No Poem Without a Penis: Martial 1.35

“Cornelius, you complain that I write poems which are not serious enough, and which a teacher would not read in school: but my poems, just like a husband with his wife, cannot please without a penis. Would you have me write a wedding song without mentioning a wedding? Who would require clothes at the Floralia, or would put a long dress on a whore? This is the rule with funny poems: they are no good unless they have something a bit licentious. So put away your serious glare and please, cut my games and jokes a little slack, and don’t cut the balls off my books. There is nothing uglier than a castrated Priapus.”

Versus scribere me parum seueros
nec quos praelegat in schola magister,
Corneli, quereris: sed hi libelli,
tamquam coniugibus suis mariti,
non possunt sine mentula placere.              5
Quid si me iubeas thalassionem
uerbis dicere non thalassionis?
quis Floralia uestit et stolatum
permittit meretricibus pudorem?
Lex haec carminibus data est iocosis,              10
ne possint, nisi pruriant, iuuare.
Quare deposita seueritate
parcas lusibus et iocis rogamus,
nec castrare uelis meos libellos
Gallo turpis est nihil Priapo.

Metagenes Messing With Homer, An April First Tradition

In an earlier post I mentioned Metagenes’ playing with a line from the Iliad:


Metagenes (fr. 19, Athenaeaus 270e)

“One Bird Omen is best: defend your dinner!”

εἵς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ δείπνου

This is the comic poet’s adaptations of Hector’s famous dismissal of a bad omen in the Iliad:

Homer, Iliad 12.243:

“One bird-omen is best: defend your fatherland”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης.


Here are additional adaptations I have made for other characters from myth (I welcome any other attempts to play along!):


For Polyphemos, the goat-herding Cyclops:

“One bird-omen is best: protect your cheese”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ τύρης


For Telemachus:

“One bird-omen is best: defend your daddy”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάππου


For Odysseus

“One bird-omen is best: save your homecoming.”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ νόστου


For Paris

“One bird-omen is best: defend your ‘booty’ “

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πύγης


For Oedipus

“One bird-omen is best: defend your mommy”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ ματρὸς


For any old Satyr

“One bird-omen is best: defend your wine”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ οἴνου


For The Big Lebowski

“One bird-omen is best: protect your beverage, [man]”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πὀτου


If that seems mysterious, watch this:


Cicero Was a Cut-Up: Tully’s Jokes

Macrobius, Saturnalia (II.2.3.1-4) 

“I am surprised that you all have been quiet about Cicero’s jokes which prove him as eloquent as in everything else he said. If it seems right, I am prepared—like the guardian of a temple about to announce the oracles of a god—to repeat the Ciceronian jests I remember.

When everyone appeared ready to listen to him, he began: “When Marcus Cicero dined with Damasippus and his host offered him a rather middling wine and said “Drink this forty-year old Falernian,” Cicero replied “It carries its age well.” At another time when he saw his own son-in-law Lentulus, a man of short stature, girded up with a long sword, he asked “Who has attached my son-in-law to a sword?” Nor did he keep a similar bite from his brother Quintus Cicero. For, when visiting the province Quintus that was administering, he saw his brother’s portrait armed with a circular shield sculpted with much greater size near the chest in the manner of pictures (his brother was also a bit on the shorter side), he said “Half of my brother is bigger than the whole!”

Sed miror omnes vos ioca tacuisse Ciceronis, in quibus facundissimus, ut in omnibus, fuit: et, si videtur, ut aedituus responsa numinis sui praedicat ita ego quae memoria suggesserit refero dicta Ciceronis. Tum omnibus ad audiendum erectis ille sic incipit: 2 M. Cicero, cum apud Damasippum coenaret et ille mediocri vino posito diceret: Bibite Falernum hoc, annorum quadraginta est: Bene, inquit, aetatem fert. 3 Idem cum Lentulum generum suum, exiguae naturae hominem, longo gladio adcinctum vidisset: Quis, inquit, generum meum ad gladium alligavit? 4 Nec Q. Ciceroni fratri circa similem mordacitatem pepercit. Nam cum in ea provincia quam ille rexerat vidisset clypeatam imaginem eius ingentibus lineamentis usque ad pectus ex more pictam (erat autem Quintus ipse staturae parvae), ait: Frater meus dimidius maior est quam totus.

Tawdry Tuesday: What Did the Greeks Eat and Screw for 10 Years at Troy?

Students often complain about the lack of verisimilitude in the heroic diet–even though the Odyssey  mentions that Odysseus’ companions fish and hunt birds before they kill the cattle in Thrinacia, students find something odd about a diet of meat, bread and wine.

Apparently ancient comic poets did too–and they were concerned about the reality of heroic sexual habits as well. Obviously, as the beginning of book 1 of the Iliad makes clear, eligible ladies were not in excess supply.

