Satire XVI (Incomplete Text) – The Military life
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved
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Satire XVI: The Military Life
SatXV1:1-60 The Advantages Of The Military Life
Who could list all the rewards of a fruitful military career,
Gallius? There’s no more desirable gift the gods can grant
Than to join a successful unit, one blessed with good luck.
I wouldn’t mind being a nervous recruit at that camp gate,
Under its auspicious stars. The hour of benign fate, after
All, is even more powerful than a recommendation to Mars
From Venus, or Juno, his mother, whom Samos delights.
Let me first deal with the benefits enjoyed by all soldiers,
Not the least being that no civilian will dare to assault you,
Rather if he’s beaten himself, he’ll give out that he wasn’t,
Reluctant to show the praetor his missing teeth, the lumps
On his face, the black swollen bruises, and the eye he has
Still retained, although the doctor’s making no promises.
If he seeks redress for it, he’ll get a hobnailed boot for a
Judge, and swollen calf-muscles lining the wide bench,
Since the old military law, the rules of Camillus, are
Still in force, and soldiers can’t attend court outside the
Camp, away from the standard. ‘A centurion’s military
Enquiry is totally fair,’ you’ll say ‘and I shall have my
Revenge, if, as in my case, it’s a well- proven complaint.’
But the entire division is hostile, and all the units will act
As one to ensure your redress is troublesome, and worse
Than the injury incurred. It would be worthy, therefore,
Of Vagellius’ the blusterer’s mulish mind, for your two
Legs alone to offend all those heavy boots, with their
Thousands of nails. Besides who would accompany you
So far from the city, who’d be your Pylades and venture
Beyond the massive Embankment? Let your tears cease,
And don’t bother friends who’ll only make their excuses.
When the judge says ‘Call the witness!’ if the man who
Saw the assault has the nerve to say, ‘I saw it,’ he’ll be
Worthy of the long hair and beard of one of our honest
Ancestors. It’s easier to find a false witness against a
Civilian than one who’ll tell a truth that reflects badly
On a military man’s honour, and his superior status.
Now let’s note the other rewards and benefits of taking
The military oath. Imagine some devious neighbour has
Stolen a valley, some tract of land from my family estate,
Rooting out the sacred stone at the heart of the boundary,
That I honour, at the Terminalia, with cakes and polenta,
Or that a debtor continually refuses to repay me a loan,
Claiming his signature’s forged, my document worthless,
Then I’m forced to wait for the sessions, when the whole
World files its suits; and then accept a thousand delays
And frustrations. Often, though we’re all ready, we have
To disperse, because the benches aren’t there, eloquent
Caedicius is still in his cloak, Fuscus is passing water,
That’s how we fight each other in the Forum’s soft sand.
But those who wear armour, and hang a sword by their
Side, have the hours of their hearings adjusted to suit,
Their money not wasted on some never-ending case.
Plus, it’s only soldiers who’ve the right to cash earned
While their fathers still live, For it’s held that wealth
Acquired in the service should not form part of that
Which the father wholly controls. So Coranus who
Follows the standard, and garners a soldier’s pay,
Is courted by his own doddering parent. The son is
Duly promoted, and earns the reward for his efforts.
To the general no doubt it seems crucial that a brave
Man, should also be rendered the most successful,
That those who delight in medals and decorations…
End of Satire XVI (Incomplete Text)