THE WAYS OF WOMEN
the days of Saturn,2 I believe,
lingered on the earth, and was to be seen for a time
--days when men were poorly housed in chilly caves,
common shelters which dimly enclosed hearth and
household gods, herds and their owners; when the
hill-bred wife spread her silvan bed with leaves and
straw and the skins of her neighbours the wild beasts
2 i.e. in the
golden days of innocence.
--a wife not like thee, O Cynthia,1
nor like thee, Les-
bia,2 whose bright eyes were clouded by a sparrow's
death, but one whose breasts gave suck to lusty babes,
often more unkempt herself than her acorn-belching
husband. For in those days, when the world was
young and the skies were new, men born of the
split oak,3 or formed of dust, lived differently from
now, and had no parents of their own. Under
Jove, perchance, some few traces of ancient
modesty may have survived; but that was before he
had grown his beard, before the Greeks had learned to
swear by someone else's head, when men feared not
thieves for their cabbages or fruits, and lived with
unwalled gardens. After that Astraea 4 withdrew by
degrees to heaven, with Chastity as her comrade, the
two sisters taking flight together.
To set your neighbour's bed a-shaking, Postu-
mus, and to scorn the Genius of the sacred couch,5
is now an ancient and long-established practice.
All other sins came later, the products of the Age
of Iron: but it was the Silver Age that saw the first
adulterers. Yet, in this age of ours, you are still
preparing for a covenant, a marriage-contract and
a betrothal; you are by now getting your hair combed
by a master barber; perhaps you have even given a
ring as pledge for her finger. What! Postumus, are
you, you who once had your wits, taking to yourself
a wife? Tell me what Tisiphone, what snakes are
driving you mad? Can you submit to a she-tyrant
when there is so much rope to be had, so many dizzy
heights from windows standing open, and when the
1 The Cynthia of
2 The Lesbia of Catullus [who mourned over her pet bird].
3 There was a legend that men had been born from oak trees.
4 Astraea, daughter of Zeus and Themis, was the last
mortal to leave the earth when the Golden Age came to an
end; she was placed among the stars as Virgo.
5 The fulcrum was the head of the couch, often ornamented
with the figure of the Genius [guardian spirit] in bronze.
Aemilian bridge offers itself for your use? Or if none
of these modes of exit hit your fancy, think how much
better it is to take some boy-bedfellow, who would
never wrangle with you all night, never ask presents
of you when in bed, and never complain about an inad-
equate performance or order you to pant!
But Ursidius approves of the Julian Law.l He
purposes to bring up a dear little heir, though he will
thereby have to do without the fine turtle-doves, the
bearded mullets, and all the legacy-hunting deli-
cacies of the meat-market. What can you think
impossible if Ursidius takes to himself a wife? if he,
who has long been the most notorious of adulterers,
who has so often found safety in the corn-bin of the
luckless Latinus,2 puts his silly head into the connubial
noose? And what do you think of his searching for
a wife of the good old virtuous sort? O doctors, lance
his over-blooded veins. What a whimsical man! Why,
if you have the good luck to find a chaste spouse, you
should prostrate yourself before the Tarpeian thresh-
old, and sacrifice a heifer with gilded horns to Juno;
so few are the wives worthy to handle the fillets of
Ceres, or from whose kisses their own fathers would
not shrink! Weave a garland for thy doorposts then,
and set up [marriage] wreaths of ivy over thy lintel !
But will Hiberina be satisfied with one man? Sooner
compel her to be satisfied with one eye! You tell me
of the high repute of some maiden, who lives on her
paternal farm: well, let her live at Gabii, at Fidenae,
as she lived in her own country, and I will believe
in your little paternal farm. But will anyone tell me
that nothing ever took place on a mountain side or
in a cave? Have Jupiter and Mars gotten too old?
1 A law to encourage
2 An actor who played the part of a lover in hiding.
Can our arcades show you one woman worthy
of your vows? Do all the tiers in all our theaters
hold one whom you may love without misgiving,
and therefore pick out ? When the soft Bathyllus
dances the part of the gesticulating Leda, Tuccia
cannot contain herself; your Apulian maiden heaves
a sudden and longing yelp of ecstasy, as though she
were in a man's arms; the rustic Thymele is all
attention, it is then that she learns [city ways].
Others again, when the stage draperies have been
put away; when the empty theaters are closed, and
all is silent but the law courts, after the Plebeian 1
games and the Megalesian ones still far off, ease their
sadness by taking to the mask, the thyrsus and the
tights of Accius. Urbicus, in an Atellane comedy,
raises a laugh by mimicing Autonoe; the penniless
Aelia is in love with him. Other women pay great
prices for the favors of a comedian; some will
not allow Chrysogonus 2 to sing. Hispulla has a
fancy for tragedians; but do you suppose that any
will be found to love Quintilian? 3 If you take a wife,
it will be that the lyre player Echion or Glaphyrus,
or the flute player Ambrosius, will become a father.
Then up with a long dais in the narrow street!
Adorn your doors and doorposts with wreaths of
laurel, that your highborn son, O Lentulus, may
exhibit, in his tortoiseshell cradle,4 the features
of Euryalus 5 or of a murmillo! 6
When Eppia, the senator's wife, ran off with a
gladiator 7 to Pharos and the Nile and the ill-famed
1 The Megalesian games began on the 4th of April and
lasted for six days; the Plebeian games took place early in
November. 2 A famous singer [sex was thought bad
for the voice and this fellow was kept so preoccupied....].
3 M. Fabius Quintilianus, the famous Roman rhetorician,
A.D. 40-100. No grave and learned man like Quintilian will
4 The conopeum was properly a mosquito-net; here it
seems to be used for a bassinette or cradle. 5 A gladiator.
6 A murmillo was a gladiator equipped as a Gaulish warrior
in heavy armor. He carried the image of a fish on his crest,
whence the name [Greek] or [Greek].
