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Priapus complains that the Esquilian mount is infested with the incantations of sorceresses.

FORMERLY I was the trunk of a wild fig-tree, an useless log:1 when the artificer, in doubt whether he should make a stool or a Priapus of me, determined that I should be a god. Henceforward I became a god, the greatest terror of thieves and birds: for my right hand restrains thieves, and a bloodylooking pole stretched out from my frightful middle: but a reed fixed upon the crown of my head terrifies the mischievous birds, and hinders them from settling in these new gardens.2 Before this the fellow-slave bore dead corpses thrown out of their narrow cells to this place, in order to be deposited in paltry coffins. This place stood a common sepulcher for the miserable mob, for the buffoon Pantolabus, and Nomentanus the rake. Here a column assigned a thousand feet3 [of ground] in front, and three hundred toward the fields: that the burial-place should not descend to the heirs of the estate. Now one may live in the Esquiliae,4 [since it is made] a healthy place; and walk upon an open terrace, where lately the melancholy passengers beheld the ground frightful with white bones; though both the thieves and wild beasts accustomed to infest this place, do not occasion me so much care and trouble, as do [these hags], that turn people's minds by their incantations and drugs. These I can not by any means destroy nor hinder, but that they will gather bones and noxious herbs, as soon as the fleeting moon5 has shown her beauteous face.

I myself saw Canidia, with her sable garment tucked up, walk with bare feet and disheveled hair, yelling together with the elder Sagana. Paleness had rendered both of them horrible to behold. They began to claw up the earth with their nails, and to tear a black ewe-lamb to pieces with their teeth.

The blood was poured into a ditch, that thence they might charm out the shades6 of the dead, ghosts that were to give them answers. There was a woolen effigy7 too, another of wax: the woolen one larger, which was to inflict punishment on the little one8 The waxen stood in a suppliant posture, as ready to perish in a servile manner. One of the hags invokes Hecate, and the other fell Tisiphone. Then might you see serpents and infernal bitches9 wander about; and the moon with blushes hiding behind the lofty monuments, that she might not be a witness to these doings. But if I lie, even a tittle, may my head be contaminated with the white filth of ravens; and may Julius, and the effeminate Miss Pediatous,10 and the knave Voranus, come to water upon me, and befoul me. Why should I mention every particular? viz. in what manner, speaking alternately with Sagana, the ghosts uttered dismal and piercing shrieks; and how by stealth they laid in the earth a wolf's beard, with the teeth of a spotted snake; and how a great blaze flamed forth from the waxen image? And how I was shocked at the voices and actions of these two furies, a spectator however by no means incapable of revenge? For from my cleft body of fig-tree11 wood I uttered a loud noise with as great an explosion as a burst bladder. But they ran into the city: and with exceeding laughter and diversion might you have seen Canidia's artificial teeth, and Sagana's towering tete of false hair falling off, and the herbs, and the enchanted bracelets from her arms.

1 The wood of a fig-tree was very little used, on account of its brittleness.

2 Octavius, willing to correct the infection of this hill, which was a common burial-place for all the poor of Rome, got the consent of the senate and people to give part of it to Maecenas, who built a magnificent house there with very extensive gardens. Hence the poet calls them “novis hortis.

3Mille pedes in fronte. Such was the title of the grave-yard, preserved on a pillar of stone, cippus, to show its extent, and to declare it was never to return to the heirs of the estate. We have numberless inscriptions of this kind, “ITA NE UNQUAM DE NOMINE FAMILIAE NOSTRAE EXEAT HOC MONUMENTUM. HOC MONUMENTUM HEREDES NON SEQUITUR. IN FRONTE LAT. PED. XX. ET DIG. II. IN AGR. LONG. PED. XX.In fronte signifies to the road: in agro, to the fields. Dabat is for indicabat, testabatur.

4 The air was afterward so healthy, that Augustus was carried thither when he was ill.

5 The moon presided over all enchantments, and was believed to be most favorable when in the full, decorum os, because she then infused a stronger spirit into the magical herbs.

6 Black victims alone were sacrificed to the infernal gods, nor was any thing supposed more delicious to the souls of the departed than blood. They could not foretell any future events, or answer any questions, until they had drank of it. Ulysses was obliged to draw his sword to frighten them away from the blood he had poured into the trench for Tiresias.

7 The image of wool represented the person they were willing should survive the other represented by that of wax. It is for this reason that the images were made of different materials, that their fates might be different.

8 This little figure probably represented Darius, who had forsaken Canidia, as we find in the fifth epode.

9 The serpents were forerunners of Tisiphone, and the bitches foretold that her infernal majesty was coming.

10Iulius et fragilis Pediatia. We know not who Julius was. Pediatius was an infamous Roman knight, whom Horace, for his effeminacy, calls Pediatia. Thus Aristophanes calls Cleonymus Cleonyma; Sostratus, Sostrata.(Clouds 673 ff.)

11 Ficus, i. e. I, an image made of the truncus ficulnus. The heat made the wood crack with a noise, which put the witches to flight.

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