Juvenal: Satire 1 Latin | Satire 1 English | Satire 1
Juvenal: Satire 2 Latin | Satire 2 English | Satire 2
Juvenal: Satire 3 Latin | Satire 3
English | Satire 3 English/Latin
QUID ROMAE FACIAM?
THOUGH put out by the departure of my old friend, I commend his purpose to fix his home
at Cumae, and to present one citizen to the Sibyl. That is the gate of Baiae, a sweet
retreat upon a pleasant shore; I myself would prefer even Prochyta to the Subura!
For where has one ever seen a place so dismal and so lonely that one would not deem it
worse to live in perpetual dread of fires and falling houses, and the thousand perils of
this terrible city, and poets spouting in the month of August!
10 But while all his goods and chattels were being packed upon a single wagon, my
friend halted at the dripping archway of the old Porta Capena. Here Numa held his
nightly assignations with his mistress; but now the holy fount and grove and shrine are
let out to Jews, who possess a basket and a truss of hay for all their furnishings. For as
every tree nowadays has to pay toll to the people, the Muses have been ejected, and the
wood has to go a-begging. We go down to the Valley of Egeria, and into the caves so unlike
to nature: how much more near to us would be the spirit of the fountain if its waters were
fringed by a green border of grass, and there were no marble to outrage the native tufa!
21 Here spoke Umbricius:- "Since there is no room," quoth he, "for
honest callings in this city, no reward for labour; since my means are less to-day than
they were yesterday, and to-morrow will rub off something from the little that is left, I
purpose to go to the place where Daedalus put off his weary wings while my white hairs are
recent, while my old age is erect and fresh, while Lachesis has something left to spin,
and I can support myself on my own feet without slipping a staff beneath my hand. Farewell
my country! Let Artorius live there, and Catulus; let those remain who turn black into
white, to whom it comes easy to take contracts for temples, rivers or harbours, for
draining floods, or carrying corpses to the pyre, or to put up slaves for sale under the
authority of the spear. These men once were horn-blowers, who went the round of every
provincial show, and whose puffed-out cheeks were known in every village; to-day they hold
shows of their own, and win applause by slaying whomsoever the mob with a turn of the
thumb bids them slay; from that they go back to contract for cesspools, and why not for
any kind of thing, seeing that they are of the kind that Fortune raises from the gutter to
the mighty places of earth whenever she wishes to enjoy a laugh?
41 "What can I do at Rome? I cannot lie; if a book is bad, I cannot praise it, and
beg for a copy; I am ignorant of the movements of the stars; I cannot, and will not,
promise to a man his father's death; I have never examined the entrails of a frog; I must
leave it to others to carry to a bride the presents and messages of a paramour. No man
will get my help in robbery, and therefore no governor will take me on his staff: I am
treated as a maimed and useless trunk that has lost the power of its hands. What man wins
favour nowadays unless he be an accomplice-one whose soul seethes and burns with secrets
that must never be disclosed? No one who has imparted to you an innocent secret thinks he
owes you anything, or will ever bestow on you a favour; the man whom Verres loves is the
man who can impeach Verres at any moment that he chooses. Ah! Let not all the sands of the
shaded Tagus, and the gold which it rolls into the sea, be so precious in your eyes that
you should lose your sleep, and accept gifts, to your sorrow, which you must one day lay
down, and be for ever a terror to your mighty friend!
58 "And now let me speak at once of the race which is most dear to our rich men,
and which I avoid above all others; no shyness shall stand in my way. I cannot abide,
Quirites, a Rome of Greeks; and yet what fraction of our dregs comes from Greece? The
Syrian Orontes has long since poured into the Tiber, bringing with it its lingo and its
manners, its flutes and its slanting harp-strings; bringing too the timbrels of the
breed, and the trulls who are bidden ply their trade at the Circus. Out upon you, all ye
that delight in foreign strumpets with painted headdresses! Your country clown, Quirinus,
now trips to dinner in Greek-fangled slippers, and wears niceterian ornaments
upon a ceromatic neck! One comes from lofty Sicyon, another from Amydon or
Andros, others from Samos, Tralles or Alabanda; all making for the Esquiline, or for the
hill that takes its name from osier-beds; all ready to worm their way into the houses
of the great and become their masters. Quick of wit and of unbounded impudence, they are
as ready of speech as Isaeus, and more torrential. Say, what do you think that fellow
there to be? He has brought with him any character you please; grammarian, orator,
geometrician; painter, trainer, or rope-dancer; augur, doctor or astrologer:-
'All sciences a fasting monsieur knows,
And bid him go to Hell, to Hell he goes! ' 
In fine, the man who took to himself wings was not a Moor, nor a Sarmatian, nor a
Thracian, but one born in the very heart of Athens!
