SEX POETRY FROM ANCIENT ROME

MARTIAL AND HIS SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT EPIGRAMS


Martial

On Marcus Valerius Martialis (A.D. 31-41 to 103), better known as Martial, Steve Coates wrote in the New York Times, “You have to be impressed by a plucky Spanish provincial, in the dangerous days of Nero and Domitian, who could manage to earn a handsome living writing dirty poems for the urban sophisticates of ancient Rome. [Source: Steve Coates, December 12, 2008 <>]

"Arriving in Rome around A.D. 64, Martial spent much of the next four decades composing short topical verse about life in the big city, an urban panorama as broad, as varied and as full of depraved humanity as any to have survived from classical times. In conventional but nimble Latin meters, he wrote gory epigrams about the Colosseum, sycophantic ones to flatter the ruler of the day, tender ones about such topics as a slave girl’s early death and, above all, comic ones aimed squarely at Roman society’s foibles. Preoccupations including comb-overs, stingy hosts, medical quacks, the poetry racket, the futility of cosmetics, consumptive heiresses and one-eyed women lend his books the ambience of a front-row seat at the Roman carnival. <>

"Modern readers, however, are drawn to Martial mostly for his scorpion-tailed epigrams of sexual invective, written,limerick- and graffiti-like, as raunchy entertainment. Even by today’s standards, many are grotesquely obscene; Martial takes us down some of Rome’s sleaziest streets (“I write, I must confess, for dirtier readers, / My verse does not attract the nation’s leaders”). <>

"If Martial’s poems weren’t saintly, though, they were all in good fun (“My poetry is filthy---but not I,” he insisted). His targets were types, not real people, and many of his outrageous sketches, it has been rightly said, “come no closer to plausible reality than a Victorian Punch cartoon.” In this spirit, Martial riffs endlessly on prostitution, marital infidelity, oral sex, pederasty, exhibitionism, unapproved modes of homosexuality, and incest (“Of course we know he’ll never wed. / What? Put his sister out of bed?”). Roman sexual humor, it seems, when not simply gross-out comic description of intimate body parts---Martial wrote a notorious poem involving a loquacious vagina---hinged largely on the question of who might be on the passive end of any copulatory squirming (“I thought “twas you that played the man / But find receive is all you can”)." <>


In a review of Martial’s Epigrams translated by Garry Wills, Coats wrote in the New York Times, “In the case of lines far more lubriciously explicit than these, Wills embraces the Roman poet’s copious Latin obscenities in tumescent Anglo-Saxon translations, and in this sense certainly conveys the authentic Martial. He suggests that his happy-go-lucky rhyming verse and dogged meters work toward the same end, preserving some of the strict formality of Martial’s elegiacs and hendecasyllables. But in fact, Wills’s commitment to rhyme, not a significant concern for Latin poets, forces his syntactical hand and allows much of the real Martial to fall between the cracks. One neat example is a two-line poem that Wills translates: “Her teeth look whiter than they ought. / Of course they should---the teeth were bought.” A prose version reveals that Martial was able to insult not one woman but two in the same space: “Thais’s teeth are black, Laecania’s snow-white. The reason? The latter has ones she bought, the former her own.”

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Sexual Poems by Martial

On the three poems by Marcus Valerius Martialis (Martial), poet and translator Joseph S. Salemi wrote: They all deal with sex in some way or another. The first is about a lesbian named Bassa; the second is about a speaker's desire for a young boy (the eromenos of Graeco-Roman sexual practice); and the third is about some rather obscure but kinky sexual acts. In each case, the poem shows Martial exactly as he was: a Roman male who disliked homosexuality, but who had a proclivity for underage boys, and who appears to have favored a somewhat rough and exploitative sex. [Source: Joseph S. Salemi, “The Barefoot Muse, A Journal of Formal & Metrical Verse]

“Making love to an eromenos (a young male) was not considered abnormal at that time; indeed, if we are to believe Martial, it seems to have been a preferred sexual outlet for many adult Roman males. Epigram III.65 is a love lyric addressed to such a boy. The other two poems are satiric, making fun of lesbian sex and kinky heterosexual practices. There are other poems among Martial's Epigrams that make these three look like exemplars of Victorian reticence. Martial wrote many of his Epigrams during the reign of the tyrant emperor Domitian. It was a time of political repression, fear, and cowed speech. Nevertheless, he was allowed to ridicule whatever sexual practices or personality types he pleased. I trust that right now, in the United States, I have at least as much freedom of speech as Martial had under Domitian.”