7 Ludus is properly a gladiatorial school, or a troop of
gladiators. Lagus city [next line down] = Alexandria.
city of Lagus, Canopus itself cried shame
monstrous morals of our town. Forgetful of home,
of husband and of sister, without thought of her
country, she shamelessly abandoned her weeping
children; and--more marvellous still--deserted Paris
and the games. Though born in wealth, though as
a babe she had slept in a bedizened cradle on the
paternal down, she made light of the sea, just as she
had long made light of her good name---a loss but
little accounted of among our soft litter-riding dames.
And so with stout heart she endured the tossing and
the roaring of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas, and all
the many seas she had to cross. For when danger
comes in a right and honorable way, a woman's
heart grows chill with fear and dread, she cannot
stand upon her trembling feet: but if she be doing a
bold, bad thing, her courage fails not. For a husband
to order his wife on board ship is cruelty: the bilge-
water then sickens her, the heavens spin round and
round. But if she is running away with a lover, she
feels no qualms: otherwise she vomits over her hus-
band; now she messes with the sailors, she roams
about the deck, and delights in hauling on hard ropes.
And what were the youthful charms which
captivated Eppia? What did she see in him to
allow herself to be called "a she-Gladiator"? Her
dear Sergius had already begun to scrape his neck;
a wounded arm gave promise of a discharge, and
there was much disfigurement to his face: a scar
caused by the helmet, a huge wen upon his nose,
a nasty injury causing a steadily dripping eye. But
then he was a gladiator! It is this that transforms
these fellows into Hyacinthuses! it was this that she
preferred to children and to country, to sister and to
husband. What these women love is the sword: had
this same Sergius received his discharge, he would
have been no better than a Veiento.1
Do the concerns of a private household and
the doings of Eppia affect you? Then look at those
who rival the Gods,2 and hear what Claudius en-
dured. As soon as his wife perceived that her husband
was asleep, this Royal harlot was shameless enough
to prefer a common mat to the imperial couch.
Donning a night-cowl, and attended by a single
maid, she went forth; then, having concealed her
raven locks under a blonde wig, she took
her place in a brothel reeking with long-used bed-
spreads. Entering an empty cell reserved for herself,
she there took her stand, under the feigned name of
Lycisca, her nipples bare and gilded, and exposed
to view the womb that bore thee, O nobly-born Britan-
nicus! 3 Here she graciously received all comers,
asking from each his fee; and when at length the
keeper dismissed his girls, she remained to the very
last before closing her cell, and with lecherousness
still raging hot within her went sorrowfully away. Then
exhausted by men but unsatisfied, with soiled cheeks,
and begrimed with the smoke of lamps, she took back
to the imperial pillow all the odors of the brothel.
Why tell of love potions and incantations, of
poisons brewed and administered to a stepson, or of
the grosser crimes to which women are driven by
the imperious power of sex? Their sins of lust are
the least of all their sins.
" But tell me why is Censennia, on her hus-
band's testimony, the best of wives?" She brought
him a million sesterces; that is the price at which
he calls her chaste. He has not pined under
1 Probably the husband.
2 In allusion to the deification of the emperors.
3 Messalina [Claudius' wife] was the mother of Britannicus,
b. A.D. 42 [and who died presumably at the order of his step-
mother Agrippina, who was Claudius' wife after Messalina ,
and who wanted her son Nero to inherit the throne in place
Venus' quiver; he was never inflamed by her
torch. It was the dowry that lighted his fires, the
dowry that shot those arrows! That dowry bought
liberty for her: she may openly make what signals,
and write what love letters she pleases; the rich
woman who marries a money-loving husband is
as good as unmarried.
" Why does Sertorius burn with love for
Bibula?" If you shake out the truth, it is the face
that he loves, not the wife. Let three wrinkles
make their appearance; let her skin become dry and
flabby; let her teeth turn black, and her eyes lose
their lustre: then will his freedman give her the
order, "Pack up your traps and be off ! you've be-
come a nuisance; you are forever blowing your
nose; be off, and be quick about it! There's another
wife coming who will not sniffle." But till that day
comes, the lady rules the roast, asking her husband
for shepherds and Canusian sheep, and elms for her
Falernian vines. But that's a mere nothing: she
asks for all his slave-boys, all his chain-gangs;
everything that her neighbour possesses, and that
she doesn't, must be bought. Then in the winter
time, when the merchant Jason is shut out from view,
and his armed sailors are blocked out by the white
booths,1 she will carry off huge crystal vases, vases
bigger still of agate, and finally a diamond of great re-
nown, made precious by the finger of Berenice.2 It
was given as a present long ago by the barbarian
Agrippa to his incestuous sister, in that country where
1 This passage is thus
explained: The lady buys various
articles at the feast of the Sigillaria ( December 17-20), so
called from the statuettes which were then on sale. These
and other articles were set out in canvas booths, which were
built up against certain public buildings so as to screen
them from view. One of these was the Portico of
Agrippa on which there were paintings of the Argonauts.
Thus "the merchant" Jason and his armed sailors were
shut out and could not be seen.
2 Sister to King Agrippa II. ( Acts , xxv. 23).
kings celebrate festal sabbaths with bare feet,1
where a long-established clemency allows pigs to
attain old age.2
" Do you say no worthy wife is to be found
among all these crowds?" Well, let her be hand-
some, charming, rich and fertile; let her have ancient
ancestors ranged about her halls; let her be more
chaste than all the dishevelled Sabine maidens who
stopped the war--a prodigy as rare upon the earth
as a black swan! yet who could endure a wife that
possessed all perfections? I would rather have a
common tart for my wife than you, O Cornelia,
mother of the Gracchi, if, with all your virtues, you
bring me a haughty brow, and reckon up Triumphs
as part of your marriage portion. Away with your
Hannibal, I beseech you! Away with Syphax over-
powered in his camp! Take yourself off, Carthage
" Be merciful, I pray, O Apollo! and thou, O god-
dess, lay down thine arrows. These babes have done
naught: shoot down their mother!" Thus prayed
Amphion;4 but Apollo bends his bow, and Niobe 5
led forth to the grave her troop of sons, and their
father to boot, because she deemed herself nobler in
her offspring than Latona was in hers, and more pro-
lific than the white sow of Alba. For is any dignity in
a wife, any beauty, worth the cost, if she is for ever
reckoning up her merits against you? These high and
transcendent qualities lose all their charm when spoilt
by a pride that has more of [bitter] aloes than of
1 Josephus relates
that Berenice sacrificed at Jerusalem
with dishevelled hair and bare feet.
