Horace: The Satires

Book I: Satire VII

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2005 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.


BkISatVII:1-35 ‘King’ Rupilius Rex versus Persius

It’s a story I think that’s well-known to every

Chemist’s and barber’s shop, how Graeco-Roman

Persius, repaid vile, venomous ‘King’ Rupilius.

This wealthy Persius had big business interests

In Clazomenae, and a tricky lawsuit with Rex.

He was a tough, who outdid the ‘King’ in rudeness,

Arrogant, loud, his abuse so scorching it outran a Barrus

Or a Sisenna, and flashed by as swift as white lightning.

Back to Rex. When they’d failed to reach an agreement

(Since those who quarrel are all quite rightly like heroes

Who meet in battle face to face: the hostility

Between Priam’s son Hector, and angry Achilles

Was so fierce, that only death could divide them,

And for no other reason than that the courage

Of each was supreme: while if two cowards quarrel

Or ill-matched opponents fight in war, like Diomed

And Lycian Glaucus, the lesser man gives way, even

Sends gifts), while Brutus was praetor then for rich Asia,

Persius and Rupilius fought as equals, no worse matched

Than Bacchius and Bithus the gladiators, rushing

Fiercely to court, both of them wonderful sights to see.

Persius made his case: laughter from all the gathering:

He praises Brutus, he praises his staff, calls Brutus

The Sun of Asia, and all his suite health-giving stars,

Except for Rex: he’s arrived as Sirius the Dog-star,

A star that’s hated by countrymen. On he rushes

Like a wintry torrent, where an axe is never heard.

Then the ‘King’ of Praeneste, faced with that outpour

Of wit, hurled back abuse they squeeze from the vineyard,

Like a tough and indomitable vine-cutter, routing

A passer-by who shouts ‘Cuckoo, you’re pruning late!’

But Persius the Greek, drenched now with Italian vinegar,

Shouts: Brutus, by all the gods, you and your clan

Are used to finishing kings, can’t you slit this one’s throat?

Believe me, this is a task that’s perfect for you!’

Achilles Dragging the Body of Hector

‘Achilles Dragging the Body of Hector ’
Joseph Parrocel (French, 1646 - 1704)

End of Book I Satire VII