20120227-Tintinnabulum-Fund_in_Herculaneum.jpg
“Epigram I.90:
Bassa, I never saw you hang with guys--
Nobody whispered that you had a beau.
Girls surrounded you at every turn;
They did your errands, with no attendant males.
And so, I guess I naturally assumed
That you were what you seemed: a chaste Lucretia.
But hell no. Why, you shameless little tramp,
You were an active humper all the time.

“You improvised, by rubbing cunts together,
And using that bionic clit of yours
To counterfeit the thrusting of a male.
Unbelievable. You've managed to create
A real conundrum, worthy of the Sphinx:
Adultery without a co-respondent.

Notes: 1) Lucretia: the legendary avatar of chastity among the Romans. She was a high-born matron who was raped by the evil king Tarquinius Superbus, and who committed suicide rather than bear the dishonor. 2) fututor: literally "fucker," but with the male suffix of agency. The oxymoronic fututrix would, if it existed, be the proper term for a woman, but that is Martial's comic point. 3) mentiturque virum prodigiosa Venus: literally "and your unnatural lust counterfeits a male." I have taken the liberty of translating somewhat freely here, using "bionic clit" and "the thrusting of a male" to capture Martial's meaning. 4) Thebano aenigmate: the Theban enigma was the riddle of the Sphinx, posed to Oedipus at the gates of that city. 5) ubi vir non est: literally "where there isn't a man." Adultery in ancient Rome could only be committed by a married woman and a lover of the opposite sex. Martial's joke here is that Bassa has turned herself into an ersatz man, thus making an action for divorce possible.


Epigram III.65:
The breath of a young girl, biting an apple,
The scent that wafts from Corycian saffron,
The smell of the white vine, flowering with first clusters,
The odor of fresh grass, where sheep have grazed,
Fragrance of myrtle, spice-reaping Arab, rubbed amber,
A fire glowing pale with eastern incense,
The earth just lightly touched with summer rain,
A garland that has circled someone's hair
Wet with spikenard. Diadumenus, cruel child,
All these things breathe forth from your perfect kisses:
Can you not give them freely, unbegrudging?

“Notes: 1) Corycio...croco: Corycos in the province of Cilicia was noted for its production of saffron, a highly prized seasoning and aromatic. 2) messor Arabs: literally "the Arabian reaper." A great many spices came to Rome via traders in Arabia, and as a result Arabia was sometimes thought of as the actual source of many spices, rather than as a transit point. 2) saeve puer: literally "savage boy." Martial often writes of the lovely young eromenos who is sexually desirable, but whose boyish fickleness and petulance frustrate an adult male lover. See Epigrams VIII.46, XII.75.

Epigram IX.67:
I had this really horny broad all night,
A girl whose naughty tricks are unsurpassed.
We did it in a thousand different ways.
Tired of the same old thing, I asked to buttfuck--
Before I finished speaking, she said Yes.
Emboldened, I then blushed a bit, and laughed,
And asked for something even dirtier.
The lusty wench agreed without a blink.
Still, that girl was pure in my eyes, Aeschylus--
But she won't be for you. To get the same,
You'll have to grant a nasty stipulation.

More Martial Sex Epigrams


One Martial sex epigram goes:
“There is no glory in outstripping donkeys.
Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.
Fortune gives too much to many, enough to none.
There is no living with thee, nor without thee.”

Another Martial sex epigram goes:
“Wife, leave my house or adopt my ways!
I am not a Curius, a Numa or a Tatius.
Nights made happy with drink please me:
But you hurry to leave with water to drink.
You love the shadows, but I’m happy to play
With a lamp as witness or with light let in on my ‘bulge’.
Tunics and obscuring robes must cover you:
But no girl could ever be naked enough for me!
Kisses to mimic eager doves delight me;
But you give those from a grandmother’s ‘good morning’.

