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Dipped in Honey and Sprinkled with Sesame

I’ve been playing at translating a bit of Petronius, which is great fun—when I saw that a LatinStudy Satyricon group was starting up, I couldn’t resist. Perhaps it is somewhat beyond my nascent Latin skills, but it’s a nice change from the Vulgate. I’ve been taking a fairly loose approach, a bit looser than I’d think acceptable for a translation I was reading.

The opening fragment begins with a superb rant. Here’s a bit from my rendering of paragraph II:

Great oratory is, if I may say it, modest. It is not this swollen, disreputable blather; rather, it flows beautifully and naturally. Your flatulent spew of words is a recent migrant to Athens from Asia, a pestiferous, ill-starred exhalation upon the growing minds of our young men. Once established, it rotted our standards of eloquence, rendering us dumb.

Since then, who has risen to the level of a Thucydides or a Hyperides?

Poetry herself glistens with an unhealthy pallor. All the arts, in fact, have been weakened by a diet of this tripe, sapped of their chance to whiten into old age. Even painting has fared no better since those Egyptian poseurs discovered how to ruin that great art with their slapdashery.

There’s something reassuring about millennia-old vituperation.

(The title of this post, incidentally, comes from a line in paragraph I: “. . . sed mellitos verborum globulos, et omnia dicta factaque quasi papavere et sesamo sparsa.)

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