hands with approval and excitement. I turned to Ascyltus. "Well, what do you think? As for me, the mere sight of a bath would finish me off." "Pretend to go along," he whispered back, "and when they head for the baths, we'll make off in the confusion." Agreed on our strategy, we followed Giton's lead through the portico to the main entrance. There, however, we were given a deafening welcome by the chained watchdog, and his furious barking and growlmg so terrified Aseyltus that he tumbled backwards into the fishpond. The mere painting of that same watchdog had nearly been my ruin earlier, and the real thing frightened me so horribly that, between my fear and my drunkenness, I managed to fall into the pool myself while trying to haul Ascyltus out. Fortunately for us the porter soon appeared, which somewhat calmed the dog. Finally the porter succeeded in dragging us both, wet and shivering, out of the pool to terra firma. Meanwhile Giton had prudently made friends with the dog by tossing him all the tidbits we'd carefully saved from supper, and bribed by these offerings, the dog had finally stopped barking. Utterly soaking and shaking all over, we asked the porter to open the gate and let us out. "You're badly mistaken, gentlemen,' he replied, "if you think you can leave by the same way you came. No guest in this house ever goes out by the same door again. There's one way in and another way out."  So what were we poor devils to do now, trapped in this strange labyrinth of a placed As it was, we would have given anything in the world to be standing in a hot bath. At last, however, we succeeded in persuading the porter to lead us to the baths. There we stripped off our soaking clothes and went in, leaving Giton at the entrance so he could dry our clothes over the bath furnace. The bath itself was narrow and shaped like a coldwater cistern, and we found Trimalchio standing in the middle of the pool. But even here there was no escape from his revolting bragging. As for himself, he was saying, he preferred to bathe in private, away from the crowd. In this very spot, moreover, there once used to be a bakery which he had bought out, etc., etc. Finally when simple exhaustion forced him to sit down, he became fascinated by the weird acoustics of the vaulted room and began in a drunken bass to murder some of Menecrates' songs. At least I was told by those who pretended to understand his gibberish that they belonged to Menecrates' repertoire. Meanwhile some of the other guests were cavorting around the edge of the pool and screeching out popular songs. Others, holding their hands behind their backs, were trying to pick up rings from the floor with their teeth, and still others, kneeling down on the ground, were attempting to arch themselves backward until they touched their toes. Leaving the drunkards to their games, we went on ahead and sampled the hot bath which had been drawn for Trimalchio. In no time at all the water had cleared the wine fumes from our heads, and we were taken into a second dining room where Fortunata had laid out some of her prize possessions. There was a number of curious lamps, but I particularly remember several figurines of fishermen in bronze and some tables of solid silver covered with gilded goblets into which fresh wine was being strained before our eyes. "My friends," said Trimalchio, apropos of nothing, ' my pet slave is having his first shave today. He's a good boy and a model of thrift. So let's celebrate. We'll drink until dawn!"  Pat to these last words, a cock ominously crowed somewhere. Alarmed by the coincidence, Trimalchio superstitiously ordered the servants to Pour some wine under the table and even to sprinkle the tamps with wine. Then he slipped his ring from his left hand to his right and said, "Buglers don't bugle for kicks, and that cockcrow means there's a fire nearby or somebody's died. Don't let it be bad luck for us, please heaven. Whoever fetches me that calamity-crowing rooster first, gets a fat reward." In half a minute, somebody had bought in the rooster from somewhere, and Trimalchio promptly ordered it cooked. The chef, Daedalus, that culinary genius who had whisked up birds and fish from the leg of pork, beheaded the bird and tossed it into a pot. And while the cook drew off the boiling broth, Fortunata ground up the pepper in a little wooden mill We were sampling this unexpected snack, when Trimalchio suddenly remembered that the servants had not yet eaten. "What?" he roared, "you haven't eaten yet? Then off with you. Go eat and send in another shift to take your places." So a fresh shift of slaves soon appeared at the door, all shouting, "Greetings, Gaiusl" while the first shift went out with a cry of "Goodbye, Gaius!" At this moment an incident occurred on which our little party almost foundered. Among the incoming slaves there was a remarkably pretty boy. Trimalchio literally launched himself upon him and, to Fortunata's extreme annoyance, began to cover him with rather Drolonged kisses. Finally, Fortunata asserted her rights and began to abuse him. "You turdl" she shrieked, "you hunk of filth." At last she used the supreme insult: "Dog!" At this Trimalchio exploded with rage, reached for a wine cup and slammed it into her face. Fortunata let out a piercing scream and covered her face with trembling hands as though she'd just lost an eye. Scintilla, stunned and shocked, tried to comfort ha sobbing friend in her arms, while a slave solicitously