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CLAUDIAN

AGAINST EUTROPIUS, BOOK I (excerpts)

[Taken from the translation by Maurice Platnauer, in the Loeb edition, 1922. Line numbers given below in brackets.]
 

[1-10]
Let the world cease to wonder at the births of creatures half human, half bestial, at monstrous babes that affright their own mothers, at the howling of wolves heard by night in the cities, at beasts that speak to their astonied herds, at stones falling like rain, at the blood-red threatening storm clouds, at wells of water changed to gore, at moons that clash in mid-heaven and at twin suns. All portents pale before our eunuch consul. O shame to heaven and earth! Our cities behold an old woman decked in a consul's robe who gives a woman's name to the year.

[21-29]
The consul's own blood must cleanse the consular insignia, the monster itself must be sacrificed. Whatever it be that fate prepares for us and shows forth by such an omen, let Eutropius' death, I pray, avert it all.
Fortune, is thy power so all-embracing? To what lengths wilt thou sport with us poor mortals? If it was thy will to disgrace the consul's chair with a servile occupant let some "consul" come forward with broken chains, let an escaped jail-bird don the robes of Quirinus - but at least give us a man.

[44-46]
He is destined from his very cradle to bloody tortures; straight from his mother's womb he is hurried away to be made a eunuch [castrandus]; no sooner born than he becomes a prey to suffering.

[60-65]
Who could tell the names of all his buyers? Among these Ptolemy, servant of the post-house, was one of the better known. Then Ptolemy, tired of Eutropius' long service to his lusts, gives him to Arinthaeus; - gives, for he is no longer worth keeping nor old enough to be bought. How the scorned minion wept at his departure, with what grief did he lament that divorce!

[98-100]
... though a eunuch's one virtue be to guard the chastity of the marriage-chamber, here was one (and one only) who grew great through adulteries.

[138-152]
Universal contempt is sometimes a boon. Driven out by all, he could freely range among every sort of crime, and open a way for destiny. Oh thou, whosoe'er thou art, that holdest sway in Olympus, was it thy humour to make such mockery of mankind? He who was not suffered to perform the duties of a slave is admitted to the administration of an empire; him whom a private house scorned as a servant, a palace tolerates as its lord. When first the consular residence received this old vixen, who did not lament? Who grieved not to see an oft-sold corpse worm itself into the sacred service of the emperor? Nay, the very palace-servants, holding a prouder rank in slavery, murmured at such a colleague and long haughtily scorned his company.
See what manner of man [quem] they seek to connect to the annals of Rome: the very eunuchs were ashamed of him.

[187-193]
Being a eunuch also he is moved by no natural affection and has no care for family or children. All are moved to pity by those whose circumstances are like their own; similitude of ills is a close bond. Yet he is kind not even to eunuchs.
His passion for gold increases - the only passion his mutilated body can indulge. Of what use was emasculation? The knife is powerless against reckless avarice.

[222-228]
Why heap up these riches? Hast thou children to succeed to them? Marry or be married, thou canst never be a mother or a father: the former nature hath denied thee, the latter the surgeon's knife. India may enrich thee with enormous jewels, Arabia with her spices, China with her silks; none so needy, none so poverty-stricken as to wish to have Eutropius' fortune and therewith Eutropius' body.

[233-234]
What age or what country has ever witnessed a eunuch's jurisdiction?

[242-243]
Our enemies rejoiced at the sight and felt that at last we were lacking in men.

[277-281]
... wouldst thou be a devotee, let Cybele, not Mars, be the object of thy worship. Learn to imitate the madness of the Corybantes to the accompaniment of rolling drums. Thou mayest carry cymbals, pierce thy breast with the sacred pine, and with Phrygian knife destroy what yet is left of thy virility. Leave arms to men.

[296-298]
But no country has ever had a eunuch for a consul or judge or general. What in a man is honorable is disgraceful in an emasculate [eunuchi].

