The Satires of Juvenal,

NOTE: The Second Satire by the Roman satirist Juvenal is regularly cited whenever homosexuality, pederasty, or effeminate men are discussed by persons with a classical edication. John Dryden's verse translation of the Satires was published in 1693, and was the standard reference. The following poem is one of the earliest eighteenth-century prose translations of Juvenal. The publication has the original Latin on even-numbered pages, with the English translation on the facing odd-numbered pages. I have transcribed only a few of the footnotes, relevant specifically to homosexual references.


I COULD wish to fly beyond Sarmatia and the Frozen Sea, when I hear Lectures of Morality from those who pretend to the Virtues of the Curian Family, yet live like the Votaries of Bacchus. A Set of Pedants, who have no other Pretence to Learning, than by filling every Corner of their Studies with Bustos of Chrysippus. He among them is the best Scholar who has purchased the Statue of Aristotle or Pittacus done to the Life; or has in his Library an Original of a Cleanthes. There is no judging by the Outside; for you meet in every Street [p.25] with the most obscene Vices under the most formal Appearances. Have you the Face to censure the Crimes of others, when thou are the most noted Sink of Sodomy, a Catamite with the Gravity of a Philosopher? Indeed the Complexion of your Body, your rough Limbs, your Arms with Hair like Bristles, seem to promise a vigorous and a manly Mind; but see how your Surgeon smiles, when he launces the swell'd Piles from your smooth Posteriors. These Saints are seldom heard to speak, they affect a wonderful Taciturnity, they wear their Hair shorter than their Eye-brows; but commend me to the Frankness of Peribonius, who acts openly and above-board: I ascribe this Man's Vices to his Destiny, you may know the Part he plays by his Face and his Step; the Plain-dealing of these Wretches is really to be pitied, the Madness of their Conduct pleads in their Excuse. Much worse are those venerable Sinners, who are always thundering their Censures against Crimes of this sort, art ever preaching up Virtue, and yet vilely prostitute themselves,and wag the Tail. Shall I, said the infamous Varillus, be afraid of Sextus, whose Haunches are the common Sink of the Town, in what am I worse than he? Indeed a straight-limb'd Fellow may be allow'd to play upon his bandy-legg'd Companion, and a fair skinn'd European deride the Blackness of an Æthiop; but for Vice to correct Sin! Who can bear the factious Gracchi railing against Sedition? Who would not swear the Planets from their Spheres, when Verres falls out with Thieving, [p.27] or Milo with Murder? To hear Clodius preaching against Adulterers, or Catiline impeach Cethegus for plotting? Or the Triumvirs Augustus, Lepidus, and Attonius, the Disciples of Sylla, condemn the cruel Proscriptions of their Master? Such was the Imperial Lecher Domitian, polluted with the impious Marriage of his Niece, who reviv'd the rigid Laws dreaded by all, (terrible even to Mars, and Venus) at that very time when the fruitful Julia, by force of Drugs, had so often miscarried by him of crude Births, Abortives the very Picture of the Uncle. May not the last of Vices, justly and deservedly contemn these false Scauri, those counterfeit Reformers, and when censured turn again and recriminate? Laronia the Curtesan could not bear one of these supercilious Hypocrites, who was always crying out, What is become of the Julian Law? Is it asleep?: She with a disdainful Smile retorts, 'Happy Days indeed that made thee Censor of the Age! Rome must reform now for Shame. Cato the third is [p.29] dropped from the Clouds! But, grave Sir, where did you buy this Balsam that so sweetly perfumes your hairy Neck? Don't be asham'd to tell me the Master of the Shop's Name. If old Laws and Proceedings are to be reviv'd, pray let the Scantinian* against Pathicks be one. [*Caius Scantinius was prosecuted by Caius Marcellus, for an unantdural Attempt upon his Son, which occasioned a Law that fined him in a very large Sum, which he was to pay or forfeit his Life.] Look at home, examine your own Sex, they outdo us in Wickedness, but their Numbers and united Force secure them. There is a wonderful Love and Fellow-feeling among these Catamites. You will find no such unnatural Practices committed by us. Tædia never careses Cluvia, nor Flora Catulla. Hippo acts the Part of both Sexes, and grows pale by unnatural Prostitutions. Do we invade your Province? do we offer to plead Causes, to study the Law, or to disturb the Courts with our noisy Bawlings? Some few of us indeed will fight a Prize upon the Stage, and one now and then you will find dieting herself for a Wrestling Match; but you Men submit to spin Wool, to carry your Work home in Baskets, you load the Spindle with as fine a Thread as Penelope, and twist more numbly than Arachne, or the dirty Harlot that spins tied to a Clob at her Master's Door. It is well known why Hister left his whole Estate to his Freedman, why he made so many noble Presents to his young Wife while he lived; she must needs be rich that can submit to make a Third in Bed. [p.31] Then marry my Girls, hold your Tongues, keep Counsel, and you'll sparkle in Diamonds. Yet for all this the Julian Law must be revived, forsooth, against us. Censure acquits the Crow, condemns the Dove.' The effeminate Stoicks, with all their Philosophy, could not stand this true and open Charge, they fled trembling with Guilt; for what had Laronia said that could possibly be denied?