81 "Must I not make my escape from purple-clad gentry like these? Is a man to sign
his name before me, and recline upon a couch better than mine, who has been wafted to Rome
by the wind which brings us our damsons and our figs? Is it to go so utterly for nothing
that as a babe I drank in the air of the Aventine, and was nurtured on the Sabine berry?
86 "What of this again, that these people are experts in flattery, and will
commend the talk of an illiterate, or the beauty of a deformed, friend, and compare the
scraggy neck of some weakling to the brawny throat of Hercules when holding up Antaeus
high above the earth; or go into ecstasies over a squeaky voice not more melodious than
that of a cock when he pecks his spouse the hen? We, no doubt, can praise the same things
that they do; but what they say is believed. Could any actor do better when he plays the
part of Thais, or of a matron, or of a Greek slave-girl without her pallium? You would
never think that it was a masked actor that was speaking, but a very woman, complete in
all her parts. Yet, in their own country, neither Antiochus nor Stratocles,
neither Demetrius  nor the delicate Haemus, will be applauded: they are a nation
of play-actors. If you smile, your Greek will split his sides with laughter; if he sees
his friend drop a tear, he weeps, though without grieving; if you call for a bit of fire
in winter-time, he puts on his cloak; if you say 'I am hot,' he breaks into a sweat. Thus
we are not upon a level, he and I; he has always the best of it, being ready at any
moment, by night or by day, to take his expression from another man's face, to throw up
his hands and applaud if his friend gives a good belch or piddles straight, or if his
golden basin make a gurgle when turned upside down.
109 "Besides all this, there is nothing sacred to his lusts: not the matron of the
family, nor the maiden daughter, not the as yet unbearded son-in-law to be, not even the
as yet unpolluted son; if none of these be there, he will debauch his friend's
grandmother. These men want to discover the secrets of the family, and so make themselves
feared. And now that I am speaking of the Greeks, pass over the schools, and hear of a
crime of a larger philosophical cloak; the old Stoic who informed against and slew his
own friend and disciple Barea was born on that river bank where the Gorgon's
winged steed fell to earth. No: there is no room for any Roman here, where some
Protogenes, or Diphilus, or Hermarchus rules the roast--one who by a defect of his race
never shares a friend, but keeps him all to himself. For when once he has dropped into a
facile ear one particle of his own and his country's poison, I am thrust from the door,
and all my long years of servitude go for nothing. Nowhere is it so easy as at Rome to
throw an old client overboard.
I26 "And besides, not to flatter ourselves, what value is there in a poor man's
serving here in Rome, even if he be at pains to hurry along in his toga before daylight,
seeing that the praetor is bidding the lictor to go full speed lest his colleague should
be the first to salute the childless ladies Albina and Modia, who have long ago been
awake? Here in Rome the son of free-born parents has to give the wall to some rich man's
slave; for that other will give as much as the whole pay of a legionary tribune to enjoy
the chance favours of a Calvina or a Catiena, while you, when the face of some
gay-decked harlot takes your fancy, scarce venture to hand Chione down from her lofty
chair. At Rome you may produce a witness as unimpeachable as the host of the Idaean
Goddess.--Numa himself might present himself, or he who rescued the trembling Minerva
from the blazing shrine--the first question asked will be as to his wealth, the last
about his character: 'how many slaves does he keep?' 'how many acres does he own?' 'how
big and how many are his dessert dishes?' A man's word is believed in exact proportion to
the amount of cash which he keeps in his strong-box. Though he swear by all the altars of
Samothrace or of Rome, the poor man is believed to care naught for Gods and thunderbolts,
the Gods themselves forgiving him.