“It is beneath you to help out with movement or voice,
Not even fingers, as if you were readying incense and wine.
Phrygian slaves used to masturbate outside the door
Whenever the wife sat atop her Hectorean ‘horse’;
Chaste Penelope always used to keep her hand down there,
Even when the Ithacan was snoring!
You won’t abide anal sex! Cornelia permitted this to Gracchus!
Julia allowed Pompey; Porcia bent for you, Brutus!
When the Dardanian was not yet his servant mixing sweet wine,
Juno was Jupiter’s Ganymede.
If you want to be grave, then be Lucretia all day
But at night I want a Lais.”

Martial on Masturbation and Hair Removal


Depilation refers to removal of hair. Leonard C. Smithers and Sir Richard Burton wrote in the notes of “Sportive Epigrams on Priapus”: “Martial derides catamites for depilating their privy parts and buttocks. The following version of Martial's epigram against a beau (bellus homo) is given by Dr James Cranstoun in the illustrative notes to his translation of Catullus:
“Cotilus, you are a beau; yes, Cotilus, many declare it.
Such is the story I hear: tell me, then, what is a beau?
Why, sir, a beau is a man who arranges his tresses in order:
Smelling for ever of balm, smelling of cinnamon spice:
Singing the songs of the Nile or a-humming the ditties of Cadiz:
Never at rest with his arms, moving them this way or that:
Lounging on sofas from morning to night with a bevy of ladies:
Aye in the ears of some girl whispering some silly tale:
Reading a letter from Rhode or Chloe, or writing to Phyllis:
Shunning the sleeve of his friend lest he should ruffle his dress:
Everyone's sweetheart he'll tell you, he swaggers the lion at parties:
Bets on the favourite horse, tells you his sire and his dam.
Cotilus, what are you telling me?--this thing! is this thing a beau?
Cotilus, then I must say he's a contemptible thing.” [Source: “Sportive Epigrams on Priapus” translation by Leonard C. Smithers and Sir Richard Burton, 1890, sacred-texts.com]

Masturbation is generally thought to be derived from manu stuprare–“to defile with the hand.” Martial’s Epigram 33 reads:
“'Cause thou dost kiss thy boy's soft lips with thy
Rough chin, and with strip'd Ganymede dost he,
Who does deny thee this? 'tis well. At least
Frig not thyself with thy lascivious fist,
This in light toys more than the prick offends,
Their fingers hasten and the man up sends,
Hence Goatish rankness, sudden hairs, a beard
Springs forth to wond'ring mothers much admired.
Nor do they please by day when in the bath
They wash their skins. Nature divided hath
The males: half to the girls born to be shown
The other half to men: use then thy own.
[Source: translated by Robert Fletcher]

Lucretius on Self-Castrating Cybele Priests

The Cybele — the Magna Mater goddess — reportedly was served by a mystery cult led by self-emasculated priests known as galli. Until the emperor Claudius, Roman citizens could not become priests of Cybele, but after that worship of her and her lover Attis took their place in the state cult. One aspect of the cult was the use of baptism in the blood of a bull, a practice later taken over by Mithraism. [Source: Lucretius, “On the Nature of Things,” translation by William Ellery Leonard. Complete version online at MIT classics.mit.edu/Carus/nature_things]


Cybele priest

Describing the cult, the Lucretius wrote in “On the Nature of Things”:
“Wherefore great mother of gods, and mother of beasts,
And parent of man hath she alone been named.
Her hymned the old and learned bards of Greece.
Seated in chariot o'er the realms of air
To drive her team of lions, teaching thus
That the great earth hangs poised and cannot lie
Resting on other earth. Unto her car
They've yoked the wild beasts, since a progeny,
However savage, must be tamed and chid
By care of parents. They have girt about
With turret-crown the summit of her head,
Since, fortressed in her goodly strongholds high,
'Tis she sustains the cities; now, adorned
With that same token, to-day is carried forth,
With solemn awe through many a mighty land,
The image of that mother, the divine.
Her the wide nations, after antique rite,
Do name Idaean Mother, giving her
Escort of Phrygian bands, since first, they say,
From out those regions 'twas that grain began
Through all the world. To her do they assign

The Galli, the emasculate, since thus
They wish to show that men who violate
The majesty of the mother and have proved
Ingrate to parents are to be adjudged
Unfit to give unto the shores of light
A living progeny. The Galli come:
And hollow cymbals, tight-skinned tambourines
Resound around to bangings of their hands;
The fierce horns threaten with a raucous bray;
The tubed pipe excites their maddened minds