          What will not others dare, when thou, Merellus Creticus, triest Causes in Taffeta, a cobweb Vest that shews the Skin? When thou haranguest against Whores and Adulteresses before a wondring Audience? Fabulla you say is a Bawd, let her suffer the Law, and Carsinia too, if you please; yet these Prostitutes have not the Impudence to do Penance in so thin a Veil. 'But July is raging hot, I burn.' Then go naked, to be thought mad would not be half the Scandal. See here a Gown Judicial! What would our Ancestors, with Conquest crowned, and their Wounds green, those old Mountaineers, leaving their Plough to come to Rome, what would they have said to hear a silken Judge explaining their Laws and Liberties? Heavens! that a Judge should sit so lewdly dressed. Tell me, would such a Robe become a Witness? Metellus, fierce and implacable to Vice, the Patron of Liberty, lolls wantonly transparent on the Bench. Thy Example is infectiou, the Plague spreads wider every Day; so one scabbed Sheep corrupts a Flock: Swine catch the Measles the same way; and one Grape touching another that is tainted, such the Poison, and rots.
          But it will not end here, you'll soon attempt a Habit more scandalous than this; for no Man becomes completely infamous at once. You'll soon be Company for those lewd Preists [sic], who in their loose [p.33] Retirements, like famed Votaries, bind their Foreheads with long Fillets, and their Necks surrounded with a String of Jewels, appease the Good Goddess*
[* . . . She was worshipped by Women only, who were summoned to her Service by the blowing of a Horn, till there arose an execrable Society of Men, acting the most impujre and filthy Rites in Honour of this Deity, and the Women were excluded.] with a Sacrifice of a young Sow's Belly, and a large Goblet of Wine for a Libation; but contrary to antient Rites, Women find no Admittance here, they are kept aloof, Men only are the Votaries of this Goddess. Be Gone, unholy Female, hence, they cry; we'll have no Minstrel with her Cornet here. So celebrated were the Orgies of the Baptæ by private Torch-light at Athens, when they used to tire the lewd Cotytto with their Impurities. One smooths his Eye-brows with a Pencil dipt in Soot infused, and paints his trembling Eyes. Another, like a wanton Bacchanal, drinks out of a Glass Priapus, and ties up his long Tresses of Hair in a Caul woven with Gold, dresses in a Robe wrought with Figures like Cobwebs, or in a soft white Vest. Led by the Example, the lewd Slave swears by Juno the Deity of his Master. Another, proud as if he bore the Spear that Turnus won from Act of Aurunca, carries a Mirror, the Shield of pathic Otho,* [*He killed Galba and succeeded him, but was conquered by Vitellius at Bedriacum, a Village between Verona and Cremona. He was so effeminate as to paint his Face in a Glass, before the Engagement. . . . He is charged with having an unnatural Commerce with Nero.] in which he view'd himself arm'd Cap-a-pee, when he gave out the Signal to engage. A memorable Event, fit to be recorded in the Annals of the Age, or modern History! [p.35] A Looking-glass, choice Baggage for a Civil War! An Action worthy of a gallant General, to kill old Galba in the Fortum, and then to paint, becomes the mightiest Citizen of Rome! To fight at Bedriacum for the Sceptre of the World, then dawb the Face with a soft Paste of Bread steept in the Milk of Asses! A Softness the great Semiramis abhorr'd, arm'd with her Quiver in the Syrian Plains, and Cleopatra too flying dejected in her Actian Galley. No Decency of Conversation, no Regard to the Decorum of Discourse at Table is observed here, they affect an unbounded Licentiousness, and a lisping Dialect like the vile Priests of Cybele,* [*Cybele, the Daughter of Heaven and Earth, called The Mother of the Gods; the Corybantes were her Priests, who worshipped her by the Sound of Drums, Tabors, Pipes, and Cymbals. She loved a beautiful Phrygian Youth called Atys, and made him her Priest, upon Condition that he should live chaste; but breaking his Vow, she made him run mad, and cut off his Testicles, and would have destroyed himself, but in Pity she changed him into a Pine-tree. By his Example her Phrygian Priests ever afterwards gelt themselves with the Shell of a Fish.] the Master of the Ceremonies being an old white-headed Pontiff, posessed with Lust, strange and remarkable for his wife Swallow, and fit to preside in such filthy Solemnities. Why this Delay? Is it not high Time they should, after the Phrygian Custom, cut off that superfluous Flesh they make no use of?
