Petroni Arbitri Satyricon1 LO
… “Num alio genere furiarum declamatores inquietantur, qui clamant: ‘haec vulnera pro libertate publica excepi; hunc oculum pro vobis impendi: date mihi ducem,1 qui me ducat ad liberos meos, nam succisi poplites membra non sustinent’? Haec ipsa tolerabilia essent, si ad eloquentiam ituris viam facerent. Nunc et rerum tumore et sententiarum vanissimo strepitu hoc tantum proficiunt, ut cum in forum venerint, putent se in alium orbem terrarum delatos. Et ideo ego adulescentulos existimo in scholis stultissimos fieri, quia nihil ex his, quae in usu habemus, aut audiunt aut vident, sed piratas cum catenis in litore stantes, sed2 tyrannos edicta scribentes, quibus imperent filiis ut patrum suorum capita praecidant, sed responsa in pestilentiam data, ut virgines tres aut plures immolentur, sed mellitos verborum globulos et omnia dicta factaque quasi 2 papavere et sesamo sparsa. Qui inter haec nutriuntur, non magis sapere possunt, quam bene olere, qui in culina habitant. Pace vestra liceat dixisse, primi
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter
…“Are our rhetoricians1 tormented by another tribe of Furies when they cry: ‘These scars I earned in the struggle for popular rights; I sacrificed this eye for you: where is a guiding hand to lead me to my children? My knees are hamstrung,2 and cannot support my body’? Though indeed even these speeches might be endured if they smoothed the path of aspirants to oratory. But as it is, the sole result of this bombastic matter and these loud empty phrases is that a pupil who steps into a court thinks that he has been carried into another world. I believe that college makes complete fools of our young men, because they see and hear nothing of ordinary life there. Yes, it is pirates standing with chains on the beach; yes, tyrants writing edicts ordering sons to cut off their fathers’ heads, yes, and oracles in time of pestilence demanding the blood of three virgins or more, honey-balls of phrases, every word and act besprinkled with poppy-seed and sesame. People who are fed on this diet can no more be sensible than people who live in the kitchen can smell good. With your permission I must tell you the truth, that you teachers more than anyone have been the ruin of
- 1The narrator is Encolpius (see page xiii). Petronius inveighs against the “declaimers,” that is, teachers of rhetoric and declamation which, vital under the free republic, tended to degenerate into tasteless fashion under the emperors.
- 2Because he had been a prisoner-of-war, hamstrung to prevent his escape.