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Werewolf Ghost Story

Sections From The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter - 'The Dinner of Trimalchio'

Complete and unexpurgated translation by W. C. Firebaugh

More of This Feature
Satyricon Introduction
Satyricon Volume 1 - Adventures of Encolpius and His Companions
Satyricon Volume 2 - The Dinner of Trimalchio
Satyricon Volume 3 - Further Adventures of Encolpius and His Companions
Satyricon Volume 4 - Encolpius, Giton and Eumolpus Escape By Sea
Satyricon Volume 5 - Affairs at Crotona
The Satyricon of Petronius - Editor's Notes

Related Resources
Menippean Satire and Petronius Satyricon
Roman Meals
Popular Roman Wines

Petronius, Emperor Nero's arbiter of elegance, is the author of the Menippean Satire and early novel, The Satyricon. The section this werewolf ghost story comes from is known as as Trimalchio's Banquet or, in Latin, the Cena Trimalchionis. Trimalchio was a very wealthy, but boorish and excessive dinner host.

For those who wish to translate the Latin, here is an online source of notes: Selections from the Satyricon, by Petronius Arbiter, Gilbert Lawall

Previous Section
[LXI] Postquam ergo omnes bonam mentem bonamque valitudinem sibi optarunt, Trimalchio ad Nicerotem respexit et: "Solebas, inquit, suavius esse in convictu; nescio quid nunc taces nec muttis. Oro te, sic felicem me videas, narra illud quod tibi usu venit." Niceros delectatus affabilitate amici: "Omne me, inquit, lucrum transeat, nisi iam dudum gaudimonio dissilio, quod te talem video. Itaque hilaria mera sint, etsi timeo istos scolasticos ne me rideant. Viderint: narrabo tamen, quid enim mihi aufert, qui ridet? satius est rideri quam derideri."

Haec ubi dicta dedit
talem fabulam exorsus est:

"Cum adhuc servirem, habitabamus in vico angusto; nunc Gavillae domus est. Ibi, quomodo dii volunt, amare coepi uxorem Terentii coponis: noveratis Melissam Tarentinam, pulcherrimum bacciballum. Sed ego non mehercules corporaliter aut propter res venerias curavi, sed magis quod benemoria fuit. Si quid ab illa petii, nunquam mihi negatum; fecit assem, semissem habui; in illius sinum demandavi, nec unquam fefellitus sum. Huius contubernalis ad villam supremum diem obiit. Itaque per scutum per ocream egi aginavi, quemadmodum ad illam pervenirem: nam, ut aiunt, in angustiis amici apparent.

CHAPTER THE SIXTY-FIRST. After they had all wished each other sound minds and good health, Trimalchio turned to Niceros. "You used to be better company at dinner," he remarked, "and I don't know why you should be dumb today, with never a word to say. If you wish to make me happy, tell about that experience you had, I beg of you." Delighted at the affability of his friend, "I hope I lose all my luck if I'm not tickled to death at the humor I see you in," Niceros replied. "All right, let's go the limit for a good time, though I'm afraid these scholars'll laugh at me, but I'll tell my tale and they can go as far as they like. What t'hell do I care who laughs? It's better to be laughed at than laughed down." These words spake the hero, and began the following tale: "We lived in a narrow street in the house Gavilla now owns, when I was a slave. There, by the will of the gods, I fell in love with the wife of Terentius, the innkeeper; you knew Melissa of Tarentum, that pretty round-checked little wench. It was no carnal passion, so hear me, Hercules, it wasn't; I was not in love with her physical charms. No, it was because she was such a good sport. I never asked her for a thing and had her deny me; if she had an as, I had half. I trusted her with everything I had and never was done out of anything. Her husband up and died on the place, one day, so I tried every way I could to get to her, for you know friends ought to show up when anyone's in a pinch.