applied a glass of cold water to her livid cheek. Fortunata herself hunched over the glass heaving and sobbing. But Trimalchio was still shaking with fury. "Doesn't that slut remember what she used to be? By god, I took her off the sale Platform and made her an honest woman. But she blows fierself up like a bullfrog. She's forgotten how lucky she is. She won't remember the whore she used to be. People in shacks shouldn't dream of palaces, I say. By god, if I don't tame that strutting Cassandra, my name isn't Trimalchiol And to think, sap that I was, that I could have married an heiress worth half a million. And that's no lie. Old Agatho, who sells perfume to the lady next door, slipped me the word: 'Don't let your line die out, old boy,' he said. But not me. Oh no, I was a good little boy, nothing fickle about me. And now I've gone and slammed the axe into my shins good and proper.- But someday, slut, you'll come scratching at my grave to get me back And just so you understand what you've done, I'll remove your statue from my tomb. That's an order, Habinnas. No sir, I don't want any more domestic squabbles in my grave. And what's more, just to show her I can dish it out too, I won't have her kissing me on my deathbed."  After this last thunderbolt, Habinnas begged him to calm himself and forgive her. "None of us is perfect," he said, "we're men, not gods." Scintilla burst into tears, called him her dear dear Gaius and implored him by everything holy to forgive Fortunata. Finally, even Trimalchio began to blubber. "Habinnas," he whined, "as you hope to make a fortune, tell me the truth; if I've done anything wrong, spit right in my face. So I admit I kissed the boy, not because of his looks, but because he's a good boy, a thrifty boy, a boy of real character. He can divide up to ten, he reads at sight, he's saved his freedom price from his daily allowance and bought himself an armchair and two ladles out of his own pocket. Now doesn't a boy like that deserve his master's affection? But Fortunata says no.-Is that your idea, you high-stepping bitch? Take my advice, vulture, and keep your own nose clean. Don't make me show my teeth, sweetheart, or you'll feel my anger. You know me. Once I make up my mind, I'm as stubborn as a spike in wood. "But the hell with her. Friends, make yourselves comfortable. Once I used to be like you, but I rose to the top by my ability. Guts are what make the man; the rest is garbage. I buy well, I sell well. Others have different notions. But I'm like to bust with good luck.-You slut, are you still blubbering? By god, I'll give you something to blubber about. "But like I was saying, friends, it's through my business sense that I shot up. Why, when I came here from Asia, I stood no taller than that candlestick there. In fact, I used to measure myself by it every day; what's more, I used to rub my mouth with lamp oil to make my beard sprout faster. Didn't do a bit of good, though. For fourteen years I was my master's pet. But what's the shame in doing what you're told to do? But all the same, if you know what I mean, I managed to do my mistress a favor or two. But mum's the word: I'm none of your ordinary blowhards  "Well, then heaven gave me a push and I became master in the house. I was my master's brains. So he made me joint heir with the emperor to everything he had, and I came out of it with a senator's fortune. But we never have enough, and I wanted to try my hand at business. To cut it short, I had five ships built. Then I stocked them with wine-worth its weight in gold at the time-and shipped them off to Rome. I might as well have told them to no sink themselves since that's what they did. Yup, all five of them wrecked. No kidding. In one day old Neptune swallowed down a cool million. Was I licked? Hell, no. That loss just whetted my appetite as though nothing had happened at all. So I built some more ships, bigger and better and a damn sight luckier. No one could say I didn't have guts. But big ships make a man feel big himself. I shipped a cargo of wine, bacon, beans, perfume and slaves. And then Fortunata came through nicely in the nick of time: sold her gold and the clothes off her back and put a hundred gold coins in the palm of my hand. That was the yeast of my wealth. Besides, when the gods want something done, it gets done in a jiffy. On that one voyage alone, I cleared about five hundred thousand. Right away I bought up all my old master's property. I built a house, l went into slave-trading and cattle-buying. Everything I touched just grew and grew like a honeycomb. Once I was worth more than all the people in my home town put together, I picked up my winnings and pulled out. I retired from trade and started lending money to ex-slaves. To tell the truth, I was tempted to quit for keeps, but on the advice of an astrologer who'd just come to town, I decided to keep my hand in. He was a Greek, fellow by the name of Serapa, and clever enough to set up as consultant to the gods. Well, he told me things I'd clean forgotten and Laid it right on the line from A to Z. Why, that man could have peeked into my tummy and told me everything except what I'd eaten the day before. You'd have thought he'd lived with me all his life.  "Remember what he said, Habinnas? You were there, I think, when he told my fortune. 