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The young men have given me the name of "the mistress," for this reason, because invocated1 I am wont to attend at the banquet. I know that buffoons2 say that this is absurdly said, but I affirm that it is rightly said. For at the banquet the lover, when he throws the dice, invokes his mistress3. Is she then invocated, or is she not? She is, most clearly. But, i' faith, we Parasites with better reason are so called, whom no person ever either invites or invokes, and who, like mice, are always eating the victuals of another person. When business is laid aside4, when people repair to the country, at that same moment is business laid aside for our teeth. Just as, when it is hot weather, snails lie hidden in secret, and live upon their own juices, if the dew doesn't fall; so, when business is laid aside, do Parasites lie hidden in retirement, and miserably live upon their own juices, while in the country the persons are rusticating whom they sponge upon. When business is laid aside, we Parasites are greyhounds; when business recommences, like mastiffs5, we are annoying-like and very troublesome- like6. And here, indeed, unless, i' faith, any Parasite is able to endure cuffs with the fist, and pots to be broken7 about his head, why he may e'en go with his wallet outside the Trigeminian Gate8. That this may prove my lot, there is some danger. For since my patron9 has fallen into the hands of the enemy--(such warfare are the Ætolians now waging with the Eleans; for this is Ætolia; this Philopolemus has been made captive in Elis, the son of this old man Hegio who lives here pointing to the house --a house which to me is a house of woe, and which so oft as I look upon, I weep). Now, for the sake of his son, has he commenced this dishonorable traffic, very much against his own inclination. He buys up men that have been made captives, if perchance he may be able to find some one for whom to gain his son in exchange. An object which I really do much desire that he may gain. for unless he finds him, there's nowhere for me to find myself. I have no hopes in the young men; they are all too fond of themselves. He, in fine, is a youth with the old-fashioned nanners, whose countenance I never rendered cheerful without a return. His father is worthily matched, as endowed with like manners. Now I'll go to him;--but his door is opening, the door from which full oft I've sallied forth drunk with excess of cheer. He stands aside.
1 Because invocated: "Invocatus." The following Note is extracted from Thornton's Translation of this Play:--"The reader's indulgence for the coinage of a new term (and perhaps not quite so much out of character from the mouth of a Parasite) is here requested in the use of the word 'invocated' in a sense, which it is owned, there is no authority for, but without it no way occurs to explain the poet's meaning--which, such as it is, and involved in such a pun, is all that can be aimed at. The word 'invocatus' means both 'called upon' and 'not called upon.' Ergasilus here quibbles upon it; for, though at entertainments he attends, as it is the common character of Parasites to do, without invitation, that is 'not called upon;' and as mistresses are 'called upon' that their names so invoked may make their lovers throw the dice with success; still, according to the double sense of the word, they may be compared to each other, as they are both, according to the Latin idiom, 'invocati.'"
2 That buffoons: "Derisores," "buffoons." By this word he means, that particular class of Parasites who earned their dinners by their repartees and bon-mots.
3 Invokes his mistress: It was the Grecian custom, when they threw dice at an entertainment, for the thrower to call his mistress by name, which invocation was considered to bring good luck.
4 When business is laid aside: " Ubi res prolatæ sunt." Meaning thereby "in vacation-time." In the heat of summer the courts of justice were closed, and the more wealthy portion of the Romans retired into the country. or to the seaside. Cicero mentions this vacation as "rerum prolatio." The allusion in the previous line is probably derived from a saying of the Cynic Diogenes: when he saw mice creeping under the table, he used to say, "See the Parasites of Diogenes."
5 Like mastiffs: "Molossici." Literally, "dogs of Molossus," a country of Epirus.
6 Annoying-like and very troublesome-like: "Odiosici-- incommodestici." These are two extravagant forms of the words "odiosi" and "incommodi," coined by the author for the occasion.
7 Pots to be broken: By Meursius we are informed that these practical jokes were played upon the unfortunate Parasites with pots filled with cinders, which were sometimes scattered over their clothes, to the great amusement of their fellow-guests.
8 The Trigeminian Gate: The Ostian Gate was so called because the Horatii left the city by that gate to fight the Curiatii. The brothers being born at one birth were "trigemini," whence the gate received its name. The beggars with their wallets were seated there. See the Trinummus, l. 423, and the Note to the passage.
9 Since my patron: Rex; literally, "king." The Parasites were in the habit of so calling their entertainers.
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