145 'And what of this, that the poor man gives food and occasion for jest if his cloak
be torn and dirty; if his toga be a little soiled; if one of his shoes gapes where the
leather is split, or if some fresh stitches of coarse thread reveal where not one, but
many a rent has been patched? Of all the woes of luckless poverty none is harder to endure
than this, that it exposes men to ridicule. 'Out you go! for very shame,' says the
marshal; 'out of the Knights' stalls, all of you whose means do not satisfy the law.' Here
let the sons of panders, born in any brothel, take their seats; here let the spruce son of
an auctioneer clap his hands, with the smart sons of a gladiator on one side of him and
the young gentlemen of a trainer on the other: such was the will of the numskull Otho who
assigned to each of us his place. Who ever was approved as a son-in-law if he was
short of cash, and no match for the money-bags of the young lady? What poor man ever gets
a legacy, or is appointed assessor to an aedile? Romans without money should have marched
out in a body long ago!
164 "It is no easy matter, anywhere, for a man to rise when poverty stands in the
way of his merits: but nowhere is the effort harder than in Rome, where you must pay a big
rent for a wretched lodging, a big sum to fill the bellies of your slaves, and buy a
frugal dinner for yourself. You are ashamed to dine off delf; but you would see no shame
in it if transported suddenly to a Marsian or Sabine table, where you would be pleased
enough to wear a cape of coarse Venetian blue.
171 "There are many parts of Italy, to tell the truth, in which no man puts on a
toga until he is dead. Even on days of festival, when a brave show is made in a theatre of
turf, and when the well-known afterpiece steps once more upon the boards; when the rustic
babe on its mother's breast shrinks back affrighted at the gaping of the pallid masks, you
will see stalls and populace all dressed alike, and the worshipful aediles content with
white tunics as vesture for their high office. In Rome, every one dresses smartly, above
his means, and sometimes something more than what is enough is taken out of another man's
pocket. This failing is universal here: we all live in a state of pretentious poverty. To
put it shortly, nothing can be had in Rome for nothing. How much does it cost you to be
able now and then to make your bow to Cossus? Or to be vouchsafed one glance, with lip
firmly closed, from Veiento? One of these great men is cutting off his beard; another is
dedicating the locks of a favourite; the house is full of cakes--which you will have to
pay for. Take your cake, and let this thought rankle in your heart: we clients are
compelled to pay tribute and add to a sleek menial's perquisites.
190 "Who at cool Praeneste, or at Volsinii amid its leafy hills, was ever afraid
of his house tumbling down? Who in modest Gabii, or on the sloping heights of Tivoli? But
here we inhabit a city supported for the most part by slender props: for that is how
the bailiff holds up the tottering house, patches up gaping cracks in the old wall,
bidding the inmates sleep at ease under a roof ready to tumble about their ears. No, no, I
must live where there are no fires, no nightly alarms. Ucalegon below is already
shouting for water and shifting his chattels; smoke is pouring out of your third-floor
attic, but you know nothing of it; for if the alarm begins in the ground-floor, the last
man to burn will be he who has nothing to shelter him from the rain but the tiles, where
the gentle doves lay their eggs. Codrus possessed a bed too small for the dwarf Procula, a
sideboard adorned by six pipkins, with a small drinking cup, and a recumbent Chiron below,
and an old chest containing Greek books whose divine lays were being gnawed by unlettered
mice. Poor Codrus had nothing, it is true: but he lost that nothing, which was his all;
and the last straw in his heap of misery is this, that though he is destitute and begging
for a bite, no one will help him with a meal, no one offer him lodging or shelter.
212 "But if the grand house of Asturicus be destroyed, the matrons go dishevelled,
your great men put on mourning, the praetor adjourns his court: then indeed do we deplore
the calamities of the city, and bewail its fires! Before the house has ceased to burn, up
comes one with a gift of marble or of building materials, another offers nude and
glistening statues, a third some notable work of Euphranor or Polyclitus, or bronzes
that had been the glory of old Asian shrines. Others will offer books and bookcases, or a
bust of Minerva, or a hundredweight of silver-plate. Thus does Persicus, that most
sumptuous of childless men, replace what he has lost with more and better things, and with
good reason incurs the suspicion of having set his own house on fire.
