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Wretched is that man who is in search of something to eat, and finds that with difficulty; but more wretched is he who both seeks with difficulty, and finds nothing at all; most wretched is he, who, when he desires to eat, has not that which he may eat. But, by my faith, if I only could, I'd willingly tear out the eyes of this day;--with such enmity has it filled all people towards me. One more starved out I never did see, nor one more filled with hunger1, nor one who prospers less in whatever he begins to do. So much do my stomach and my throat take rest on these fasting holidays2. Away with the profession of a Parasite to very utter and extreme perdition! so much in these days do the young men drive away from them the needy drolls. They care nothing now-a-days for these Laconian men3 of the lowest benches--these whipping-posts, who have their clever sayings without provision and without money. They now-a-days seek those who, when they've eaten at their pleasure, may give them a return at their own houses. They go themselves to market, which formerly was the province of the Parasites. They go themselves from the Forum to the procurers with face as exposed4 as the magistrates in court5, with face exposed, condemn those who are found guilty; nor do they now value buffoons at one farthing6; all are so much in love with themselves. For, when, just now, I went away from here, I came to some young men in the Forum: "Good morrow," said I; "whither are we going together to breakfast?" On this, they were silent. "Who says, 'here, at my house,' or who makes an offer?" said I. Just like dumb men, they were silent, and didn't smile at me. "Where do we dine?" said I. On this they declined. I said one funny saying out of my best bon mots, by which I formerly used to get feasting for a month; not an individual smiled; at once I knew that the matter was arranged by concert. Not even one was willing to imitate a dog when provoked; if they didn't laugh, they might, at least, have grinned with their teeth7. From them I went away, after I saw that I was thus made sport of. I went to some others; then to some others I came; then to some others--the same the result. All treat the matter in confederacy, just like the oil-merchants in the Velabrum8. Now, I've returned thence, since I see myself made sport of there. In like manner do other Parasites walk to and fro, to no purpose, in the Forum. Now, after the foreign fashion9, I'm determined to enforce all my rights. Those who have entered into a confederacy, by which to deprive us of food and life,--for them I'll name a day. I'll demand, as the damages, that they shall give me ten dinners at my own option, when provisions are dear: thus will I do. Now I'll go hence to the harbour. There, is my only hope of a dinner; if that shall fail me, I'll return here to the old gentleman, to his unsavoury dinner.
1 Filled with hunger: This paradoxical expression is similar to the one used in the Aulularia, l. 45, "inaniis oppletæ," "filled with emptiness."
2 Fasting holidays: He means to say, that as on feast days and holidays people abstain from work, so at present his teeth and stomach have no employment.
3 These Laconian men: The Parasites, when there was not room for them on the "triclinia," or "couches" at table, were forced to sit on "subsellia," or "benches," at the bottom of the table. This was like the custom of the Spartans, or Laconians, who, eschewing the luxury of reclining, always persisted in sitting at meals. The Spartans, also, endured pain with the greatest firmness; a virtue much required by Parasites, in order to put up with the indignities which they had to endure from the guests, who daubed their faces, broke pots about their heads, and boxed their ears.
4 With face as exposed: People, with any sense of decency, would resort to these places either in masks, or with a hood thrown over the face.
5 In court: "In tribu." He alludes to the trials which took place before the Roman people in the "Comitia Tributa," or "assemblies of the tribes," where the Tribunes and Ædiles acted as the accusers. The offences for which persons were summoned before the tribes, were, bad conduct of a magistrate in performance of his duties, neglect of duty, mismanagement of a war, embezzlement of the public money, breaches of the peace, usury, adultery, and some other crimes. The "Comitia Tributa" were used as courts of appeal, when a person protested against a fine imposed by a magistrate.
6 At one farthing: Literally, "at a teruncius," which was a small coin among the Romans, containing three "unciæ," "twelfth parts" or one quarter of the "as," which we generally take as equivalent to a penny.
7 Grinned with their teeth: That is, by showing their teeth and grinning. This is not unlike the expression used in the Psalms (according to the translation in our Liturgy) --Ps. lix., ver. 6--"They grin like a dog and run about through the city."
8 In the Velabrum: The "Via Nova," or "New Street," at Rome, led from the interior of the city to the "Velabra." The greater and the less "Velabrum" lay between the Palatine and the Capitoline Hills, where fruits and other commodities were sold in booths, or under awnings, from which ("vela") the streets probably derived their name. Varro, however, says that they were so called from the verb "veho," "to carry;" because in early times those spots were traversed in boats, which mode of carriage was called "velatura." From the present passage, it appears that the oil-merchants in the "Velabra" acted in confederacy not to sell their oils under a certain price.
9 After the foreign fashion: Some suppose that "barbaricâ, lege" here means "the foreign" or "Roman law," and that he refers to the "Lex Vinnia, introduced at Rome by Quintus Vinnius, which was said to have been passed against those persons who confederated for the purpose of keeping up the high prices of provisions. It is, however, somewhat doubtful if there really was such a law; and the better opinion seems to be that the word "lege" means "fashion" or "custom;" and that he refers to the Roman method of trial. He will accuse his former entertainers of a conspiracy to starve him. He will name a day for trial, "diem dicet;" he will demand damages or a penalty. "irrogabit mulctam;" and thus will he proceed at law against them, "sic egerit." Rost has written at great length on the meaning of this passage.
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