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Petronius, Satyrica 34.6

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statim allatae sunt amphorae vitreae diligenter gypsatae, quarum in cervicibus pittacia erant affixa cum hoc titulo: FALERNVM OPIMIANVM ANNORVM CENTVM. dum titulos perlegimus, complosit Trimalchio manus et: ‘eheu,’ inquit, ‘ergo diutius vivit vinum quam homuncio. quare tangomenas faciamus. vita vinum est. verum Opimianum praesto. heri non tam bonum posui, et multo honestiores cenabant.’

At the same moment glass wine-jars were brought in, carefully stopped up with gypsum. On their necks there were tags, with the following label: ‘Falernian. Opimian vintage. One hundred years old.’ While we were reading the labels, Trimalchio clapped his hands together and said, ‘Alas! So wine lives longer than a humanillo. Let’s have a good booze-up then. Wine is life itself. It’s a genuine Opimian, I can vouch for it; I didn’t bring out such a good one yesterday, and there was a much better class of people dining with me.’

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November 2, 2013 at 12:00 PM

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Petronius, Satyrica 50.5-6

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The rich freedman Trimalchio gives what Catherine Connors calls a ‘garbled and completely implausible retelling of the already unlikely story’ of the origins of Corinthian bronze during Mummius’ sack of the city.

cum Ilium captum est, Hannibal, homo vafer et magnus stelio, omnes statuas aeneas et aureas et argenteas in unum rogum congessit et eas incendit; factae sunt in unum aera miscellanea. ita ex hac massa fabri sustulerunt et fecerunt catilla et paropsides <et> statuncula. sic Corinthea nata sunt ex omnibus in unum, nec hoc nec illud.

When Troy was captured, Hannibal (a cunning man and a real snake) heaped up all the statues – bronze, gold and silver ones – and set them on fire. They all turned into a single mixed lump of bronze. So craftsmen took bits from this lump and made little bowls, dessert-dishes and statuettes. This is how Corinthian bronzes were born, from all metals mixed in one, neither one thing nor the other.

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March 21, 2013 at 12:00 PM

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Petronius, Satyrica 48.8

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April is the cruellest month. The epigraph to TS Eliot’s The Waste Land:

nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent ‘Σίβυλλα, τί θέλεις;’ respondebat illa ‘ἀποθανεῖν θέλω’.

For with my own eyes I myself saw the Sibyl at Cumae, hanging in a flask. When the boys asked her, ‘Sibyl, what is your wish?’ she answered, ‘I wish to die.’

Trimalchio is speaking, and recounts this story for less than obvious reasons, discussed here.

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April 10, 2012 at 12:00 PM

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Petronius, fr. 48 (Bücheler)

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My first attempt at getting the indentation to work for elegiacs. Please let me know if it’s not displaying properly for you.

lecto compositus vix prima silentia noctis
   carpebam et somno lumina victa dabam,
cum me saevus Amor prensat sursumque capillis
   excitat et lacerum pervigilare iubet.
'tu famulus meus,' inquit, 'ames cum mille puellas,
   solus, io, solus, dure, iacere potes?'
exsilio et pedibus nudis tunicaque soluta
   omne iter ingredior, nullum iter expedio.
nunc propero, nunc ire piget, rursumque redire
   paenitet, et pudor est stare via media.
ecce tacent voces hominum strepitusque viarum
   et volucrum cantus fidaque turba canum:
solus ego ex cunctis paveo somnumque torumque,
   et sequor imperium, magne Cupido, tuum.

I had just lain down in bed, enjoying the night’s first silence and giving my vanquished eyes to sleep, when savage Love grabbed hold of me and roused me, pulling me up by the hair and ordering me, shattered though I was, to stay awake. ‘You, my slave,’ he said, ‘though you love a thousand girls, can you lie alone – alone! – you hard-hearted one?’ I jump out of bed with my feet bare and my tunic undone; I go down every road, leave no road free. Now I hurry, now I’m reluctant to go, I’m sorry to return again, and I’m ashamed to stand in the middle of the road. See! The voices of men, the din of the streets, the song of the birds, and the faithful pack of dogs are silent; I alone out of all creatures dread both sleep and bed, and I follow, great Cupid, your command.

Writing a little over a century ago, H.E. Butler says:

If this is not great poetry, it is at least one of the most perfect specimens of conventional erotic verse in all ancient literature. If we except a very few of the best poems of Propertius, Latin Elegiacs have nothing to show that combines such perfection of form with such exquisite sensuous charm. It breathes the fragrance of the Greek anthology. (H.E. Butler, Post-Augustan Poetry, Oxford 1909, p.138-139)

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February 26, 2011 at 12:00 PM

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