2 For Jewish abstinence from pork see Tac. Hist . v. 4.
3 Alluding to the exploits of the elder Scipio.
4 Husband of Niobe.
5 Wife of Amphion, king of Thebes. Proud of her seven
sons and seven daughters, she boasted herself against Leto
[Latona], mother of Apollo and Artemis. Indignant at her
presumption, they [Apollo and Artemis ("goddess")] slew
all her children with arrows [the father then committed suicide].
honey. And who was ever so enamoured as not to
shrink from the woman whom he praises to the
skies, and to hate her for seven hours out of every
Some small faults are intolerable to husbands.
What can be more offensive than this, that no woman
believes in her own beauty unless she has converted
herself from a Tuscan into a Greekling, or from a
maid of Sulmo 1 into a true maid of Athens? They
talk nothing but Greek, though it is a greater shame
for our people to be ignorant of Latin. Their fears and
their wrath, their joys and their troubles--all the
secrets of their souls--are poured forth in Greek;
their very loves are carried on in Greek fashion. All
this might be pardoned in a girl; but will you, who
are knocking on your eighty-sixth year, still talk in
Greek? That tongue is not decent in an old woman's
mouth. When you come out with the wanton words
Zoe kai psyche, you are using in public the language
of the bed-chamber. Caressing and naughty words
like these incite to love; but though you say them
more tenderly than a Haemus or a Carpophorus,2
they will cause no fluttering of the heart--your years
are counted upon your face!
If you are not to love the woman betrothed and
united to you in due form, what reason have you
for marrying? Why waste the supper, and the wedding
cakes to be given to the well-filled guests when the
company is slipping away--to say nothing of the first
night's gift of a serving tray rich with glittering gold
inscribed with Dacian or Germanic victories? 3 If you
are simply taken with the idea of a wife, and devoted
to one woman, then bow your head and ready your
neck for the iron yoke. Never will you find a woman
1 Sulmo, in the
Pelignian country, was the birthplace of
Ovid. [Sulmo and Tuscany are in Italy; "Greekling" and
"Greek" are probably comparable to an Englishman saying
"French woman" and "French" 1600 years later.]
2 Names of actors.
3 Alluding to the gold coins ( aurei ) minted by Trajan
in honour of his victories. The aureus was about equal in
metal value to our guinea.
who spares the man who loves her; for though she be
herself aflame, she delights to torment and plunder
him. So the better the man, the more desirable he
be as a husband, the less good by far will he get out
of his wife. No present will you ever make if your
wife forbids; nothing will you ever sell if she objects;
nothing will you buy without her consent. She will
arrange your friendships for you; she will turn your
now-aged friend from the door which saw him
when he first grew a beard. Panderers and gladiators'
trainers can make their wills as they please, and even
the men of the arena; but you will have to write down
among your heirs more than one rival of your own.
"Crucify that slave!" says the wife. "But
what crime worthy of death has he committed?" asks
the husband; "where are the witnesses? who in-
formed against him? Give him a hearing at least; no
delay can be too long when a man's life is at stake!"
"What, you numskull? you call a slave a man, do
you? He has done no wrong, you say? Be it so;
this is my will and my command: let my will be
the voucher for the deed." Thus does she lord it
over her husband. But before long she vacates her
kingdom; she flits from one home to another, wear-
ing out her bridal veil; then back she flies again and
returns to her own imprints in the bed that she has
abandoned, leaving behind her the newly decorated
door, the festal [marriage] hangings on the walls, and
the branches green still over the threshold. Thus does
the tale of her husbands grow; that makes eight of
them in the course of five autumns--a fact worthy
of commemoration on her tomb!
Give up all hope of peace so long as your
mother-in-law is alive. It is she that teaches her
daughter to revel in stripping and despoiling her
husband; it is she that teaches her to reply to a
seducer's love-letters in no unskilled and unaffected
fashion; she eludes or bribes your guards; it is she
that calls in Archigenes l when perfectly healthy, and
tosses about the heavy blankets [as if ill]; the lover
meanwhile is in secret and silent hiding, trembling with
impatience and expectation. Do you really expect the
mother to teach her daughter honest ways--ways
different from her own? Nay, the vile old woman
finds a profit in bringing up her daughter to be vile.
There is hardly ever a case in court in which the
quarrel was not started by a woman. If Manilia is
not a defendant, she'll be the plaintiff; she will her-
self frame and adjust the pleadings; she will be
ready to instruct Celsus 2 himself how to open his
case, and how to urge his points.
Why need I tell of the purple wraps 3 and the
wrestling-mud seen on women? Who has not seen
one of them constantly smiting a stump, cutting it
away with a wooden sword, lunging at it with a shield,
and going through all the proper motions?--a matron
truly qualified to blow a trumpet at the Floralia! 4
Unless, indeed, she is nursing some further ambition
in her bosom, and is practising for the real arena.
What modesty can you expect in a woman who wears
a helmet, abjures her own sex, and delights in feats
of strength? Yet she would not choose to be a man,
knowing the superior joys of womanhood. What a
fine thing for a husband, at an auction of his wife's
effects, to see her belt and armlets and plumes put up
for sale, with a gaiter that covers half the left leg;
or if she fight another sort 5 of battle, how lucky
1 A fashionable doctor
of the day [the daughter goes to
visit her "sick" mother and meets her lover there].
2 Either a jurist or rhetorician.
3 The endromis was a coarse, woollen cloak in which
athletes wrapped themselves after their exercises.
4 Games in honour of Flora (April 28-May 3), at which
much female license was allowed. See Ov. Fast. v. 183-37.
5 i.e. a gladiatorial contest.
you will be to see your young wife selling her
greaves! Yet these are the women who find the
thinnest of thin robes too hot for them; whose deli-
cate flesh is chafed by the finest of silk tissue. See
how she pants as she goes through her prescribed
exercises; how she bends under the weight of her
helmet; how big and coarse are the bandages which
enclose her haunches; and then laugh when she lays
down her arms and shows herself to be a woman!
