Juvenal, Satire 11, selections

translation by Lee Tyler and Charity Yeyeodu

Satire 11 lines 56-99:
You will learn today, whether I don’t do things most beautiful to say in life and habits and business; if I praise beans, but secretly I am a glutton; if I openly order porridges from others but I tell the boy in his ear to bring cakes. (60) For when you have promised to be my table companion, you will have Evander as host; you will come as Hercules or a lesser guest than him (and still he touches the heavens by blood), both having been sent to the stars, one by water, the other by flame.

Now listen to what dishes I’ll serve, unequipped by the market: (65) the fattest young goat will come from my Tibertine farm, more tender than the rest of the herd, ignorant of grass and not bold enough to nibble low-hanging twigs of the willow; a goat who is more milk than blood. And mountain asparagus having been picked, once the overseer’s wife put down her spinning. (70) Moreover, large eggs, warming in twisted hay, are present together with their mothers. And grapes, the sort which had been preserved for part of the year on the vines. And Syrian and Signinum pears, and apples of fresh odor, rivaling those from Picenum, from the same baskets. (75) And these are not to be feared by you, since they’ve put down their autumn taste and the dangers of raw juice by means of cold.

At one time, this was a luxurious dinner of our senate. Curius used to place on a modest hearth small greens, which he himself had collected  from his little garden, (80) which now even a dirty ditch-digger in large shackles hates, who remembers how the womb of a hot cook-shop tastes. It was the custom, once, to save thin backs of a dried pig hanging with wicker-basket for festival days, and for family to give birthday bacon, (85) with fresh meat adding if it was provided by an animal sacrifice.  

Some family member who attained the title of consul three times, who attained commands of camps and the honor of dictator, he used to return earlier than normal to these feasts with his spade on his shoulder from a conquered mountain. (90) When people used to tremble, however, at the Fabii and hard Cato and Scauri and Fabricius, when even a colleague was fearful of the severe morals of the rigid censor, no one, between troubles and serious things, considered it worth considering what kind of tortoise was swimming in a wave of Ocean for the purpose of making (95) a famous and noble arm-rest for Trojan-born princes. But their couches were small with bare sides and bronze front, which were showing a common head of a garlanded donkey, on which playful children of the country would play. Thus, the house and furniture of such sort matched the sort of food.

. . .

lines 120-135:
But now there is no pleasure of eating for rich men–the flatfish and the fallow-deer meat tastes like nothing; perfumes and even roses seem to stink, unless served on a fancy, wide, round table, held up by a rampant leopard made of ivory, with large, open maw, from those teeth which the gateway of Syene sends and (125) fast Moors (send), or India, who is darker than a Moor, and which in Nabataean forest a beast put down, already too heavy for its head. From this, appetite rises, and so does strength to the stomach. For the silver pedestal to these, is like the ring on a finger that is common iron. Therefore (130) I beware the proud guest, who compares me to himself and looks down at insignificant things. Indeed I do not own one ounce of ivory, nor dice or game-piece from this material, nay rather the handles themselves of my small knives are made of bones. However, these knives have never made food rancid nor, therefore, cut a chicken worse for that reason.

. . .

lines 142-148:
My slave boy does not know how to steal a piece of deer nor a flank of African bird, my little recruit, unpracticed all his time and initiated only in the thefts of small morsels. (145) The uncultivated boy will offer plebeian cups bought with a few small coins and he is safe from cold (wrapped up in cloth). He is not Phrygian or Lycian [not anyone that will be sought from a dealer and bought with great cost]: when you give him a command, demand in Latin.

. . .

lines 171-182:
My humble home does not take in these jokes. That guy may hear the clattering of pieces of fired clay with spoken words that even the slave standing naked in stinking brothel abstains from. That guy enjoys obscene voices and every type of lust, (175) who spits wine on the Lacedaemonian marble floors; for indeed there, we give pardon to fortune/high station. For the mediocre, the die (gambling) and adultery is ugly.  When those rich people do these same things, they are called cheerful and shining. Today my dinner will give other games: (180) the founder of the Iliad1  Homer and the songs of lofty-sounding Maro 2  Vergil will be sung, making dubious palm3  victory. Does it matter whose voice reads such lines?


1   Homer
2   Vergil
3   victory