[Warning: this next passage is a little, well, explicit]
Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 1.46

“Sarpedon makes it clear that they ate fish when he says that being captured is similar to hunting with a fishing net. In the comic charm, Eubolos also says jokingly:

Where dies Homer say that any of the Achaeans
Ate fish? They only ever roast meat—he never has
Anyone of them boil it at all!
And not a one of them sees a single prostitute—
They were stroking themselves for ten years!
They knew a bitter expedition, those men who
After taking a single city went back home
With assholes much wider than the city they captured.

The heroes also didn’t allow freedom to the birds in the air, but they set snares and nets for thrushes and doves. They practices for bird hunting when they tied the dove to the mast of the ship and shot arrows at it, as is clear from the Funeral Games. But Homer leaves out their consumption of vegetables, fish and birds because of gluttony and because cooking is inappropriate, he judged it inferior to heroic and godly deeds.”

The Achaeans did not have this option…

ὅτι δὲ καὶ ἰχθῦς ἤσθιον Σαρπηδὼν δῆλον ποιεῖ (Ε 487), ὁμοιῶν τὴν ἅλωσιν πανάγρου δικτύου θήρᾳ. καίτοι Εὔβουλος κατὰ τὴν κωμικὴν χάριν φησὶ παίζων (II 207 K)·
ἰχθὺν δ’ ῞Ομηρος ἐσθίοντ’ εἴρηκε ποῦ
τίνα τῶν ᾿Αχαιῶν; κρέα δὲ μόνον ὤπτων, ἐπεὶ
ἕψοντά γ’ οὐ πεποίηκεν αὐτῶν οὐδένα.
ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ μίαν ἀλλ’ ἑταίραν εἶδέ τις
αὐτῶν, ἑαυτοὺς δ’ ἔδεφον ἐνιαυτοὺς δέκα.
πικρὰν στρατείαν δ’ εἶδον, οἵτινες πόλιν
μίαν λαβόντες εὐρυπρωκτότεροι πολὺ
τῆς πόλεος ἀπεχώρησαν ἧς εἷλον τότε.

οὐδὲ τὸν ἀέρα δ’ <οἱ> ἥρωες τοῖς ὄρνισιν εἴων ἐλεύθερον, παγίδας καὶ νεφέλας ἐπὶ ταῖς κίχλαις καὶ πελειάσιν ἱστάντες. ἐγυμνάζοντο δὲ πρὸς ὀρνεοθηρευτικὴν [καὶ] τὴν πελειάδα τῇ μηρίνθῳ κρεμάντες ἀπὸ νηὸς ἱστοῦ καὶ τοξεύοντες ἑκηβόλως εἰς αὐτήν, ὡς ἐν τῷ ἐπιταφίῳ δηλοῦται (Ψ 852). παρέλιπε δὲ τὴν χρῆσιν τῶν λαχάνων καὶ ἰχθύων καὶ τῶν ὀρνίθων διά τε τὴν λιχνείαν καὶ προσέτι τὴν ἐν ταῖς σκευασίαι ἀπρέπειαν, ἐλάττω κεκρικὼς ἡρωικῶν καὶ θείων ἔργων.

Note: My small LSJ defines δέφω as “to soften by working by the hand, to make supple, to tan hides.” The 1902 LSJ uses Latin to explain: “sensu obscoeno, v. Lat. Masturbari.”

The Suda cuts to the chase on this one with “dephein: touching the genitals. So, “rubbing” (Dephomenos) instead of “flogging your genitals.”

Δέφειν: τὸ τοῦ αἰδοίου τινὰ ἅπτεσθαι. καὶ Δεφόμενος, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀποδέρων τὸ αἰδοῖον.

And, apart from Euboulos, the other major proof of this comes from Aristophanes:

Aristophanes, Knights 23-24

ΟΙ. Β′                                               Πάνυ καλῶς.
῞Ωσπερ δεφόμενός νυν ἀτρέμα πρῶτον λέγε
τὸ μολωμεν, εἶτα δ’ αὐτο, κᾆτ’ ἐπάγων πυκνόν.

Just as if you were masturbating, say it first now gently
“let us hurry” and then again pushing on, quickly.”

[Here’s a link to the whole play. Soon, one of the interlocutors stops “because the skin is irritated by masturbation.” (῾Οτιὴ τὸ δέρμα δεφομένων ἀπέρχεται, 29)]

The verb is not common, to say the least, so later commentators found it necessary to gloss it and explain Aristophanes’ joke. I realize that I might be crossing many boundaries of propriety here, but I am a bit intrigued by the explanations of the joke, how the joke immediately becomes less funny, and the language used in the commentaries. So, here it goes:

Scholia in Knights:

[1] “ ‘Just like dephomenos’: instead of “flogging your genitals” (apodérôn to aidoion). For, when men touch their genitals they don’t complete as they began, but they move more eagerly towards the secretion of semen. This plays on that, he means start small at first but then go continuously.

