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7.10.07

À mon chevet: The Satires of Juvenal

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À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
Where, you ask, do they come from, such monsters as these?
In the old days Latin women were chaste by dint of their lowly fortunes.
Toil and short hours for sleep kept cottages free from contagion,
Hands were hard from working the wool, and husbands were watching,
Standing to arms at the Colline Gate, and the shadow of Hannibal's
Looming. Now we suffer the evils of long peace. Luxury hatches
Terrors worse than the wars, avenging a world beaten down.
Every crime is here, and every lust, as they have been
Since the day, long since, when Roman poverty perished.
Over our seven hills, from that day on, they came pouring,
The rabble and rout of the East, Sybaris, Rhodes, Miletus,
Yes, and Tarantum too, garlanded, drunken, shameless.
Dirty money it was that first imported among us
Foreign vices and our times broke down with overindulgence.
Riches are flabby, soft. And what does Venus care for
When she is drunk? She can't tell one end of a thing from another,
Gulping big oysters down at midnight, making the unguents
Foam in the unmixed wine, and drinking out a conch-horn
While the walls spin round, and the table starts in dancing,
And the glow of the lamps is blurred by double their number.

-- Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Satire 6: Against Women, trans. Rolfe Humphries
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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