Tell us, ye grand-daughters of Lepidus, or of the blind
Metellus, or of Fabius Gurges, what gladiator's wife
ever took on get-ups like these? When did the wife
of Asylus 1 ever gasp against a stump?
The bed that holds a wife is never free from
wrangling and mutual bickerings; no sleep is to be
got there! It is there that she sets upon her husband,
more savage than a tigress that has lost her cubs;
conscious of her own guilt, she feigns a grievance,
abusing his boys, or weeping over some imagined
mistress. She has an abundant supply of tears always
ready at their station, always awaiting her command
to flow as told. You, poor worm, are delighted,
believing them to be tears of love, and kiss them away;
but what notes, what love-letters would you find if you
opened the desk of your green-eyed adulterous wife!
If you find her in the arms of a slave or of a knight;
"Speak, speak, Quintilian, give me one of your colors,3 "
she will say. But Quintilian says "I'm stuck. Find it
yourself," says he. "We agreed long ago," says the
lady, "that you were to go your way, and I mine.
You may confound sea and sky with your bellowing,
1 Supposed to be a
2 The famous Roman rhetorician, b. A.D. 44, author of the
3 Color is a technical term in rhetoric, denoting an argu-
ment which puts a favourable or palliative light on some act.
I am a human being after all." There's no effrontery
like that of a woman caught in the act; her very
guilt inspires her wrath and insolence.
But from where come these monstrosities? you ask;
from what fountain do they flow? In days of old, the
wives of Latium were kept chase by their humble
fortunes. It was toil and brief slumbers that kept
vice from polluting their modest homes; hands chafed
and hardened by Tuscan fleeces, Hannibal nearing
the city, and husbands standing to arms at the Colline
tower.1 We are now suffering the calamities of long
peace. Luxury, more deadly than any foe, has laid
her hand upon us, and avenges a conquered world.
Since the day when Roman poverty perished, no
deed of crime or lust has been missing from us; from
hat moment Sybaris and Rhodes and Miletus have
poured in upon our hills along with the begarlanded
and drunken and unabashed Tarentum.2 Filthy lucre
first brought in amongst us detestable foreign ways;
effeminate wealth enervated the age with indecent
soft living. What won't Venus do when she is drunk?
when she knows not head from tail, eats giant oysters
at midnight, pours foaming unguents into her unmixed
Falerian wine, and drinks out of perfume-flasks, while
the roof spins dizzily round, the table dances, and
every light shows double!
Go now and wonder at the sniffing and
mocking look of Tullia, or what is whispered
to her ill-famed foster-sister Maura, when she
passes by the altar of Chastity? 3 It is there that
they set down their litters at night, and befoul the
image of the Goddess, playing their filthy pranks
1 For Hannibal at the
Colline Gate, B.C. 213, see Liv.
2 Duff explains this as a scene in the theatre in Taren-
tum when the people, garlanded in honor of Dionysus,
insulted the Roman ambassador (Dio. Cass. fragm. 145).
3 The ancient Temple Of Pudicitia [Chastity] was in the
for the moon to witness. From there home they go;
while you, when daylight comes, and you are on your
way to visit your mighty friends, will tread upon the
traces of your wife's abominations.
Well known to all are the mysteries of the
Good Goddess, when the flute stirs the loins and the
Maenads of Priapus sweep along, frenzied alike by
the horn-blowing and the wine, whirling their locks
and howling. What foul longings burn within their
breasts! What cries they utter as the passion palpi-
tates within! How drenched their limbs in torrents of
old wine! Saufeia challenges a pimp's slave-girls to
a[n erotic dancing] contest. Her grinding hips wins the
prize, but she has to bow the knee in turn to Medullina.
And so the palm remains with the mistress, whose
exploits match her birth! There is no pretence as in a
game; all is enacted in reality, something that would
warm the cold blood of a old Priam or a Nestor.
And now impatient nature can wait no longer:
woman shows herself as she is, and the cry comes
from every corner of the den, "Now it is right !
Let in the men!" If the lover is asleep, a boy
is ordered to put on his cowl and hurry along;
if better cannot be got, a run is made upon the slaves;
if they too fail, the water-carrier will be paid to come
in T . . . . O would that our ancient practices, or at
least our public rites, were not polluted by scenes like
these! But every Moor and Indian knows who was
the "she"-lutist who brought a yard longer than the two
Anticatos of Caesar into a place from where every
mouse, conscious of his testicles, scuttles away, and in
which every picture portraying the form of the other
[male] sex, however small, is ordered to be veiled.
Who ever sneered at the Gods in the days of
old? Who would have dared to laugh at the earthen-
ware bowls or black pots of Numa, or the brittle
plates made out of Vatican clay? But nowadays at
what altar will you not find a Clodius? 1 High or low
their passions are all the same. She who wears out the
black cobble-stones with her bare feet is no better then
she who rides upon the necks of tall Syrians. T
Ogulnia rents clothes to see the games; she
hires attendants, a litter, cushions, female friends,
a nurse, and a fair-haired girl to run her messages;
yet she will give all that remains of the family silver,
down to the last flagon, to some smooth-faced athlete.
Many of these women are poor, but none of them pay
any regard to their poverty, or measure themselves
by the standard which poverty lays down for them.
Men on the other hand, do sometimes have an eye
to utility; the [industrious] ant has at last taught
some of them to dread cold and hunger. But your
extravagant woman is never sensible of her dwindling
means; and just as though money were forever
sprouting up afresh from her exhausted coffers, and
she had always a full heap to draw from, she never
gives a thought to what her pleasures cost her.
1 Alluding to the
profanation of the mysteries of the Bona
Dea [meant for women only] by Clodius, in B.C. 62, by
appearing in the disguise of a female lutist.