[320-345]
Had a woman assumed the fasces, though this were illegal it were nevertheless less disgraceful. Women bear sway among the Medes and swift Sabaeans; half barbary is governed by martial queens. We know of no people who endure a eunuch's rule. Worship is paid to Pallas, Phoebe, Vesta, Ceres, Cybele, Juno, and Latona; have we ever seen a temple built or altars raised to a eunuch god? From among women are priestesses chosen; Phoebus enters into their hearts; through their voices the Delphian oracle speaks; none but the Vestal Virgins approach the shrine of Trojan Minerva and tend her flame; eunuchs have never deserved the fillet and are always unholy. A woman is born that she may bear children and perpetuate the human race; the tribe of eunuchs was made for servitude. Hippolyte fell but by the arrow of Hercules; the Greeks fell before Penthesilea's axe; Carthage, far-famed citadel, proud Babylon with her hundred gates, are both said to have been built by a woman's hand. What noble deed did a eunuch ever do? What wars did such an one fight, what cities did he found? Moreover, nature created the former, the hand of man the latter, whether it was from fear of being betrayed by her shrill woman's voice and her hairless cheeks that Semiramis, to disguise her sex from the Assyrians, first surrounded herself with beings like her, or the Parthians employed the knife to stop the growth of the first down of manhood and forced their boys, kept boys by artifice, to serve their lusts by thus lengthening the years of youthful charm.

[358-370]
Then another adds, jesting with a more wanton wit: "Dost thou wonder? Nothing great [magnum] is there that Eutropius does not conceive in his heart. He ever loves novelty, ever size, and is quick to taste everything in turn. He fears no assault from the rear; night and day he is ready with watchful care; soft, easily moved by entreaty, and. even in the midst of his passion, tenderest of men [mollissimus], he never says 'no,' and is ever at the disposal even of those that solicit him not. Whatever the senses desire he cultivates and offers for another's enjoyment. That hand will give whatever thou wouldst have. He performs the functions of all alike; his dignity loves to unbend. His meetings and his deserving labours have won him this reward, and he receives the consul's robe in recompense for the work of his skillful hand."

