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Another man's wife captivates you; a harlot, Davus: which of us sins more deservingly of the cross? When keen nature inflames me, any common wench that picks me up, dismisses me neither dishonored, nor caring whether a richer or a handsomer man enjoys her next. You, when you have cast off your ensigns of dignity, your equestrian ring and your Roman habit, turn out from a magistrate a wretched Dama,1 hiding with a cape your perfumed head: are you not really what you personate? You are introduced, apprehensive [of consequences]; and, as you are altercating with your passions, your bones shake with fear. What is the difference whether you go condemned [like a gladiator], to be galled with scourges,2 or slain with the sword; or be closed up in a filthy chest, where [the maid], conscious of her mistress' crime, has stowed you? Has not the husband of the offending dame a just power over both; against the seducer even a juster? But she neither changes her dress, nor place, nor sins to that excess [which you do]; since the woman is in dread of you, nor gives any credit to you, though you profess to love her. You must go under the yoke knowingly, and put all your fortune, your life, and reputation, together with your limbs, into the power of an enraged husband. Have you escaped? I suppose, then, you will be afraid [for the future]; and, being warned, will be cautious. No, you will seek occasion when you may be again in terror, and again may be likely to perish. 0 so often a slave! What beast, when it has once escaped by breaking its toils, absurdly trusts itself to them again? You say, "I am no adulterer." Nor, by Hercules, am I a thief, when I wisely pass by the silver vases. Take away the danger, and vagrant nature will spring forth, when restraints are removed. Are you my superior, subjected as you are, to the dominion of so many things and persons,, whom the prsetor's rod,3 though placed on your head three or four times over, can never free from this wretched solicitude? Add, to what has been said above, a thing of no less weight; whether he be an underling,4 who obeys the master-slave (as it is your custom to affirm), or only a fellow slave, what am I in respect of you? You, for example, who have the command of me, are in subjection to other things, and are led about, like a puppet movable by means of wires not its own.
1 Davus calls his master a judge, because Augustus had granted him the privilege of wearing a ring and a robe, called Angusticlavium. Thus he was in some measure incorporated into the body of Roman knights, whom Augustus appointed to determine civil causes. By "Dama" he means a mere slave.
2 “Uri virgis.” The people who sold themselves to a master of gladiators, engaged in a form or bond, called auctoramentum, to suffer every thing, sword, fire, whips, chains, and death. They were then received into the profession, and styled auctorati. From thence the terms came to be used for all kinds of infamous engagements.
4 “Nam sive vicarius.” The Romans generally had a master-slave in every family, servus atriensis, and all other slaves were called by one common name, vicarii. The first, who commands, is not less a slave than those who obey.
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