[2]dephomenos’: “having intercourse’. Flogging genitals.

[3]dephomenos’: They mean handling the penis. For, when men take hold of their penises they don’t move towards ejaculation the way they began, but more eagerly over time, as they are inflamed by the continuity of movement.”

vet ὥσπερ δεφόμενος: ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀποδέρων τὸ αἰδοῖον. οἱ γὰρ ἁπτόμενοι τῶν αἰδοίων οὐχ ὡς ἤρξαντο, ἀλλὰ σπουδαιότερον κινοῦσι πρὸς τῇ τῆς γονῆς ἐκκρίσει. τοῦτο οὖν λέγει, ὅτι πρῶτον κατὰ μικρόν, εἶτα συνεχῶς λέγε. RVEΓ2M

vet δεφόμενος] ξυνουσιάζων, ἀποδέρων τὸ αἰδοῖον. M

Tr δεφόμενος] ἤγουν τοῦ μορίου ἁπτόμενος. οἱ γὰρ ἁπτόμενοι τοῦ μορίου
πρὸς ἔκκρισιν τῆς γονῆς οὐχ ὡς ἤρξαντο κινοῦσιν ἀλλὰ σπουδαιότερον, ἐκπυρούμενοι τῇ συνεχείᾳ τῆς κινήσεως. VatLh

A Plague Like No Other:The Seven-Day Tragic Fever

Lucian, How to Write History 1


“Dear Philo—people say that during the time of King Lysimachus a plague afflicted the people of Abdera. At first, everyone had a fever that was immediately intense and burned fiercely until around the seventh day the fever subsided—for some when a great deal of blood flowed from their nose, for others when their sweat broke out. But their minds remained in an absurd state of suffering: everyone was crazy for tragedy and they were screaming out iambics and shouting loudly. They were especially singing solos from Euripides’ Andromeda and they adapted Perseus’ speech to song too. The city was full of these pale, thin, seventh-day tragedians singing:

“Lust, you tyrant of gods and men!”

And shouting the rest of these lines at the top of their lungs endlessly until the winter and the great cold stopped their wailing. I suspect that the actor Archelaos created the cause of this affliction. He was very popular then and he had performed the Andromeda for them when it was the middle of the summer, during the hottest part of the year. I think that they contracted the fever in the theater and later reverted into tragedy when they rose from their beds, since the Andromeda was lurking in their memory and Perseus was flitting around everyone’s thoughts with Medousa’s head in his hands.”


᾿Αβδηρίταις φασὶ Λυσιμάχου ἤδη βασιλεύοντος ἐμπεσεῖν τι νόσημα, ὦ καλὲ Φίλων, τοιοῦτο· πυρέττειν μὲν γὰρ τὰ πρῶτα πανδημεὶ ἅπαντας ἀπὸ τῆς πρώτης εὐθὺς ἐρρωμένως καὶ λιπαρεῖ τῷ πυρετῷ, περὶ δὲ τὴν ἑβδόμην τοῖς μὲν αἷμα πολὺ ἐκ ῥινῶν ῥυέν, τοῖς δ’ ἱδρὼς ἐπιγενόμενος, πολὺς καὶ οὗτος, ἔλυσεν τὸν πυρετόν. ἐς γελοῖον δέ τι πάθος περιίστα τὰς γνώμας αὐτῶν· ἅπαντες γὰρ ἐς τραγῳδίαν παρεκίνουν καὶ ἰαμβεῖα ἐφθέγγοντο καὶ μέγα ἐβόων· μάλιστα δὲ τὴν Εὐριπίδου᾿Ανδρομέδαν ἐμονῴδουν καὶ τὴν τοῦ Περσέως ῥῆσιν ἐν μέλει διεξῄεσαν, καὶ μεστὴ ἦν ἡ πόλις ὠχρῶν ἁπάντων καὶ λεπτῶν τῶν ἑβδομαίων ἐκείνων τραγῳδῶν,

σὺ δ’ ὦ θεῶν τύραννε κἀνθρώπων ῎Ερως,

καὶ τὰ ἄλλα μεγάλῃ τῇ φωνῇ ἀναβοώντων καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πολύ, ἄχρι δὴ χειμὼν καὶ κρύος δὲ μέγα γενόμενον ἔπαυσε ληροῦντας αὐτούς. αἰτίαν δέ μοι δοκεῖ τοῦ τοιούτου παρασχεῖν ᾿Αρχέλαος ὁ τραγῳδός, εὐδοκιμῶν τότε, μεσοῦντος θέρους ἐν