" In whatever house lives one who plays at
teaches obscenity, skilful with the trembling promise
and everything else,T you will find all shameless and
looking like perverts. These fellows violate the
family meals and are permitted to take a place at
the sacred table, vessels are merely washed, and
not shivered to atoms as they should be when drunk
from by a pervert of this kind. So even the director
of a gladiator school has his place better ordered than
yours, for he separates the vile from the decent, and
sequesters even from their fellow-retiarii the wearers
of the ill-famed tunic; in the training-school, and even
in jail, such creatures herd apart; but your wife
condemns you to drink out of the same cup as them,
with whom a ruined blonde prostitute would refuse
to sip the choicest wine. Them do women consult
about whether to enter into, or suddenly leave marriage,
from them are they saved from a listless spirit and somber
life, from them do they learn lascivious motions and what-
ever else the teacher knows. But beware! that teacher
is not always what he seems: true, he darkens his eyes
and dresses like a woman, but adultery is his design.
Mistrust him the more for his show of effeminacy;
he is a valiant mattress-knight; there Triphallus
drops the mask of Thais. Whom are you fooling? 1
not me; play this farce to those who cannot pierce
the masquerade. I wager you are every inch a man;
do you admit it, or must we wring the truth out of
the maid servants?"
I know well the advice and warnings of my old
1 He now addresses the
cinaedus [pervert] himself.
friends--"Put on a lock and keep your wife indoors."
Yes, but who is to ward the warders? They get paid in
kind for holding their tongues as to their young lady's
escapades; participation seals their lips. The wily
wife arranges accordingly and begins with them. . . . T
If your wife is musical, none of those who sell
their voices 1 to the praetor will hold out against her
charms. She is for ever handling musical instru-
ments; her sardonyx rings sparkle thick all over
the tortoise-shell; the quivering quill with which
she runs over the chords will be that with which
the gentle Hedymeles performed; she hugs it,
consoles herself with it, and lavishes kisses on the
dear implement. A certain lady of the lineage of
the Lamiae and the Appii 2 inquired of Janus and
Vesta, with offerings of cake and wine, whether
Pollio could hope for the Capitoline oak-chaplet and
promise victory to his lyre.3 What more could she
have done had her husband been ill, or if the doctors
had been shaking their heads over her dear little
son? There she stood before the altar, thinking it
no shame to veil her head 4 on behalf of a harp player;
she repeated, in due form, all the words prescribed
to her; her cheek blanched when the lamb was
opened. Tell me now, I pray, O father Janus, thou
professionals who sing for hire on public occasions.
2 i.e. of a noble family.
3 A prize of oak-leaves was given at the agon Capitolinus,
instituted by Domitian. Pollio was a player on the cithara.
4 To veil the head was part of the ceremony at a sacrifice.
most ancient of the Gods, dost thou answer such as
she? You have much time on your hands in heaven;
so far as I can see, there is nothing for you Gods to do.
One lady consults you about a comedian, another
wishes to commend to you a tragic actor; the sooth-
sayer will soon be troubled with varicose veins.1
Better, however, that your wife should be
musical than that she should be rushing boldly about
the entire city, attending mens meetings, talking
with unflinching face and dry breasts to Generals in
their military cloaks, with her husband looking on!
This same woman knows what is going on all over
the world: what the Chinese and Thracians are
after, what has passed between the stepmother and
the stepson; she knows who loves whom, what
gallant is the rage; she will tell you who got the
widow with child, and in what month; how every
woman behaves with her lovers, and what she says
to them. She is the first to notice the comet threaten-
ing the kings of Armenia and Parthia; she picks up
the latest rumours at the city gates, and invents some
herself: how the Niphates 2 has burst out upon the
nations, and is inundating entire districts over there;
how cities are tottering and lands subsiding, she tells
to everyone she meets at every street crossing.
No less insufferable is the woman who loves to
catch hold of her poor neighbours, and deaf to their
cries for mercy lays into them with a whip. If her
sound slumbers are disturbed by a barking dog,
"Quick with the rods!" she cries; thrash the
owner first, and then the dog!" She is a formidable
woman to encounter; she is terrible to look at.
1 i.e. with so
much standing about.
2 Properly a mountain; here meant for a river.
She frequents the baths by night; not till night
does she order her oil-flasks and her camp to be
moved; she loves all the commotion and sweat;
when her arms drop exhausted by the heavy [workout]
weights, the anointer passes his hand skilfully
over her body, bringing it down at last with a re-
sounding smack upon the top of her thigh. Mean-
while her unfortunate guests are overcome with sleep
and hunger, till at last she comes in with a flushed face,
and with thirst enough to drink down the vessel con-
taining full three gallons which is laid at her feet, and
from there she tosses off a couple of pints before her
dinner to create a raging appetite; then she brings it
all up again and souses the floor with the washings of
her inside. The stream runs over the marble pave-
ment; the gilt basin reeks of Falernian, for she drinks
and vomits like a big snake that has tumbled into a
vat. The sickened husband closes his eyes and so
keeps down his bile.
But most intolerable of all is the woman who
as soon as she has sat down to dinner commends
Virgil, pardons the dying Dido, and pits the poets
against each other, putting Virgil in the one scale
and Homer in the other. The grammarians make
way before her; the rhetoricians give in; the whole
crowd is silenced: no lawyer, no auctioneer will get
a word in, no, nor any other woman; so torrential
is her speech that you would think that all the pots
and bells were being clashed together. Let no
one else blow a trumpet or clash a cymbal: one
woman will be able to bring succour to the labouring
moon! 1 She lays down definitions, and discourses
on morals, like a philosopher; thirsting to be deemed
both wise and eloquent, she ought to tuck up her
1 Eclipses of the moon
were supposed by the ignorant to be
due to the incantations of witches. To prevent these from
being heard, and so ward off the evil events portended by the
eclipse, it was the custom to create a din by the clashing of
bells, horns and trumpets, etc.
skirts knee-high,1 sacrifice a pig to
take a penny bath 3 [like a man]. Let not the wife of
your bosom possess a special style of her own; let her
not hurl at you in whirling speech the crooked enthy-
meme! Let her not know all history; let there be some
things in her reading which she does not under-
stand. I hate a woman who is for ever consulting
and poring over the "Grammar" of Palaemon,4
who observes all the rules and laws of language, who
like an antiquarian quotes verses that I never heard of,
and corrects her uneducated 5 female friends for slips of
speech that no man need trouble about: let hus-
bands at least be permitted to make slips in grammar!
