3.2 – Read Juvenal
- Read the following excerpt from Satire 1 by Juvenal.
- Write a short essay or discuss with your instructor the following question: How does Juvenal credit the idol of wealth as Rome’s fall into vice?
SELECTION: Excerpt from Satire 1 by Juvenal, translated by G. G. Ramsay
From the day when the rain-clouds lifted up the waters, and Deucalion climbed that mountain in his ship to seek an oracle—that day when stones grew soft and warm with life, and Pyrrha showed maidens in nature’s garb to men—all the doings of mankind, their vows, their fears, their angers and their pleasures, their joys and goings to and fro, shall form the motley subject of my page. For when was Vice more rampant? When did the maw of Avarice gape wider? When was gambling so reckless? Men come not now with purses to the hazard of the gaming table, but with a treasure-chest beside them. What battles will you there see waged with a cashier for an armor-bearer! Is it a simple form of madness to lose a hundred thousand sesterces, and not have a shirt to give to a shivering slave? Which of our grandfathers built such numbers of villas, or dined by himself off seven courses? Look now at the meager dole set down upon the threshold for a toga-clad mob to scramble for! Yet the patron first peers into your face, fearing that you may be claiming under someone else’s name: once recognised, you will get your share. He then bids the crier call up the Trojan-blooded nobles—for they too besiege the door as well as we: “The Praetor first,” says he, “and after him the Tribune.” “But I was here first,” says a freedman who stops the way; “why should I be afraid, or hesitate to keep my place? Though born on the Euphrates—a fact which the little windows in my ears would testify though I myself denied it—yet I am the owner of five shops which bring me in four hundred thousand sesterces. What better thing does the Broad Purple bestow if a Corvinus herds sheep for daily wage in the Laurentian country, while I possess more property than either a Pallas or a Licinus?” So let the Tribunes await their turn; let money carry the day; let the sacred office give way to one who came but yesterday with whitened feet into our city. For no deity is held in such reverence amongst us as Wealth; though as yet, O baneful money, thou hast no temple of thine own; not yet have we reared altars to Money in like manner as we worship Peace and Honor, Victory and Virtue, or that Concord that clatters when we salute her nest.
If then the great officers of state reckon up at the end of the year how much the dole brings in, how much it adds to their income, what shall we dependants do who, out of the self same dole, have to find ourselves in coats and shoes, in bread and smoke at home? A mob of litters comes in quest of the hundred farthings; here is a husband going the round, followed by a sickly or pregnant wife; another, by a clever and well-known trick, claims for a wife that is not there, pointing, in her stead, to a closed and empty chair: “My Galla’s in there,” says he; “let us off quick, will you not?” “Galla, put out your head!” “Don’t disturb her, she’s asleep!”
The day itself is marked out by a fine round of business. First comes the dole; then the courts, and Apollo learned in the law, and those triumphal statues among which some Egyptian Arabarch or other has dared to set up his titles; against whose statue more than one kind of nuisance may be committed! Wearied and hopeless, the old clients leave the door, though the last hope that a man relinquishes is that of a dinner; the poor wretches must buy their cabbage and their fuel. Meanwhile their lordly patron will be devouring the choicest products of wood and sea, lying alone upon an empty couch; yes, at a single meal from their many fine large and antique tables they devour whole fortunes. Ere long no parasites will be left! Who can bear to see luxury so mean? What a huge gullet to have a whole boar—an animal created for conviviality—served up to it! But you will soon pay for it, my friend, when you take off your clothes, and with distended stomach carry your peacock into the bath undigested! Hence a sudden death, and an intestate old age; the new and merry tale runs the round of every dinner-table, and the corpse is carried forth to burial amid the cheers of enraged friends!
To these ways of ours Posterity will have nothing to add; our grandchildren will do the same things, any desire the same things, that we do. All vice is at its acme…