Cybele, Bacchus, Ceres and Flora

In Phrygian measures; they bear before them knives,
Wild emblems of their frenzy, which have power
The rabble's ingrate heads and impious hearts
To panic with terror of the goddess' might.
And so, when through the mighty cities borne,
She blesses man with salutations mute,
They strew the highway of her journeyings
With coin of brass and silver, gifting her
With alms and largesse, and shower her and shade
With flowers of roses falling like the snow
Upon the Mother and her companion-bands.
Here is an armed troop, the which by Greeks
Are called the Phrygian Curetes. Since

“Haply among themselves they use to play
In games of arms and leap in measure round
With bloody mirth and by their nodding shake
The terrorizing crests upon their heads,
This is the armed troop that represents
The arm'd Dictaean Curetes, who, in Crete,
As runs the story, whilom did out-drown
That infant cry of Zeus, what time their band,
Young boys, in a swift dance around the boy,
To measured step beat with the brass on brass,
That Saturn might not get him for his jaws,
And give its mother an eternal wound
Along her heart. And it is on this account
That armed they escort the mighty Mother,
Or else because they signify by this
That she, the goddess, teaches men to be
Eager with armed valour to defend
Their motherland, and ready to stand forth,
The guard and glory of their parents' years.”

Catullus’s Dirty Poems

According to Listverse: “Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC) was a Roman poet of the 1st century BC. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art. Now the Romans were extremely fond of poetry, humor, and obscenity. In fact, so obsessed were they with obscenity that the Latin language contains many very specific sexual terms. For example, cinaede is the term used to describe a person who is being anally penetrated and pedacabo is the the term for the person doing the penetrating. The verb irrumare means “to insert one’s penis into another person’s mouth for suckling”. So how does this relate to Catullus? It turns out that he wrote one of the most obscene pieces of poetry ever. It was considered so bad that a full English translation did not exist until the 20th century. [Source: Listverse, October 16, 2009 <=>]


modern statue of Catullus

Poem 10
“My friend Varus had taken me from the forum
(I had nothing going on) to visit his latest love —
a little tart, so she struck me at first sight,
not at all without charm and wit.
When we got there we fell into conversation
on a variety of topics, among which was the question of
what Bithynia was like these days, how things were going there,
and whether it had proved at all beneficial to my purse. 6
I told them the truth — that there was nothing there, either for the locals
or for the praetors or for the praetor's cohort
that would cause anyone to carry a sleeker head —
especially for those who had an irrumator 7 for a praetor,
one who didn't give a straw for his cohort.
"But at the very least," they said, "you must certainly
have acquired what they say is the native custom,
some slaves to bear your litter?" I (thinking I would increase
my standing in the girl's eyes)
replied, "Things weren't so bad for me that,
just because I'd landed a lousy province,
I wasn't able to acquire eight good strong men."
(Yet in fact I had no one, neither here nor there,
who might carry on his neck the
fractured foot of my ancient little cot.)
At this point she said — as you'd expect from a little tramp —
"Please, my dear Catullus: lend them to me
just for a short while. I want to be carried to Serapis' temple 8
in style." "Hold on!" I said to her.
"That which I said I had a moment ago —
What was I thinking? My friend,
Gaius Cinna, 9 he acquired them.
But, really, whether they're his or mine, what's that to me?
I have the use of them, just as if I bought them.
But you, with your wicked wit, are a downright plague,
who allow no one the slightest latitude of speech."


Poem 28
“Piso's companions, 10 empty-handed cohort,
rigged out with your tiny packs, emptied of unessentials —
Veranius, my friend, and you, Fabullus,
how are things going? Have you enjoyed enough
chilly starvation with that good-for-nothing?
Any profit to record — as lost?
My case is much the same: having followed my
praetor, I now set down my very expenses as gain.
O Memmius, you held me flat and at your leisure jammed
that log of yours down my throat good and long.
But, as far as I can see, your luck was much the same —
stuffed by no less formidable a prick.
Oh yes! "Seek out noble friends"!
But you two 11 may the gods and goddesses grant
many evils, you sources of shame to Romulus and Remus.