'You have bought yourself a mistress and a tyrant,' he said, 'out of your own profits. You are unlucky in your friends. No one is as grateful to you as he should be. You own vast estates. You nourish a viper in your bosom.' There's no reason why I shouldn't tell you, but according to him, I have thirty years, four months, and two days left to live. And soon, he said, I am going to receive an inheritance. Now if I could just add Apulia to the lands I own, I could die content "Meanwhile, with Mercury's help, I built this house. As you know, it used to be a shack; now it's a shrine. It has four dining rooms, twenty bedrooms, two marble porticoes, an upstairs dining room, the master bedroom where I sleep, the nest of that viper there, a fine porter's lodge, and guestrooms enough for all my guests. In fact, when Scaurus came down here from Rome, he wouldn't put up anywhere else, though his father has lots of friends down on the shore who would have been glad to have him. And there are lots of other things I'll show you in a bit. But take my word for it: money makes the man. No money and you're nobody. But big money, big man. That's how it was with yours truly: from mouse to millionaire. "In the meantime, Stichus," he called to a slave, "go and fetch out the clothes I'm going to be buried in. And while you're at it, bring along some perfume and a sample of that wine I'm having poured on my bones."  Stichus hurried off and promptly returned with a white grave-garment and a very splendid robe with a broad purple stripe. Trimalchio told us to inspect them and see if we approved of the material. Then he added with a smile, "See to it, Stichus, that no mice or moths get into them, or I'll have you burned alive. Yes sir, I'm going to be buried in such splendor that everybody in town will go out and pray for me." He then unstoppered a jar of fabulously expensive spikenard and had us all anointed with it. "I hope," he chuckled, "I like this perfume as much after I'm dead as I do now.' Finally he ordered the slaves to pour the wine into the bowl and said, "Imagine that you're all present at my funeral feast." The whole business had by now become absolutely revolting. Trimalchio was obviously completely drunk, but suddenly he had a hankering for funeral music too and ordered a brass band sent into the dining room. Then he Dropped himself on piles of cushions and stretched out full length along the couch. "Pretend I'm dead," he said, "say something nice about me." The band blared a dead march, but one of the slaves belonging to Habinnas-who was, incidentally, one of the most respectable people present -blew so loudly that he woke up the entire neighborhood. Immediately the firemen assigned to that quarter of town, thinking that Trimalchio's house was on fire, smashed down the door and rushed in with buckets and axes to do their job. Utter confusion followed, of course, and we took advantage of the heaven-sent opportunity, gave Agamemnon the slip, and rushed out of there as though the place were really in flames. VI GITON, ASCYLTUS, AND I AGAIN  We had no torch to light us on our way as we wandered, and the lateness of the hour-it was now the dead of night-precluded all hope of meeting someone with a light. Worse still, we were drunk and so unfamiliar with the area that even in broad daylight we would have lost our way. So for nearly an hour we stumbled about, drawing our bleeding feet over the shards and splinters of broken crockery scattered along the streets, and it was only Giton's remarkable act of foresight which saved us in the end. Terrified of getting lost even in daylight, the boy had shrewdly blazed every column and pilaster along our route with chalk, and now, even through the pitch blackness, the blazings shone brightly enough to keep us on our path. At last we reached the inn, only to find that our ordeal was not yet over. For the old landlady had spent the night getting drunk with her boarders and I doubt she would have stirred even if you set the bed on fire. Indeed, we would have been doomed to spending the night on the doorstep if one of Trimalchio's agents had not happened to come by with a convoy of ten wagons. For a short time he pounded and hammered at the door; then, getting no answer, he smashed it down and we entered through the breach. O gods in heaven, what a night we kept, how soft the bed! Together warmed, we slept so twined in love, so crossed upon a kiss, it seemed his soul was mine and mine was his. Goodbye, I thought, to every grief of man. Farewell, all carel -That night my doom began. Alas, I boasted of my happiness too soon. For the instant my drunken hands relaxed their grip on Giton, Ascyltus, that wizard of my destruction, ravished the boy away in the darkness to his own bed and took his pleasure of another man's love. Whether Giton felt nothing at all, or merely pretended not to notice, I do not know; but all night long, oblivious of every moral law, eveny human right, he lay with Ascyltus in adulterous embrace. Waking, I went groping with my hand for the boy's body in the bed and found, O gods, my treasure stolen! For one instant-if the word of a lover can be believed-I was tempted to run myself through with my sword and join, as the poets say, that sleep I slept to the endless sleep of death. But in the end prudence prevailed. I slapped Giton awake, and fixing Ascyltus with a look of terrible fury, I cried, Since, in your perversity, you have broken your promise and trampled upon our friendship, pack your belongings and leave. Go stain some other bed with vour adulteries." He made no objection, and we divided our spoils with painstaking fairness. Then he said: "Very well. Now we split the boy."  