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AMONG the severities of the censors these three examples of the extreme strictness of their discipline are recorded in literature. The first is of this sort: The censor was administering the usual oath regarding wives, which was worded as follows: “Have you, to the best of your knowledge and belief, a wife?” The man who was to take the oath was a jester, a sarcastic dog, 1 and too much given to buffoonery. Thinking that he had a chance to crack a joke, when the censor asked him, as was customary, “Have you, to the best of your knowledge and belief, a wife?” he replied: “I indeed have a wife, [p. 375] but not, by Heaven! such a one as I could desire.” 2 Then the censor reduced him to a commoner for his untimely quip, 3 and added that the reason for his action was a scurrilous joke made in his presence. Here is another instance of the sternness of the same officials. The censors deliberated about the punishment of a man who had been brought before them by a friend as his advocate, and who had yawned in court very clearly and loudly. He was on the point of being condemned for his lapse, on the ground that it was an indication of a wandering and trifling mind and of wanton and undisguised indifference. But when the man had sworn that the yawn had overcome him much against his will and in spite of his resistance, and that he was afflicted with the disorder known as oscedo, or a tendency to yawning, he was excused from the penalty which had already been determined upon. Publius Scipio Africanus, son of Paulus, included both these stories in a speech which he made when censor, urging the people to follow the customs of their forefathers. 4 Sabinus Masurius too in the seventh book of his Memoirs relates a third instance of severity. He says: “When the censors Publius Scipio Nasica and Marcus Popilius were holding a review of the knights, they saw a horse that was very thin and ill-kept, while its rider was plump and in the best of condition. 'Why is it,' said they, 'that you are better cared for than your mount?' 'Because,' he replied, 'I take care of myself, but Statius, a worthless slave, takes care of the horse.' This answer did not seem sufficiently respectful, and the man was reduced to a commoner, according to custom.” [p. 377] Now Statius was a slave-name. In old times there were many slaves of that name. Caecilius too, the famous comic poet, was a slave and as such called Statius. But afterwards this was made into a kind of surname and he was called Caecilius Statius. 5
1 Canicula is used of a biting woman by Plaut. Cure. 598, and of Diogenes by Tertullian, adv. Marc. 1. 1.
2 The joke, which seems untranslatable, is of course on the doublemeaning of ex sententia, “according to your opinion” and “according to your wish.”
3 Made him one of the aerarii; see note 1, p. 352.
4 O. R. F.,2 p. 179.
5 This was regular in the case of freedmen, who took the forename and gentile name of their patron, or former master, and added their slave-name as a cognomen; e.g. M. Tullius Tiro. The forename of the Caecilius to whom Statius belonged is not known.
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