Poem 16
“I'll jam it up your ass and down your throat,
fairy Aurelius and queen Furius,
you who've deduced from my little poems,
because they're somewhat soft and sensual, that I'm not quite proper.
I'll admit that the godly poet ought to be modest of behavior himself, 5
but there's no need for his poems to be —
those only have wit and charm
if they are somewhat soft and sensual and not quite proper
and have something in them that might incite an itch,
not in boys, but in those shaggy gray-beards
who can scarcely rouse their sluggish members.
You two, because of what you read about those
many thousands of kisses, do you think me less than a man?
I'll jam it up your ass and down your throat.


Another translation of Poem 16 goes:
I’m gonna fuck you guys up the ass and shove my cock down your throats,
yes, you, Aurelius–you fucking cocksucker–and you too, Furius, you faggot!
Just because my verses are tender doesn’t mean
that I’ve gone all soft. Sure, a poet should focus
on writing poetry and not on sex; but does that
mean they can’t write about sex? If a poem is
in good taste, well-written and erotic,
it can give massive boners to hairy old men,
not just to horny teenagers. You think I’m a sissy
just because I write about thousands of kisses?
I’m gonna fuck you guys up the ass and shove my cock down your throats! <=>
[Source: Listverse, October 16, 2009 <=>]

6 Catullus evidently has just returned from Bithynia, where he served on the staff of the propraetor C. Memmius in 57-56 B.C. 7 An irrumator is someone who practices the activity described below in poem 28, lines 9-10. 8 An Egyptian divinity popular with women. 9 C. Helvius Cinna, tribune in 44 B.C. and another of the neoteric poets. 10 L. Calpurnius Piso: father-in-law of Caesar and governor of Macedonia in 57-55 B.C. 11 I.e. Memmius and Piso.

Cattalus on Sex Positions

Leonard C. Smithers and Sir Richard Burton wrote in the notes of “Sportive Epigrams on Priapus”: “In Alosiae Toletanae Satyra Sotadica examples of” the seven sex positions listed below” are given, and the reader who wishes to go further into the subject is referred to Forberg and Aretin, the former of whom enumerates ninety erotic postures (including spinthriae, from spinther (a bracelet), a group of copulators, forming a chain or bracelet by their connection with each other) whilst the latter in his Sonnetti lussotiosi describes twenty-six varieties of congress, each one accompanied by an illustrative design from the hand of Giulio Romano. [Source: “Sportive Epigrams on Priapus” translation by Leonard C. Smithers and Sir Richard Burton, 1890, sacred-texts.com]

Gaius Valerius Catullus (85-54 B.C.) was a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic. He speaks of Novem continuas fututiones:
Sweet Hypsithilla, passion's delight,
My gleeful soul, bid me to come;
Noontide is nearing, bar not the gate--
Hence roam ye not, stay close at home.
Prepare our pleasures in nine fresh ways,
Thighs joined with thighs, nine bouts we'll try:
Instant the summons, dinner is past,
Heated with love, supine I lie,
Bursting my tunic, swollen with longing:
Leave me not thus, dear, your lover wronging.


“Of like importance is the posture too,
In which the genial feat of love we do:
For, as the females of the four-foot kind
Receive the leapings of their males behind,
So the good wives, with loins uplifted high,
And leaning on their hands, the fruitful stroke may try;
For in that posture will they best conceive;
Not when, supinely laid, they frisk and heave;
For active motions only break the blow,
And more of strumpets than of wives they show,
When, answ'ring stroke with stroke, the mingled liquors flow.
Endearments eager, and too brisk a bound
Throw off the ploughshare from the furrow'd ground:
But common harlots in conjunction heave,
Because 'tis less their business to conceive,
Than to delight, and to provoke the deed;
A trick which honest wives but little need. [Source: Dryden's Lucretius]

Catallus on the Sacred Orgy of Cybele

Catullus (c.84-c.54 B.C.) wrote in Carmina 63: “Over the vast main borne by swift-sailing ship, Attis, as with hasty hurried foot he reached the Phrygian wood and gained the tree-girt gloomy sanctuary of the Goddess, there roused by rabid rage and mind astray, with sharp-edged flint downwards dashed his burden of virility. Then as he felt his limbs were left without their manhood, and the fresh-spilt blood staining the soil, with bloodless hand she hastily took a tambour light to hold, your taborine, Cybele, your initiate rite, and with feeble fingers beating the hollowed bullock's back, she rose up quivering thus to chant to her companions. [Source: Catullus, “The Carmina of Gaius Valerius Catullus,” translated by. Leonard C. Smithers. London. Smithers. 1894]