I took this as merely some feeble parting joke, but the next thing I knew he had wrenched out his sword with fratricidal fury. "No longer, miser," he cried, "shall you hunch over your treasure in lonely lust. Either give me my share, or I'll cut off my piece with my sword in revenge. I pulled out my sword, threw my cloak about my arm and prepared to give battle. Leaping between us as we raved, poor Giton took us by the knees in turn, and with the tears streaming down has face implored us not to let that humble tavern witness a new Thebaid, nor to soil with each other's blood the sanctity of a glorious friendship. "If you must have murder," he cried, "behold, I offer you my throat, bared to your blow; plunge your swords home; kill me, for it was on my account that you broke your word as friends." Touched by this pitiful entreaty, we put our swords away. For his part, Aseyltus promptly proposed a solution to our problem. "Let the boy," he said, "follow the one he prefers. Let him have a free choice of his own lover." Convinced that a relationship as old as Giton's and mine was like a bond of blood, unbreakable, I accepted without fear. In fact, I fairly jumped at the Proposal and the decision wash referred to the judge witfiout delay. With no hesitation, without even the pretense of hesitation, the boy rose and chose-Ascyltus! Thunderstruck by this bolt from the blue, I dropped my sword and collapsed on the bed. Had I not begrudged my enemy a total triumph, I would have done away with myself then and there. Ascyltus, flushed with success, swaggered out with his winnings, leaving me, once the dearest of his friends, the companion of his every joy and sorrow, alone with my anguish and despair, in a strange land, dejected. Friendsiup lasts while there's profit in the name The dice are fickle; fortune spins about. But oh, my smiling friends of better days, where was your love, when my luck ran out? The comic actors strut the stage, bow and grin. The cast: old Moneybags, Father and Son. The farce ends, the smiles come off, revealing the true face below, the bestial, leering one.  My suicidal frenzy soon vanished. But fearing that Agamemnon's assistant, Menelaus, might come up and find me in my room alone and so compound my miseries, I packed my possessions and went with my grief to a lonely lodging house along the shore. There, for three days I shut myselfup alone, tasting over and over again all my wrenching loneliness and humiliation. Again and again I beat my breast; my heaving lungs were weak from sobbing and my sighs and groans rose so frequently and so deeply that I could barely give voice to my grief. Over and over again I cried aloud: "O gods, why could not the earth have swallowed me up, or this sea that rages so wildly even against the innocent! Was it for this that I fled from justice, that I deserted the ring and murdered my host? Is this the reward of all my courage and my crimes-to be abandoned, an outcast, a beggar, in a cheap inn in a Greek town? And who is the author of my Loneliness? A young man polluted with every perversion and vice; a man who by his own admission deserves to be banished; who paid for his freedom with his debauchery and his debauchery with his freedom; whose body is bought as one buys a ticket; who was treated like a woman even by those who knew him to be a man! And what of his partner in crime? A little boy who gave up his trousers for skirts; whose mother persuaded him never to be a man; who played the part of a girl in a prison for slaves; who broke his word, destroyed a friendship sanctified by time and usage to go romping in another bed, and then-O unspeakable shame! -sold his all, like a whore, for one night's work! And now the lovers lie all night tangled in each other's arms, and when their lust has run its course, perhaps they mock me, jeering at my loneliness. By god, but they shall pay me for its Either I am no free man, or they shall pay me for this crime with their own lives!"  With that, I belted on my sword and sat down to a good meal as a precaution against losing my battle through simple weakness. Then I dashed down into the street and began to race like a madman up and down through the arcades and porticoes. My face was taut with fury, images of blood and slaughter kept pounding through my head, and my hand clutched convulsively at the hilt of my sword. Suddenly some soldier-though deserter or plain thief was probably what he was-caught sight of me. You there, soldier," he shouted, "what's your regiment? Who's your commanding officer?" With splendid presence of mind, I promptly supplied him with a fictitious regiment and imaginary officers. "Since when," he asked me, "do soldiers in your army do their marching in white shoes?" At this my confusion and trembling gave the show away and he ordered me to surrender my sword to him and to look sharper next time. In this way, cheated of both my sword and my revenge, I made my way back to my room. Gradually, however, my temper began to cool and in a short time I was feeling quite grateful to him for his highhandedness in taking away my sword. Knee-deep in water, the ripe fruit dangling overhead, poor Tantalus stands, devoured by his need. So the miser too, I think, must look, licking with dry tongue, unsatisfied, the taste of greed. There is little point in expecting much of your own projects, when Fate has projects of her own.