[LXII] "Forte dominus Capuae exierat ad scruta scita expedienda. Nactus ego occasionem persuadeo hospitem nostrum, ut mecum ad quintum miliarium veniat. Erat autem miles, fortis tanquam Orcus. Apoculamus nos circa gallicinia; luna lucebat tanquam meridie. Venimus inter monimenta: homo meus coepit ad stelas facere; sedeo ego cantabundus et stelas numero. Deinde ut respexi ad comitem, ille exuit se et omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. Mihi anima in naso esse; stabam tanquam mortuus. At ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. Nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. Sed, quod coeperam dicere, postquam lupus factus est, ululare coepit et in silvas fugit. Ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem; deinde accessi, ut vestimenta eius tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. Qui mori timore nisi ego? Gladium tamen strinxi et umbras cecidi, donec ad villam amicae meae pervenirem. In larvam intravi, paene animam ebullivi, sudor mihi per bifurcum volabat, oculi mortui; vix unquam refectus sum. Melissa mea mirari coepit, quod tam sero ambularem, et: 'Si ante, inquit, venisses, saltem nobis adiutasses; lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tanquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. Nec tamen derisit, etiamsi fugit; senius enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit'. Haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui, sed luce clara Gai nostri domum fugi tanquam copo compilatus; et postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. Vt vero domum veni, iacebat miles meus in lecto tanquam bovis, et collum illius medicus curabat. Intellexi illum versipellem esse, nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses. Viderint quid de hoc alii exopinissent; ego si mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam."

CHAPTER THE SIXTY-SECOND. "It so happened that our master had gone to Capua to attend to some odds and ends of business and I seized the opportunity, and persuaded a guest of the house to accompany me as far as the fifth mile-stone. He was a soldier, and as brave as the very devil. We set out about cock-crow, the moon was shining as bright as midday, and came to where the tombstones are. My man stepped aside amongst them, but I sat down, singing, and commenced to count them up. When I looked around for my companion, he had stripped himself and piled his clothes by the side of the road. My heart was in my mouth, and I sat there while he pissed a ring around them and was suddenly turned into a wolf! Now don't think I'm joking, I wouldn't lie for any amount of money, but as I was saying, he commenced to howl after he was turned into a wolf, and ran away into the forest. I didn't know where I was for a minute or two, then I went to his clothes, to pick them up, and damned if they hadn't turned to stone! Was ever anyone nearer dead from fright than me? Then I whipped out my sword and cut every shadow along the road to bits, till I came to the house of my mistress. I looked like a ghost when I went in, and I nearly slipped my wind. The sweat was pouring down my crotch, my eyes were staring, and I could hardly be brought around. My Melissa wondered why I was out so late. "Oh, if you'd only come sooner," she said, "you could have helped us: a wolf broke into the folds and attacked the sheep, bleeding them like a butcher. But he didn't get the laugh on me, even if he did get away, for one of the slaves ran his neck through with a spear!" I couldn't keep my eyes shut any longer when I heard that, and as soon as it grew light, I rushed back to our Gaius' house like an innkeeper beaten out of his bill, and when I came to the place where the clothes had been turned into stone, there was nothing but a pool of blood! And moreover, when I got home, my soldier was lying in bed, like an ox, and a doctor was dressing his neck! I knew then that he was a werewolf, and after that, I couldn't have eaten a crumb of bread with him, no, not if you had killed me. Others can think what they please about this, but as for me, I hope your geniuses will all get after me if I lie."

[LXIII] Attonitis admiratione universis: "Salvo, inquit, tuo sermone, Trimalchio, si qua fides est, ut mihi pili inhorruerunt, quia scio Niceronem nihil nugarum narrare: immo certus est et minime linguosus. Nam et ipse vobis rem horribilem narrabo. Asinus in tegulis.