          Gracchus gave four hundred Sestertia with himselt in Dower to one that winds a Horn, or if you please a Trumpeter; the Marriage-Contract is signed, the usual Joy wish'd, a costly Supper provided, the He-Bride in his Bride-groom's Arms is laid. Nobles of Rome, need we a Censor to correct, or an Auruspex to expiate these Crimes? Impurities [p.37] that make you tremble, and of more portentous Import than for a Woman to be delivered of a Calf, or a Cow calve a Lamb.
          The lusty Priest that sweated with the Weight of the Ancilia, clattering in the Dance, and tied with Thongs of Leather close within, now wears the Necklace, the Veil, the long Robe of a Bride. Thou grand Founder of our City, how came thy Latian Shepherds plung'd in such Crimes? How came thy warlike Race infected with such filthy Lechery? See here a Man of Fortune, of the first Rank, turn'd up for a Wife! And yet thou never shak'st thy threatening Helmet, nor strik'st the Earth with thy avenging Spear, nor dost complain to Jove they Father; Prithee be gone, and leave the Campus Martius, devoted to thy Godship, to a more active Deity. Early to-morrow I'm to go to the Quirinal Vale to pay my Compliments. 'On what Account?' Can't you guess? My He Friend is to be a Bride; indeed he keeps it private, but have a little Patience, this sort, this very sort of Weddings will be celebrated openly, and insist of being enter'd in the publick Registers. These Male-Wives, indeed, have one sad Torment that sticks close to them, they can't breed, nor engage the Affection of their Husands by bringing Children; no, Nature has wisely denied their Souls the Power of changing the Sex of their Bodies, they die childless; nor can plump Lyde with her [p.39] Box of Ointment, nor a smart Stroke from the Luperci's Thong, promote Conception, or make the Labour easy.
          Yet Gracchus, armed with his Trident in a common Fencer's Dress, exceeds this monstrous Act; when, as a Gladiator, he traverses the Stage, and wheels about till he has fix'd his Aim: Tho' nobler born than were the Manlii, Marcelli, Catuli; than the Posterity of Paulus, the Fabii; than the Spectators of every Rank in the Front-Boxes; than the very Prætor, at whose Expence this noble Retiarius throws his Net.
          That there are Ghosts and subterraneous Realms, a Charon with his Pole, that filthy Frogs crawl in the Stygian Lake, that so many thousand Souls are wafted over in one leaky Boat, is scarce believ'd by Boys, except when young, under four Years, allow'd to bathe for nothing. These Truths do thou believe. What would great Curius, and the Scipio's, [p.41] Camillus' Ghost, the Legion slain at Cremera, the Youth destroyed at Cannæ, so many warlike Souls, what would they say to see an unbelieving Shade arrive among them? They'd think they were profaned, call for Lustrations, for Sulphur, and Pine-tree Wood, and for a Laurel-branch to sprinkle them with pure Water. Hither, alas! we Wretches are convey'd; altho' our Arms advance beyond Juverna's Shores; tho' the Orcadesare just subdu'd, and Northern Britons, in Summer blest almost with constant Sun? but those Impurities which Imperial Rome acts daily, to Provinces we conquer, are unknown. Yet one Zelates,*
[* A Youth sent to Rome from Artaxata the Capital of Armenia, debauched by the Tribune who had the Custody of him.] an Armenian, is said to be more effeminate that all our Striplings, and lays himself open to a Tribune's Lust. See the blest Fruits of Commerce! hither he came an Hostage; they soon grow Master of the Trade. If we admit these Youths to stay much longer with us, they'll soon forget the Customs of their Country, despise their open Trowsers, short Knives, Whip and Bridles, and so bring home to the Armenian Capital the Vices of our loose young Nobles here. [p.43]

SOURCE: The Satires of Juvenal, Dublin: Printed by George Faulkner, 1769.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Satires of Juvenal, 1769," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 22 February 2022 <>.

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