223 "If you can tear yourself away from the games of the Circus, you can buy an
excellent house at Sora, at Fabrateria or Frusino, for what you now pay in Rome to rent a
dark garret for one year. And you will there have a little garden, with a shallow well
from which you can easily draw water, without need of a rope, to bedew your weakly plants.
There make your abode, a friend of the mattock, tending a trim garden fit to feast a
hundred Pythagoreans. It is something, in whatever spot, however remote, to have
become the possessor of a single lizard!
232 "Most sick people here in Rome perish for want of sleep, the illness itself
having been produced by food lying undigested on a fevered stomach. For what sleep is
possible in a lodging? Who but the wealthy get sleep in Rome? There lies the root of the
disorder. The crossing of wagons in the narrow winding streets, the slanging of drovers
when brought to a stand, would make sleep impossible for a Drusus--or a sea-calf. When
the rich man has a call of social duty, the mob makes way for him as he is borne swiftly
over their heads in a huge Liburnian car. He writes or reads or sleeps inside as he goes
along, for the closed window of the litter induces slumber. Yet he will arrive before us;
hurry as we may, we are blocked by a surging crowd in front, and by a dense mass of people
pressing in on us from behind: one man digs an elbow into me, another a hard sedan-pole;
one bangs a beam, another a wine-cask, against my head. My legs are beplastered with mud;
soon huge feet trample on me from every side, and a soldier plants his hobnails firmly on
249 "See now the smoke rising from that crowd which hurries as if to a dole: there
are a hundred guests, each followed by a kitchener of his own. Corbulo himself
could scarce bear the weight of all the big vessels and other gear which that poor little
slave is carrying with head erect, fanning the flame as he runs along. Newly-patched
tunics are torn in two; up comes a huge fir-log swaying on a wagon, and then a second dray
carrying a whole pine-tree; they tower aloft and threaten the people. For if that axle
with its load of Ligurian marble breaks down, and pours an overturned mountain on to the
crowd, what is left of their bodies? Who can identify the limbs, who the bones? 'The poor
man's crushed corpse wholly disappears, just like his soul. At home meanwhile the folk,
unwitting, are washing the dishes, blowing up the fire with distended cheek, clattering
over the greasy flesh-scrapers, filling the oil-flasks and laying out the towels. And
while each of them is thus busy over his own task, their master is already sitting, a new
arrival, upon the bank, and shuddering at the grim ferryman: he has no copper in his mouth
to tender for his fare, and no hope of a passage over the murky flood, poor wretch.
268 "And now regard the different and diverse perils of the night. See what a
height it is to that towering roof from which a potsherd comes crack upon my head every
time that some broken or leaky vessel is pitched out of the window! See with what a smash
it strikes and dints the pavement! There's death in every open window as you pass along at
night; you may well be deemed a fool, improvident of sudden accident, if you go out to
dinner without having made your will. You can but hope, and put up a piteous prayer in
your heart, that they may be content to pour down on you the contents of their
278 "Your drunken bully who has by chance not slain his man passes a night of
torture like that of Achilles when he bemoaned his friend, lying now upon his face, and
now upon his back; he will get no rest in any other way, since some men can only sleep
after a brawl. Yet however reckless the fellow may be, however hot with wine and young
blood, he gives a wide berth to one whose scarlet cloak and long retinue of attendants,
with torches and brass lamps in their hands, bid him keep his distance. But to me,
who am wont to be escorted home by the moon, or by the scant light of a candle whose
wick I husband with due care, he pays no respect. Hear how the wretched fray begins--if
fray it can be called when you do all the thrashing and I get all the blows! The fellow
stands up against me, and bids me halt; obey I must. What else can you do when attacked by
a madman stronger than yourself? 'Where are you from?' shouts he; 'whose vinegar, whose
beans have blown you out? With what cobbler have you been munching cut leeks and
boiled wether's chaps?--What, sirrah, no answer? Speak out, or take that upon your shins!