"Cum adhuc capillatus essem, nam a puero vitam Chiam gessi, ipsimi nostri delicatus decessit, mehercules margaritum, et omnium numerum. Cum ergo illum mater misella plangeret et nos tum plures in tristimonio essemus, subito strigae coeperunt; putares canem leporem persequi. Habebamus tunc hominem Cappadocem, longum, valde audaculum et qui valebat: poterat bovem iratum tollere. Hic audacter stricto gladio extra ostium procucurrit, involuta sinistra manu curiose, et mulierem tanquam hoc loco - salvum sit, quod tango! - mediam traiecit. Audimus gemitum, et - plane non mentiar - ipsas non vidimus. Baro autem noster introversus se proiecit in lectum, et corpus totum lividum habebat quasi flagellis caesus, quia scilicet illum tetigerat mala manus. Nos cluso ostio redimus iterum ad officium, sed dum mater amplexaret corpus filii sui, tangit et videt manuciolum de stramentis factum. Non cor habebat, non intestina, non quicquam: scilicet iam puerum strigae involaverant et supposuerant stramenticium vavatonem. Rogo vos, oportet credatis, sunt mulieres plussciae, sunt Nocturnae, et quod sursum est, deorsum faciunt. Ceterum baro ille longus post hoc factum nunquam coloris sui fuit, immo post paucos dies freneticus periit."

CHAPTER THE SIXTY-THIRD. We were all dumb with astonishment, when "I take your story for granted," said Trimalchio, "and if you'll believe me, my hair stood on end, and all the more, because I know that Niceros never talks nonsense: he's always level-headed, not a bit gossipy. And now I'll tell you a hair-raiser myself, though I'm like a jackass on a slippery pavement compared to him. When I was a long-haired boy, for I lived a Chian life from my youth up, my master's minion died. He was a jewel, so hear me Hercules, he was, perfect in every facet. While his sorrow-stricken mother was bewailing his loss, and the rest of us were lamenting with her, the witches suddenly commenced to screech so loud that you would have thought a hare was being run down by the hounds! At that time, we had a Cappadocian slave, tall, very bold, and he had muscle too; he could hold a mad bull in the air! He wrapped a mantle around his left arm, boldly rushed out of doors with drawn sword, and ran a woman through the middle about here, no harm to what I touch. We heard a scream, but as a matter of fact, for I won't lie to you, we didn't catch sight of the witches themselves. Our simpleton came back presently, and threw himself upon the bed. His whole body was black and blue, as if he had been flogged with whips, and of course the reason of that was she had touched him with her evil hand! We shut the door and returned to our business, but when the mother put her arms around the body of her son, it turned out that it was only a straw bolster, no heart, no guts, nothing! Of course the witches had swooped down upon the lad and put the straw changeling in his place! Believe me or not, suit yourselves, but I say that there are women that know too much, and night-hags, too, and they turn everything upside down! And as for the long-haired booby, he never got back his own natural color and he died, raving mad, a few days later.""

[LXIV] Miramur nos et pariter credimus, osculatique mensam rogamus Nocturnas, ut suis se teneant, dum redimus a cena.

Et sane iam lucernae mihi plures videbantur ardere totumque triclinium esse mutatum, cum Trimalchio: "Tibi dico, inquit, Plocame, nihil narras? nihil nos delectaris? Et solebas suavius esse, canturire belle deverbia, adicere melicam. Heu, heu, abistis dulces caricae. - Iam, inquit ille, quadrigae meae decucurrerunt, ex quo podagricus factus sum. Alioquin cum essem adulescentulus, cantando paene tisicus factus sum. Quid saltare? quid deverbia? quid tonstrinum? Quando parem habui nisi unum Apelletem?"

