from "SATIRES - XV"SATIRES - XV
Juvenaltr. Peter Green
Quis nescit, Volusi Bithynice, qualia demens
Aegyptos portenta colat? crocodilon adorat
pars haec, illa pauet saturam serpentibus ibin.
effigies sacri nitet aurea cercopitheci
dimidio magicae resonant ubi Memnone chordae
atque uetus Thebe centum iacet obruta portis.
illic aeluros, hic piscem fluminis, illic
oppida tota canem uenerantur, nemo Dianam.
porrum et caepe nefas uiolare et frangere morsu
(o sanctas gentes, quibus haec nascuntur in hortis
numina!), lanatis animalibus abstinet omnis
mensa, nefas illic fetum iugulare capellae:
carnibus humanis uesci licet. attonito cum
tale super cenam facinus narraret Vlixes
Alcinoo, bilem aut risum fortasse quibusdam
mouerat ut mendax aretalogus. 'in mare nemo
hunc abicit saeua dignum ueraque Charybdi,
fingentem inmanis Laestrygonas et Cyclopas?
nam citius Scyllam uel concurrentia saxa
Cyaneis plenos et tempestatibus utres
crediderim aut tenui percussum uerbere Circes
et cum remigibus grunnisse Elpenora porcis.
tam uacui capitis populum Phaeaca putauit?'
sic aliquis merito nondum ebrius et minimum qui
de Corcyraea temetum duxerat urna;
solus enim haec Ithacus nullo sub teste canebat.
nos miranda quidem sed nuper consule Iunco
gesta super calidae referemus moenia Copti,
nos uolgi scelus et cunctis grauiora coturnis;
nam scelus, a Pyrrha quamquam omnia syrmta uoluas,
nullus apud tragicos populus facit. accipe nostro
dira quod exemplum feritas produxerit aeuo.
............
............
Who has not heard, Volusius, of the portentous gods
those crazy Egyptians worship? Some adore crocodiles,
another lot quakes at the ibis, gorged on serpents.
A sacred long-tailed monkey's gold effigy gleams
where magic chords resound from Memnon's truncated statue,
and old Thebes, with her hundred gates, now lies in ruins.
You'll find whole cities devoted to cats, or to river-fish,
dogs, even - but not a soul who worships Diana.
Eating onions or leeks is an outrage, they're strictly taboo:
how holy the nation that has such gods springing up in the
kitchen-garden! All households abstain from lamb and mutton,
the slaughtering of young kids is strictly forbidden -
but to make meals of human flesh is permitted. When Ulysses
narrated this crime over dinner, he shocked King Alcinous -
and some others present, perhaps, who, angry or laughing,
thought him a braggart liar . 'Won't somebody throw this fellow
back in the sea? He deserves a real-life Charybdis, a maelstrom,
with his lying tales of Cyclopes and Laestrygonian monsters!
I sooner believe in Scylla, or the Clashing Rocks,
or that leather bag stuffed with every kind of storm-wind,
or Circe, with one light touch of her wand, transforrriing
Elpenor and all the rest into grunting pig-oarsmen.
Did he really take us Phaeacians for such credulous numskulls?'
So might a more or less sober guest, who'd not over-indulged
in that powerful Corfu wine, have justly complained:
for the Ithacan's tale was his own, he had no witnesses.
But the incident I shall relate, though sufficiently fantastic,
happened not long ago, up-country from sunbaked
Coptos, an act of mob violence worse than any tragedy.
Search through the mythical canon from Pyrrha onwards,
you won't find any instance of a collective crime. Now listen,
and learn what kind of atrocity our times can add to the ages.
............
............

Trans. Copyright © Peter Green, 1967, 1974, 1998 - publ. Penguin Classics


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