There is nothing that a woman will not permit
herself to do, nothing that she deems shameful, when
she encircles her neck with green emeralds, and
fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears: there is no-
thing more intolerable than a wealthy woman. Mean-
while she ridiculously puffs out and disfigures her face
with lumps of dough; she reeks of rich Poppaean 6
unguents which stick to the lips of her unfortunate
husband. Her lover she will meet with a clean-
washed skin; but when does she ever care to look
nice at home? It is for her lovers that she provides
the spikenard, for them she buys all the scents which
the slender Indians bring to us. In good time she
discloses her face; she removes the first layer of
plaster, and begins to be recognizable. She then washes
herself with that milk for which she takes a herd
of she-asses in her train if sent away to the Hyper-
1 i.e. wear the short tunic of a man.
2 Only men sacrificed to Silvanus.
3 i.e. bathe in the public baths.
4 A treatise on grammar by Q. Remmius Palaemon, the
most famous grammarian of the early empire.
5 The word Opican is equivalent to Oscan , denoting the
early inhabitants of Campania. It is used here as equivalent
6 Cosmetics, called after Nero's wife Poppaea.
borean pole. But when she has been coated over
and treated with all those layers of medicaments,
and had those lumps of moist dough applied to it,
shall we call it a face or a sore?
It is well worth while to ascertain how these
ladies busy themselves all day. If the husband has
turned his back upon his wife at night, the wool
maid is done for; the valet girls will be stripped of
their tunics; the Liburnian litter-man will be accused
of coming late, and will have to pay for another
man's 1 drowsiness; one will have a rod broken over
his back, another will be bleeding from a whip, a
third from a strap; some women engage their tor-
turers by the year. While the flogging goes on,
the lady will be daubing her face, or listening to
her lady-friends, or inspecting the widths of a gold-
embroidered robe. While thus flogging and flog-
ging,2 she rereads across the lengthy Gazette,3 T
till at last, the floggers being exhausted, and the
inquisition ended, she thunders out a gruff "Be
off with you!"
Her household is governed as cruelly as a Sici-
lian Court.4 If she has an appointment and wishes
to be turned out more nicely than usual, and is in
a hurry to meet some one waiting for her in the
gardens, or more likely near the chapel of the
wanton Isis, the unhappy maid that does her hair
will have her own hair torn, and the clothes stripped
off her shoulders and her breasts. "Why is this curl
standing up?" she asks, and then down comes a
thong of bull's hide to inflict chastisement for the
offending ringlet. Pray how was Psecas in fault?
How would the girl be to blame if you happened
. the husband's.
2 The text reads as if flogging was done by the lady
herself. But it was evidently done for her by slaves.
3 Books were usually written lengthwise on the roll; but
it seems that the acta diurna , here mentioned, were written
4 In allusion to Phalaris, tyrant of Agrigentum.
not to like the shape of your own nose? Another
maid on the left side combs out the hair and rolls it
into a coil; a maid of her mother's, who has served
her time at sewing, and has been promoted to the
wool department, assists at the council. She is the
first to give her opinion; after her, her inferiors in
age or skill will give theirs, as though some question
of life or honour were at stake. So important is the
business of beautification; so numerous are the tiers
and storeys piled one upon another on her head!
In front, you would take her for an Andromache;l
she is not so tall behind: you would not think it
was the same person. What if nature has made her
so short of stature that, if unaided by high heels,
she looks no bigger than a pigmy, and has to rise
nimbly on tip-toe for a kiss! Meantime she pays no
attention to her husband; she never speaks of what
she costs him. She lives with him as if she were
only his neighbour; in this alone more near to him,
that she hates his friends and his slaves, and plays
the mischief with his money.
And now, behold! in comes the chorus of the
frantic Bellona and the Mother of the Gods, attended
by a giant eunuch 2 to whom his obscene inferiors
must do reverence. . . T Before him the howling herd
with the timbrels give way; his plebeian cheeks are
covered with a Phrygian tiara. With solemn utter-
ance he bids the lady to beware the coming of the
September Siroccos if she does not purify herself
with a hundred eggs, and present him with some old
mulberry-coloured garments in order that any great
and unforeseen calamity approaching may pass into
the clothes, and make expiation for the entire year.
In winter she will go down to the river in the morning,
1 Hector's wife Andromache must be tall, as living in the
2 [Reference to Cybele and one of her eunuch priests].
break the ice, and plunge three times into the Tiber,
dipping her trembling head right into its whirling
waters, and crawling out thence naked and shivering,
she will creep with bleeding knees right across the
field 1 of Tarquin the Proud. If the white Io 2 shall so
order, she will journey to the confines of Egypt, and
fetch water gotten from hot Meroe 3 with which to
sprinkle the Temple of Isis which stands hard by the
ancient sheepfold.4 For she believes that the com-
mand was given by the voice of the Goddess herself--
a pretty kind of mind and spirit for the Gods to have
converse with by night! Hence the chief and highest
place of honour is awarded to Anubis,5 who, with his
linen-clad and bald crew, mocks at the weeping of the
people as he runs along.6 He it is that obtains pardon
for wives who break the law of purity on days that
should be kept holy, and exacts huge penalties
when the coverlet has been profaned, or when the
silver serpent has been seen to nod his head. His
tears and carefully-studied mutterings make sure
that Osiris will not refuse a pardon for the fault,
bribed, no doubt, by a fat goose and a slice of
No sooner has that fellow departed than a
palsied Jewess, leaving her basket and her truss of
hay,7 comes begging to her secret ear; she is an in-
terpreter of the laws of Jerusalem, a high priestess
of the tree,8 a trusty go-between of highest heaven.
She, too, fills her palm, but more sparingly, for a
Jew will tell you dreams of any kind you please for
the minutest of coins.
the Campus Martius.
2 Apparently here identified with Isis. Io was changed
into a white cow by Juno out of jealousy.
3 An island formed by the waters of the Nile. See xiii. 163.
4 The Temple of Isis was in the Campus Martius near the
polling-booth ( saepta ) here called ovile.
