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The next day arises, by much the most agreeable to all: for Plotius, and Varius, and Virgil met us at Sinuessa; souls more candid ones than which the world never produced, nor is there a person in the world more bound to them than myself. 0h what embraces, and what transports were there! While I am in my senses, nothing can I prefer to a pleasant friend. The village, which is next adjoining to the bridge of Campania, accommodated us with lodging [at night]; and the public officers1 with such a quantity of fuel and salt as they are obliged to [by law]. From this place the mules deposited their pack-saddles at Capua betimes [in the morning]. Maecenas goes to play [at tennis]; but I and Virgil to our repose: for to play at tennis is hurtful to weak eyes and feeble constitutions. From this place the villa of Cocceius, situated above the Caudian inns, which abounds with plenty, receives us. Now, my muse, I beg of you briefly to relate the engagement between the buffoon Sarmentus and Messius Cicirrus; and from what ancestry descended each began the contest. The illutrious race of Messius-Oscan:2 Sarmentus's mistress is still alive. Sprung from such families as these, they came to the combat. First, Sarmentus: "I pronounce thee to have the look of a mad horse." We laugh; and Messius himself [says], "I accept your challenge:" and wags his head. "O!" cries he, "if the horn were not cut off your forehead, what would you not do; since, maimed as you are, you bully at such a rate?" For a foul scar has disgraced the left part of Messius's bristly forehead. Cutting many jokes upon his Campanian disease, and upon his face, he desired him to exhibit Polyphemus's dance:3 that he had no occasion for a mask, or the tragic buskins. Cicirrus [retorted] largely to these: he asked, whether he had consecrated his chain4 to the household gods according to his vow; though he was a scribe, [he told him] his mistress's property in him was not the less. Lastly, he asked, how lie ever came to run away; such a lank meager fellow, for whom a pound of corn [a-day] would be ample.5 We were so diverted, that we continued that supper to an unusual length. Hence we proceed straight on for Beneventum; where the bustling landlord almost burned himself, in roasting some lean thrushes: for, the fire falling through the old kitchen [floor], the spreading flame made a great progress toward the highest part of the roof. Then you might have seen the hungry guests and frightened slaves snatching their supper out [of the flames], and every body endeavoring to extinguish the fire. After this Apulia began to discover to me her well-known mountains, which the Atabulus scorches [with his blasts]: and through which we should never have crept, unless the neighboring village of Trivicus had received us, not without a smoke that brought tears into our eyes; occasioned by a hearth's burning some green boughs with the leaves upon them. Here, like a great fool as I was, I wait till midnight for a deceitful mistress: sleep, however, overcomes me, while meditating love; and disagreeable dreams make me ashamed of myself and every thing about me.
1 “Parochi” . Before the consulship of Lucius Posthumius, the magistrates of Rome traveled at the public charge, without being burthensome to the provinces. Afterward commissaries were appointed in all the great roads to defray all expenses of those who were employed in the business of the state. They were obliged, by the Lex Julia de provinciis, to provide lodging, fire, salt, hay, straw, etc.
2 “Osci” is a nominative case, and we must construe it, Osci sunt clarum genus Messii. The Oscans gave to Messius his illustrious birth, a sufficient proof that he was an infamous scoundrel. The people who inhabited this part of Campania were guilty of execrable debaucheries.
3 “Saltaret uti Cyclopa. ” The raillery is founded on his gigantic size, and the villainous gash that Messius had on his forehead, which made him look so like a Polyphemus, that he might dance the part without buskins or a mask. To dance a Cyclops, a Glaucus, a Ganymede, a Leda, was an expression for representing their story by dancing.
4 “Donasset iamne catenam.” Only the vilest slaves, or those who worked in the country, were chained. It appears by an epigram of Martial, that when they were set at liberty, they consecrated their chains to Saturn, because slavery was unknown under his reign. But when Messius asks Sarmentus whether he had dedicated his chain to the “Dii Lares”, he would reproach him with being a fugitive. These gods were invoked by travelers, because they presided over highways, from whence they were called “viales”. They themselves were always represented like travelers, as if they were ready to leave the house; “succincti”. Or Sarmentus was a slave so vile that he knew no other gods, but those who stood on the hearth, and which it was his employment to keep clean.
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