Ancient Literature, Antiquity, Greco-Roman World

Today’s Reading from the Ancient World

The ancients were people just like us. Yes, they may have believed differently on many matters and acted accordingly, but there is probably little when it comes to human behavior in the modern world that doesn’t have precedence in the ancient world.

Today’s reading comes from the Roman epigrammist Martial. In Book 12, epigram 77, he tells of Aethon:

As Aethon on the Capitol addressed Jupiter with many a prayer, standing on tiptoe and bending backwards, he farted. People laughed, but the father of the gods himself was offended and punished our client with three nights of home dining. After this scandal, when poor little Aethon wants to go to the Capitol, he first visits Paterclus’ latrines and farts ten times or twenty. But though he has covered himself by thus breaking wind, he addresses Jupiter buttocks clenched.

Poor Aethon—in public while offering prayers to Jupiter and contorted into a pretzel—just couldn’t help himself. And how bad must the food have been to have been punished with eating at home!