Seneca (4 BCE- 65 CE): Natural Questions I, 16
16. At this point I want to tell you a little story so that you
may understand how lust scorns no instrument for rousing passion
and how ingenious it is for inciting its own aberration.
There was a man named Hostius Quadra, whose obscene acts even
became the subject of a theatrical performance. He was rich, greedy,
a slave to his millions. The deified Augustus did not consider
him worth being avenged when he was murdered by his slaves, and
almost proclaimed that he seemed to have been murdered justly.
He was vile in relation 2 not to one sex alone but lusted after
men as well as women. He had mirrors made of the type I described
(the ones that reflect images far larger) in which a finger exceeded
the size and thickness of an arm. These, moreover, he so arranged
that when he was offering himself to a man he might see in a mirror
all the movements of his stallion behind him and then take delight
in the false size of his partner's very member just as though
it were really so big.
In all the public baths he would recruit favourites and chose
men by their obvious size, but none the less his insatiable evil
took delight in misrepresentations. Go on now and say that the
mirror was invented for the sake of touching up one's looks !
The things that monster said and did (he ought to be torn apart
by his own mouth) are detestable to talk about. Mirrors faced
him on all sides in order that he might be a spectator of his
own shame. Also, secret acts which press upon the conscience and
which every man denies that he has done, he not only presented
to his mouth but to his eyes as well. But, by Hercules, crimes
avoid the sight of themselves! Even among those who are degenerate
and inured to every disagree there is still some modesty, very
tenuous, at what the eyes see. As though it were not enough to
submit himself to unheard of-even unknown-acts he summoned his
eyes to witness them. Not content to see how greatly he sinned
he surrounded himself with mirrors by which he separated one by
one and assembled his vices. And, because he could not watch so
attentively when his head dipped in and clung to his partner's
private parts, he displayed his own doings to himself through
reflections. He used to look at that obscene lusting of his own
mouth. He used to watch men admitted all alike to his person for
all the doings. Sometimes shared between a man and a woman, and
with his whole body spread in position for submitting to them,
he used to watch the unspeakable acts. What did the foul creature
leave for performance in darkness? He did not shrink from daylight
but even showed himself monstrous coitions, and gave approval
of them to himself. You would not suppose that he would not have
been willing to have his portrait painted in such a position !
Even among prostitutes there exists some sort of modesty, and
those bodies offered for public pleasure draw over some curtain
by which their unhappy submission may be hidden. Thus, towards
certain things even a brothel shows a sense of shame. But that
monster had made a spectacle of his own obscenity and deliberately
showed himself acts which no night is deep enough to conceal.
" At the same time," he said, " I submit to both
a man and a woman. Nevertheless, also with that part of my body
not occupied I perform the role of a male in the violation of
another person. All my organs arc occupied in the lechery. Let
my eyes, too, come into their share of the debauchery and be witnesses
and supervisors of it. By means of a device let even those acts
be seen which the position of our bodies removes from sight, so
that no one may think I do not know what I do. Nature did poorly
in providing such scanty accessories to human lust. She better
arranged the coition of other animals. I will discover a way to
deceive my sick wants and satisfy them. To what purpose my depravity
if I sin only to the limit of nature? I will surround myself with
mirrors, the type which renders the size of objects incredible.
If it were possible, I would make those sizes real; because it
is not possible, I will feast myself on the illusion. Let my lust
see more than it consumes and marvel at what it undergoes."
Shameful behavior! Perhaps he was murdered quickly, even before
he saw it; he ought to have been immolated in front of a mirror
of his own.