5 A god of the dead; he attended on Isis, and is repre-
sented with the head of a dog.
6 The priest who impersonates Anubis laughs at the people
when they lament Osiris.
7 See iii. 14: Iudaei quorum cophinis faenumque supellex.
8 Jews were allowed to camp out under trees as gipsies do
in our own country. See iii. 15, 16.
An Armenian or Commagenian sooth-sayer,
after examining the lungs of a dove that is still
warm, will promise a youthful lover, or a big bequest
from some rich and childless man; he will probe
the breast of a chicken, or the entrails of a puppy,
sometimes even of a boy; some things he will do
with the intention of informing against them himself.
Still more trusted are the Chaldaeans; every
word uttered by the astrologer they will believe has
come from Hammon's fountain, for now that the Del-
phian oracles are dumb, man is condemned to dark-
ness as to his future. Chief among these was one 1 who
was oft in exile, through whose friendship and venal
ticket of prophecy the great citizen 2 died whom Otho
feared. For nowadays no astrologer has credit unless
he have been imprisoned in some distant camp, with
chains clanking on either arm; none believe in his
powers unless he has been condemned and all but put
to death, having just contrived to get deported to a
Cyclad [island], or to escape at last from the diminutive
Your excellent Tanaquil 4 consults as to the
long-delayed death of her jaundiced mother--having
previously enquired about your own; she will ask
when she may expect to bury her sister, or her
uncles; and whether her lover will outlive herself--
what greater boon could the Gods bestow upon her?
And yet your Tanaquil does not herself understand
the gloomy threats of Saturn, or under what constella-
tion Venus will show herself propitious, which months
will be months of losses, which of gains; but beware
to Tac. Hist. i. 22 the name of Otho's astro-
loger was Ptolemy.
2 The emperor Galba.
3 One of the smaller Cyclades ( Serpho ), a well-known place
4 i.e . his wife. Tanaquil was the wife of Tarquinius Priscus
( perita caelestium prodigiorum , Liv. i. 34).
of ever encountering one whom you see clutching a
well-worn calendar in her hands as if it were a ball
of clammy amber;1 one who inquires of none, but is
now herself inquired of; one who, if her husband is
going forth to camp, or returning home from abroad,
will not accompany him if the numbers of Thrasyl-
lus 2 call her back. If she wants to drive as far as
the first mile-stone [from Rome], she finds the right hour
from her book; if there is an itch when she rubs a corner
of her eye, she will not call for a salve until she has
consulted her horoscope: and if she be ill in bed,
deems no hour as suitable for taking food as that
prescribed to her by Petosiris.3
If the woman be of humble rank, she will pro-
menade between the turning-posts 4 of the Circus;
she will have her fortune told, and will present her
brow and her hand to the seer who asks for many
an approving smack.5 Wealthy women will pay for
answers from a Phrygian or Indian augur well
skilled in the stars and the heavens, or one of the
elders employed to expiate thunderbolts.6 Plebeian
destinies are determined in the Circus or on the
ramparts:7 the woman 8 who displays a long gold
chain on her bare neck inquires before the pillars
and the columns of dolphins whether she shall
throw over the tavern-keeper and marry the old-
These poor women, however, endure the perils
of child-birth, and all the troubles of nursing to
which their lot condemns them; but how often
1 Roman ladies carried
balls of amber in their hands, either
as a scent or for warmth [or to keep their hands cool and dry?].
2 The favorite astrologer of Tiberius.
3 An ancient Egyptian astrologer.
4 The metae were the turning-posts at each end of the low
wall ( spina ) round which the chariots had to turn. Each meta
consisted of a group of conical pillars with dolphins on them.
5 Poppysma is a smacking sound made by the lips; it was
apparently a sign of approval and satisfaction. These
sounds are made by the consulting party.
6 By burying (condere) what had been struck.
7 The famous rampart of Servius Tullius.
8 Apparently alluding to a low class of women.
does a gilded bed contain a woman that is lying in?
So great is the skill, so powerful the drugs, of the
abortionist, paid to murder mankind within the womb.
Rejoice, poor wretch; give her the stuff to drink
whatever it be, with your own hand: for were she
willing to get big and trouble her womb with
bouncing babes, you might perhaps find yourself the
father of an Ethiopian; and some day a coloured
heir, whom you would rather not meet by daylight,
would fill all the places in your will.
I say nothing of supposititious children, of the
hopes and prayers so often cheated at those filthy
pools 1 from which are supplied Priests and Salii,2
with bodies that will falsely bear the name of
Scauri. There Fortune shamelessly takes her stand
by night, smiling on the naked babes; she fondles
them all and folds them in her bosom, and then,
to provide herself with a secret comedy, she sends
them forth to the houses of the great. These are
the children that she loves, on these she lavishes
herself, and with a laugh brings them always for-
ward as her own nurslings.
One man supplies magical spells; another sells
Thessalian 3 charms by which a wife may upset
her husband's mind, and lather his buttocks with
a slipper; thence come loss of reason, and dark-
ness of soul, and blank forgetfulness of all that
you did but yesterday. Yet even that can be en-
dured, if only you become not raving mad like
that uncle 4 of Nero's into whose drink Caesonia
poured the whole brow of a weakly foal;5 and what
1 These were pools or
reservoirs in which infants were
exposed [usually this means left to die but given the public nature
of the place and likelihood of being found ...] Fortune delights
in spiriting these foundlings into the houses of the great.
2 The priest of Mars, recruited from noble families.
3 Thessaly was famous for witches and the magic art.
The husband here is made mad by a love-potion.
4 The emperor Caligula. His wife Caesonia was said to
have made him mad by a love-philtre.
5 Alluding to the hippomanes , an excrescence on the head
of a young foal, which was used in love-potions.
woman will not follow when an Empress leads the
way? The whole world was ablaze then and falling
down in ruin just as if Juno had made her husband
mad. Less guilty therefore will Agrippina's mush-
room 1 be deemed, seeing that it only stopped the
breath of one old man, and sent down his palsied
head and slobbering lips to heaven, whereas the
other potion demanded fire and sword and torture,
mingling Knights and Senators in one mangled
bleeding heap. Such was the cost of one mare's
offspring; and of one she-poisoner.