[391-499, speech of the goddess Roma to the emperor:]
"Examples near at hand testify to the extent of my power now thou art emperor. The Saxon is conquered and the seas safe; the Picts have been defeated and Britain is secure. I love to see at my feet the humbled Franks and broken Suebi, and I behold the Rhine mine own, Germanicus. Yet what am I to do? The discordant East envies our prosperity, and beneath that other sky, lo! wickedness flourishes to prevent our empire's breathing in harmony with one body. I make no mention of Gildo's treason, detected so gloriously in spite of the power of the East on which the rebel Moor relied. For what extremes of famine did we not then look? How dire a danger overhung our city, had not thy valour or the ever-provident diligence of thy father-in-law supplied corn from the north in place of that from the south! Up Tiber's estuary there sailed ships from the Rhine and the Sa˘ne's fertile banks made good the lost harvests of Africa. For me the Germans ploughed and the Spaniards' oxen sweated; my granaries marvel at Iberian corn, nor did my citizens, now satisfied with harvests from beyond the Alps, feel the defection of revolted Africa. Gildo, however, paid the penalty for his treason as Tabraca can witness. So perish all who take up arms against thee!
"Lo! on a sudden from that same clime comes another scourge, less terrible indeed but even more shameful, the consulship of Eutropius. I admit I have long learned to tolerate this unmanned tribe, ever since the court exalted itself with Arsacid pomp and the example of Parthia corrupted our morals. But till now they were but set to guard jewels and raiment, and to secure silence for the imperial slumber. Never beyond the sleeping chamber did the eunuch's service pass; not their lives gave guarantee of loyalty but their dull wits were a sure pledge. Let them guard hidden store of pearls and Tyrian-dyed vestments; they must quit high offices of state. The majesty of Rome cannot devolve upon an effeminate. Never have we seen so much as a ship at sea obey the helm in the hands of a eunuch-captain. Are we then so despicable? Is the whole world of less account than a ship? Let eunuchs govern the East by all means, for the East rejoices in such rulers, let them lord it over cities accustomed to a woman's sway: why disfigure warlike Italy with the general brand and defile her austere peoples with their deadly profligacy? Drive this foreign pollution from out the boundaries of manly Latium; suffer not this thing of shame to cross the Alps; let it remain fixed in the country of its birth. Let the river Halys or Orontes, careless of its reputation, add such a name to its annals : I, Rome, beg thee by thy life and triumphs, let not Tiber suffer this disgrace - Tiber whose way was to give the consulship to such men as Dentatus and Fabius though they asked not for it. Shall the Field of Mars witness the canvassing of an eunuch? Is Eutropius to stand with Aemilii and Camilli, saviours of their country? Is thy office, Brutus, now to be given to a Chrysogonus or a Narcissus? Is this the reward for giving up thy sons to punishment and setting the citizen's duty before the father's grief? Was it for this that the Tuscans made their camp on the Janiculum and Porsenna was but the river's span from our gates? For this that Horatius kept the bridge and Mucius braved the flames? Was it all to no purpose that chaste Lucretia plunged the dagger into her bosom and Cloelia swam the astonished Tiber? Were the fasces reft from Tarquin to be given to Eutropius? Let Hell ope her jaws and all who have sat in my curule chair come and turn their backs upon their colleague. Decii, self-sacrificed for your country's good, come forth from your graves; and you, fierce Torquati; and thou, too, great-hearted shade of poor Fabricius. Serranus, come thou hither, if now thou ploughest the acres of the holy dead and cleavest the fallow lands of Elysium. Come Scipios, Lutatius, famed for your victories over Carthage, Marcellus, conqueror of Sicily, rise from the dead, thou Claudian race, you progeny of Curius. Cato, thou who wouldst not live beneath Caesar's rule, come thou forth from thy simple tomb and brave the sight of Eutropius. Immortal bands of Bruti and Corvini, return to earth. Eunuchs don your robes of office, sexless beings assume the insignia of Rome. They have laid hands on the toga that inspired Hannibal and Pyrrhus with terror. They now despise the fan and aspire to the consul's cloak. No longer do they carry the maidenly parasol for they have dared to wield the axes of Latium.
"Unhappy band, leave your womanly fastnesses, you whom the male sex has discarded and the female will not adopt. The knife has cut out the stings of love and by that wounding you are pure. A mixture are you of two ages - child and greybeard and nought between. Take your seats, fathers in name alone. Come new lords, come sterile senate, throng your leader Eutropius. Fill the judgement-seat, not the bedchamber. Change your habits and learn to follow the consul's chair, not the woman's litter.
"I would not cite examples from remote antiquity nor count the countless magistrates of past history whom he thus outrages. But think how the reverence due to all past ages will be impaired, on how many centuries one man's shame will set its mark. Amid the annals that record the name of Arinthaeus, his master, will be found the slave, and he will enter his own honours as equal to those of his owner. The slaves of Egypt's kings have ever been a curse to the world; behold I suffer from a worse than Pothinus and bear a wrong more flagrant than that of which Egypt was once the scene. Pothinus' sword at Alexandria spilled the blood of a single consul; Eutropius brings dishonour on all.
"If the fate of subjects cannot move thee, yet have thou regard for princes, for your common cause, and remove this stain on royalty. The consulship is the sole office the emperor deigns to accept; alternately the honour passes to Court and Senate. Thou who hast thyself been four times consul spare succeeding consuls this infamy. I pray thee, protect the fasces, so often thine, from the pollution of a eunuch's hand; let not the omens handed down in our sacred books, let not those robes of mine wherewith I have subdued everything within Ocean's stream, be plunged in so great darkness and trodden under foot. What kind of wars can we wage now that a eunuch takes the auspices? What marriage, what harvest will be fruitful? What fertility, what abundance is possible beneath a consul stricken with sterility? If eunuchs shall give judgement and determine laws, then let men card wool and live like the Amazons, confusion and licence dispossessing the order of nature..."