Say, where is your stand? In what prayer-shop shall I find you?' Whether you venture
to say anything, or make off silently, it's all one: he will thrash you just the same, and
then, in a rage, take bail from you. Such is the liberty of the poor man: having been
pounded and cuffed into a jelly, he begs and prays to be allowed to return home with a few
teeth in his head!
302 "Nor are these your only terrors. When your house is shut, when bar and chain
have made fast your shop, and all is silent, you will be robbed by a burglar; or perhaps a
cut-throat will do for you quickly with cold steel. For whenever the Pontine marshes and
the Gallinarian forest are secured by an armed guard, all that tribe flocks into Rome as
into a fish-preserve. What furnaces, what anvils, are not groaning with the forging of
chains? That is how our iron is mostly used; and you may well fear that ere long none will
be left for plough-shares, none for hoes and mattocks. Happy, you would say, were the
forbears of our great-grandfathers, happy the days of old which under Kings and Tribunes
beheld Rome satisfied with a single gaol!
315 "To these I might add more and different reasons; but my cattle call, the sun
is sloping and I must away: my muleteer has long been signalling to me with his whip. And
so farewell; forget me not. And if ever you run over from Rome to your own Aquinum to
recruit, summon me too from Cumae to your Helvine Ceres and Diana; I will come over to
your cold country in my thick boots to hear your Satires, if they think me worthy of that
 A small island off Misenum.
 The noisiest street in Rome.
 The Porta Capena was on the Appian Way, the great S. road from Rome. Over the gate
passed an aqueduct, carrying the water of the Aqua Marcia. Hence "the dripping
 A spear was set up at auctions as the sign of ownership.
 Vertere pollicem, to turn the thumb up, was the signal for dispatching the
wounded gladiator; premere pollicem, to turn it down, was a sign that he was to be
 Referring to the sambuca, a kind of harp, of triangular shape, producing a
 Trechedipna, "a run-to-dinner coat"; ceromaticus, from ceroma,
oil used by wrestlers; and niceterium, "a prize of victory"-all used to
ridicule the use of the Greek forms.
 i.e. the Mona Viminalis, from vimen, "an osier."
 An Assyrian rhetorician: not the Greek orator Isaeus.
 From Johnson's London.
 Hercules slew Antaeus by raising him from the ground, till when he was invincible.
 Names of Greek actors.
 Publius Egnatius Celer. See Tac. Ann. xvi. 30-32 and Hist. iv. 10
 For the accusation and death of Barea Soranus, see Tac. Ann. xvi. 23 and
 i.e. at Tarsus on the river Cydnus.
 Ladies of rank.
 P. Cornelius Scipio received the image of Cybele when brought from Phrygia, B.C.
 L. Caecilius Metellus, in B.C. 241.
 The law of Otho (B.C. 67) reserved for knights the first fourteen rows in the
theatre behind the orchestra where senators sat. The knights (equites) were
the wealthy middle class, each having to possess a census of 400,000 sesterces.
 The rendering is uncertain. Duff translates, "Take your money and keep your
 At this feast cakes (liba) are provided; but the guests are expected to
give a tip to the slaves. According to Duff, the client pays the slave, but is too
indignant to take the cake.
 Lit. "a slender flute-player"; props were so called either from their
resemblance to a flute, or to the position in which the flute was held in playing.
 Borrowed from Virgil, Aen. ii. 311, of the firing of Troy, iam proximus
ardet Vcalegon. Juvenal's friend inhabits the third floor, and the fire has broken out
on the ground floor.
 Celebrated Greek sculptors.
 i.e. vegetarians.
 Probably the somnolent Emperor Claudius is meant.
 The hundred guests are clients; each is followed by a slave carrying a kitchener
to keep the dole hot when received.
 The great Roman general under Claudius and Nero, famed for his physical strength.
 Compare xiv. 133.
 Proseucha, a Jewish synagogue or praying-house.
 Aquinum was Juvenal's birthplace.
 The origin of this name of Ceres is unknown.