A wife hates the children of a concubine; let
none object or forbid, seeing that it has long been
deemed right and proper to slay a stepson. But I
warn you wards--you that have a good estate--keep
watch over your lives; trust not a single dish: those
hot pastries are black with poison of a mother's
baking. Whatever is offered you by the mother,
let someone taste it first; let your trembling tutor
take the first taste of every cup.
Now think you that all this is a fancy tale, and
that our Satire is taking to herself the high heels
of tragedy? Think you that I have out-stepped
the limits and the laws of those before me, and am
mouthing in Sophoclean tones a grand theme un-
known to the Rutulian hills and the skies of Latium?
Would indeed that my words were idle! But here is
Pontia proclaiming "I did the deed; I gave aconite,
I confess it, to my own children; the crime was
detected, and is known to all; yes, with my own
hands I did it." "What, you most savage of vipers?
you killed two, did you, two, at a single meal?"
"Aye, and seven too, had there chanced to be seven
to kill !"
1 Agrippina the younger
murdered her husband, the Em-
peror Claudius, by a dish of mushrooms (Tac. Ann . xii. 57,
Suet. 44). See v. 147.
Let us believe all that Tragedy tells
us of the
savage Colchian 1 and of Procne;2 I seek not to
contradict her. Those women were monsters of wicked-
ness in their day; but it was not for money that
they sinned. We marvel less at great crimes when
it is wrath that incites the sex to the guilty deed,
when burning passion carries them headlong, like
a rock torn from a mountain side, when the ground
beneath gives way, and the overhanging slopes of
the hillside fall in. I cannot endure the woman who
calculates, and commits a great crime in her sober
senses. Our wives look on at Alcestis undergoing her
husband's fate; if they were granted a like liberty of
exchange, they would gladly let the husband die to save
a puppy-dog's life. You will meet a daughter of
Belus 3 or an Eriphyle every morning: no street but
has its Clytemnestra.4 The only difference is this:
the daughter of Tyndareus 5 wielded in her two
hands a clumsy two-headed axe, whereas nowadays
a slice of a toad's lung will do the business. Yet it
may be done by steel as well, if the wary husband, son 6
of Atreus, has beforehand tasted the medicaments
of the thrice-conquered king of Pontus.7
2 Procne, daughter of Pandion, king of Athens, revenged
herself on her husband, Tereus, by serving up to him the
flesh of his son Itys. She was turned into a swallow.
3 Belus was daughter of Daneus; hence Danaids = Belides.
4 The Danaids (daughters of Danaus), Eriphyle and
Clytemnestra, both killed their husbands.
5 Clytemnestra was daughter of Tyndareus.
6 Agamemmnon, murdered by his wife Clytemnestra.
7 Mithridates, who was said to have secured himself against
poisoning by prophylactics.
"Born in Egypt , he came to Rome in the reign of Domitian, where his skills as a pantomimus won him popular favour, noblewomen as lovers, influence within the imperial court and the power to promote his favourites within the court. That influence would seem to be demonstrated by the story of Juvenal's banishment to Egypt for attacking Paris
His affair with Domitian's wife Domitia Longina led Domitian to divorce her and murder Paris, and even to kill one of Paris's pupils merely for looking like Paris and ordinary people for mourning Paris's death by placing flowers and perfumes on the site where he was murdered. 
Martial composed epithet xi.13 in Paris's honour, calling him "sales Nili" (wit of the Nile) and "Romani decus et dolor theatri" (ornament and grief of the Roman theatre-world). He is also recorded in Juv. vi. 82-87  and was the subject of Philip Massinger's play The Roman Actor.
"(Suphax). A king of the Massaesylians, the westernmost tribe of the Numidians. His history is related in the life of his contemporary and rival, Masinissa . Syphax was taken prisoner by Masinissa, B.C. 203, and was sent by Scipio , under the charge of Laelius, to Rome, where he died shortly after." Peckgoddess : Artemis
"An Italian goddess of the hearth, and more especially of the fire
the hearth, both in name and in nature akin to the Greek Hestia (q.v.),
worshipped by the Italian nations, particularly by the Latins, from
times independently of any connection with Greece. It has been shown
the worship of Vesta had its origin in the difficulty and the necessity
of obtaining fire in primitive times. Hence, as even in the present
among savage tribes, arose the custom of keeping a fire always alight
for the use of the community and of carrying fire thence for any new
This custom was preserved by the conservatism of religion among
Greeks and Romans, after the necessity had ceased to exist, and the
was preserved in each Latin State, just as in Greece in the Prytanea;
in like fashion an outgoing settlement carried its sacred fire from the
parent city. It was natural that from these observances the sacred
should become personified as a goddess (Ovid, Fast.vi. 291) who
presided over the hearth of each house, and in the State-hearth or
of Vesta over the whole commonwealth. Vesta was thus intimately
with the Penates as deities of the household and of the State (see
); and the fact that the sacred fire was brought from the parent city
the Romans trace back the origin of the cult to the more ancient Latin
first to Lanuvium
It is no doubt right to assume that the Vestals represented the
daughters of the chief in the primitive tribe, who maintained the
State-fire in their father's hut. When Vesta was recognized as a
personal deity it became necessary that the priestesses should dwell in
a sort of nunnery, and that the goddess should have a separate temple;
but this Aedes Vestae preserved the shape
of the primitive chief's hut, and was a round building (see
under Roma). The public worship of Vesta was maintained in this temple:
private worship belonged to every domestic hearth --in the earliest
Roman houses in the
"or Hammon (Egyptian Amun,
the hidden or veiled
god native to Libya and Upper Egypt . He was represented sometimes in
shape of a ram with enormous curving horns, sometimes in that of a
man, sometimes as a perfect man standing up or sitting on a throne. On
head were the royal emblems, with two high feathers standing up, the
of sovereignty over the upper and under worlds; in his hands were the
sceptre and the sign of life. In works of art his figure is coloured
blue. Beside him is usually placed Muth (the “mother,” the “queen of
darkness,” as the inscriptions call her), wearing