Appositaque ad os manu, nescio quid taetrum exsibilavit quod postea Graecum esse affirmabat. Nec non Trimalchio ipse cum tubicines esset imitatus, ad delicias suas respexit, quem Croesum appellabat. Puer autem lippus, sordidissimis dentibus, catellam nigram atque indecenter pinguem prasina involuebat fascia, panemque semissem ponebat supra torum, ac nausia recusantem saginabat. Quo admonitus officio Trimalchio Scylacem iussit adduci "praesidium domus familiaeque". Nec mora, ingentis formae adductus est canis catena vinctus, admonitusque ostiarii calce ut cubaret, ante mensam se posuit. Tum Trimalchio iactans candidum panem: "Nemo, inquit, in domo mea me plus amat." Indignatus puer, quod Scylacem tam effuse laudaret, catellam in terram deposuit hortatusque ut ad rixam properaret. Scylax, canino scilicet usus ingenio, taeterrimo latratu triclinium implevit Margaritamque Croesi paene laceravit. Nec intra rixam tumultus constitit, sed candelabrum etiam supra mensam eversum et vasa omnia crystallina comminuit, et oleo ferventi aliquot convivas respersit. Trimalchio, ne videretur iactura motus, basiavit puerum ac iussit supra dorsum ascendere suum. Non moratus ille usus est equo, manuque plena scapulas eius subinde verberavit, interque risum proclamavit: "Bucco, bucco, quot sunt hic?" Repressus ergo aliquamdiu Trimalchio camellam grandem iussit misceri potiones dividi omnibus servis, qui ad pedes sedebant, adiecta exceptione: "Si quis, inquit, noluerit accipere, caput illi perfunde. Interdiu severa, nunc hilaria".

CHAPTER THE SIXTY-FOURTH. Though we wondered greatly, we believed none the less implicitly and, kissing the table, we besought the night-hags to attend to their own affairs while we were returning home from dinner. As far as I was concerned, the lamps already seemed to burn double and the whole dining-room was going round, when "See here, Plocamus," Trimalchio spoke up, "haven't you anything to tell us? You haven't entertained us at all, have you? And you used to be fine company, always ready to oblige with a recitation or a song. The gods bless us, how the green figs have fallen!" "True for you," the fellow answered, "since I've got the gout my sporting days are over; but in the good old times when I was a young spark, I nearly sang myself into a consumption. How I used to dance! And take my part in a farce, or hold up my end in the barber shops! Who could hold a candle to me except, of course, the one and only Apelles?" He then put his hand to his mouth and hissed out some foul gibberish or other, and said afterwards that it was Greek. Trimalchio himself then favored us with an impersonation of a man blowing a trumpet, and when he had finished, he looked around for his minion, whom he called Croesus, a blear-eyed slave whose teeth were very disagreeably discolored. He was playing with a little black bitch, disgustingly fat, wrapping her up in a leek-green scarf and teasing her with a half-loaf of bread which he had put on the couch; and when from sheer nausea, she refused it, he crammed it down her throat. This sight put Trimalchio in mind of his own dog and he ordered Scylax, "the guardian of his house and home," to be brought in. An enormous dog was immediately led in upon a chain and, obeying a kick from the porter, it lay down beside the table. Thereupon Trimalchio remarked, as he threw it a piece of white bread, "No one in all my house loves me better than Scylax." Enraged at Trimalchio's praising Scylax so warmly, the slave put the bitch down upon the floor and sicked her on to fight. Scylax, as might have been expected from such a dog, made the whole room ring with his hideous barking and nearly shook the life out of the little bitch which the slave called Pearl. Nor did the uproar end in a dog fight, a candelabrum was upset upon the table, breaking the glasses and spattering some of the guests with hot oil. As Trimalchio did not wish to seem concerned at the loss, he kissed the boy and ordered him to climb upon his own back. The slave did not hesitate but, mounting his rocking-horse, he beat Trimalchio's shoulders with his open palms, yelling with laughter, "Buck! Buck! How many fingers do I hold up!" When Trimalchio had, in a measure, regained his composure, which took but a little while, he ordered that a huge vessel be filled with mixed wine, and that drinks be served to all the slaves sitting around our feet, adding as an afterthought, "If anyone refuses to drink, pour it on his head: business is business, but now's the time for fun."

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