πολλῷ τῷ φλογμῷ τραγῳδήσας αὐτοῖς τὴν ᾿Ανδρομέδαν, ὡς πυρέξαι τε ἀπὸ τοῦ θεάτρου τοὺς πολλοὺς καὶ ἀναστάντας ὕστερον ἐς τὴν τραγῳδίαν παρολισθαίνειν, ἐπὶ πολὺ ἐμφιλοχωρούσης τῆς ᾿Ανδρομέδας τῇ μνήμῃ αὐτῶν καὶ τοῦ Περσέως ἔτι σὺν τῇ Μεδούσῃ τὴν ἑκάστου γνώμην περιπετομένου.


They got married in a fever.  Strange plagues indeed….

Slandering Socrates: Ameipsias, Fr. 7 (Diogenes Laertius, 2.27-28) and Eupolis


“Socrates, the best of men when there are few and the most foolish among the many:

You have come to see us too? You are brave. Where would you get a cloak?

Your appearance is an embarrassment to cobblers everywhere.”


Σώκρατες ἀνδρῶν βέλτιστ᾿ ὀλίγων, πολλῶν δὲ ματαιοταθ᾿, ἥκεις

καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἡμᾶς; καρτερικὸς γ᾿ εἶ. πόθεν ἄν σοι χλαῖνα γένοιτο;

τουτὶ τὸ κακὸν τῶν σκυτότομων κατ᾿ ἐπήρειαν γεγένηται


Pretty sure that the “you have crappy shoes” insult wouldn’t have bothered ol’ Socrates. But Ameipsias, though not a household name, was no slacker: he bested Aristophanes twice! And mocking Socrates seems like a good habit from Old Comedy. Apart from Aristophanes, Eupolis was in on the action too:


“I hate Socrates too,

that prattling panhandler

who figured out everything

except where he can get something to eat.”


μισῶ δὲ καὶ Σωκράτην

τὸν πτωχὸν ἀδολέσχην,

ὃς τἆλλα μὲν πεφρόντικεν,

ὁπόθεν δὲ καταφαγεῖν ἔχοι

τούτου κατημέληκεν


Eupolis? I guess he lost the battle with Socrates.

Catullus 97: A Reminder to Convention-Goers, Brush Your Teeth! (NSFW)

“Gods spare me! I didn’t believe it mattered at all
Whether I smelled Aemilius’ mouth or ass.
The former’s no cleaner and the latter’s no filthier-
No, I think his ass is cleaner and better
Since it’s lacking teeth. His teeth are six feet long,
with gums just like a rotted cart frame,
Both set upon a jaw hanging open like
The maw of a pissing mule in summer.
He screws many woman and fancies himself charming,
And he is not remanded to a grinding mill and donkey?
How can we think that any woman who touches him
Wouldn’t lick the sick ass of an executioner?”

Non (ita me di ament) quicquam referre putavi,
utrumne os an culum olfacerem Aemilio.
nilo mundius hoc, nihiloque immundius illud,
verum etiam culus mundior et melior:
nam sine dentibus est. hic dentis sesquipedalis,
gingivas vero ploxeni habet veteris,
praeterea rictum qualem diffissus in aestu
meientis mulae cunnus habere solet.
hic futuit multas et se facit esse venustum,
et non pistrino traditur atque asino?
quem siqua attingit, non illam posse putemus
aegroti culum lingere carnificis?

[continue for a NSFW version of the poem]

Continue reading “Catullus 97: A Reminder to Convention-Goers, Brush Your Teeth! (NSFW)”

Hegemon the Parodist, fr. 1 (Brandt 1988): Thasian BM-Missiles



When I arrived at Thasos they met me with missiles of shit.

And then someone stood near me and said:

“Dirtiest of all men, who persuaded you to mount

this pristine stage with feet like yours?”


᾿Ες δὲ Θάσον μ’ ἐλθόντα μετεωρίζοντες ἔβαλλον

πολλοῖσι σπελέθοισι, καὶ ὧδέ τις εἶπε παραστάς·

‘ὦ πάντων ἀνδρῶν βδελυρώτατε, τίς σ’ ἀνέπεισεν

καλὴν ἐς κρηπῖδα ποσὶν τοιοῖσδ’ ἀναβῆναι;’


I like parody. Who doesn’t? Not enough people know about the Batrakhomuomakhia. But I knew nothing about Hegemon before today. Hegemon? Apparently the inventor of parody who does not merit a Wikipedia page of his own.


I like this because of the language, oh and the ugly feet thing. I empathize.  In the rest of the passage, the speaker says that Athena came to him and encouraged him to sing