““Haste you together, she-priests, to Cybele's dense woods, together haste, you vagrant herd of the dame Dindymene, you who inclining towards strange places as exiles, following in my footsteps, led by me, comrades, you who have faced the ravening sea and truculent main, and have castrated your bodies in your utmost hate of Venus, make glad our mistress speedily with your minds' mad wanderings. Let dull delay depart from your thoughts, together haste you, follow to the Phrygian home of Cybele, to the Phrygian woods of the Goddess, where sounds the cymbal's voice, where the tambour resounds, where the Phrygian flutist pipes deep notes on the curved reed, where the ivy-clad Maenades furiously toss their heads, where they enact their sacred orgies with shrill-sounding ululations, where that wandering band of the Goddess flits about: there it is meet to hasten with hurried mystic dance.”

“When Attis, spurious woman, had thus chanted to her comity, the chorus straightway shrills with trembling tongues, the light tambour booms, the concave cymbals clang, and the troop swiftly hastes with rapid feet to verdurous Ida. Then raging wildly, breathless, wandering, with brain distraught, hurries Attis with her tambour, their leader through dense woods, like an untamed heifer shunning the burden of the yoke: and the swift Gallae press behind their speedy-footed leader. So when the home of Cybele they reach, wearied out with excess of toil and lack of food they fall in slumber. Sluggish sleep shrouds their eyes drooping with faintness, and raging fury leaves their minds to quiet ease.

“But when the sun with radiant eyes from face of gold glanced over the white heavens, the firm soil, and the savage sea, and drove away the glooms of night with his brisk and clamorous team, then sleep fast-flying quickly sped away from wakening Attis, and goddess Pasithea received Somnus in her panting bosom. Then when from quiet rest torn, her delirium over, Attis at once recalled to mind her deed, and with lucid thought saw what she had lost, and where she stood, with heaving heart she backwards traced her steps to the landing-place. There, gazing over the vast main with tear-filled eyes, with saddened voice in tristful soliloquy thus did she lament her land:

““Mother-land, my creatress, mother-land, my begetter, which full sadly I'm forsaking, as runaway serfs do from their lords, to the woods of Ida I have hasted on foot, to stay amid snow and icy dens of beasts, and to wander through their hidden lurking-places full of fury. Where, or in what part, mother-land, may I imagine that you are? My very eyeball craves to fix its glance towards you, while for a brief space my mind is freed from wild ravings. And must I wander over these woods far from my home? From country, goods, friends, and parents, must I be parted? Leave the forum, the palaestra, the race-course, and gymnasium? Wretched, wretched soul, it is yours to grieve for ever and ever. For what shape is there, whose kind I have not worn? I (now a woman), I a man, a stripling, and a lad; I was the gymnasium's flower, I was the pride of the oiled wrestlers: my gates, my friendly threshold, were crowded, my home was decked with floral garlands, when I used to leave my couch at sunrise. Now will I live a ministrant of gods and slave to Cybele? I a Maenad, I a part of me, I a sterile trunk! Must I range over the snow-clad spots of verdurous Ida, and wear out my life beneath lofty Phrygian peaks, where stay the sylvan-seeking stag and woodland-wandering boar? Now, now, I grieve the deed I've done; now, now, do I repent!”


orgy on Capri


“As the swift sound left those rosy lips, borne by new messenger to gods' twinned ears, Cybele, unloosing her lions from their joined yoke, and goading, the left-hand foe of the herd, thus speaks: “Come,” she says, “to work, you fierce one, cause a madness urge him on, let a fury prick him onwards till he returns through our woods, he who over-rashly seeks to fly from my empire. On! thrash your flanks with your tail, endure your strokes; make the whole place re-echo with roar of your bellowings; wildly toss your tawny mane about your nervous neck.” Thus ireful Cybele spoke and loosed the yoke with her hand. The monster, self-exciting, to rapid wrath spurs his heart, he rushes, he roars, he bursts through the brake with heedless tread. But when he gained the humid verge of the foam-flecked shore, and spied the womanish Attis near the opal sea, he made a bound: the witless wretch fled into the wild wood: there throughout the space of her whole life a bondsmaid did she stay. Great Goddess, Goddess Cybele, Goddess Dame of Dindymus, far from my home may all your anger be, 0 mistress: urge others to such actions, to madness others hound.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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