Author: Petronius Arbiter

Chapter the One Hundred and Fifteenth.

Just then, amid that clamor of voices we heard a peculiar noise, and from beneath the captain’s cabin there came a bellowing as of some wild beast trying to get out. We then followed up the sound and discovered Eumolpus, sitting there scribbling verses upon an immense sheet of parchment! Astounded that he could find time to write poetry at death’s very door, we hauled him out, in spite of his protests, and ordered him to return to his senses, but he flew into a rage at being interrupted; "Leave me alone until I finish this sentence," he bawled; "the poem labors to its birth." Ordering Giton to come to close quarters and help me drag the bellowing bard ashore, I laid hands upon the lunatic. When this job had at last been completed, we came, wet and wretched, to a fisherman’s hut and refreshed ourselves somewhat with stores from the wreck, spoiled though they were by salt water, and passed a night that was almost interminable. As we were holding a council, next day, to determine to what part of the country we had best proceed, I suddenly caught sight of a human body, turning around in a gentle eddy and floating towards the shore. Stricken with melancholy, I stood still and began to brood, with wet eyes, upon the treachery of the sea. "And perhaps," said I, "a wife, safe in some far-away country of the earth, awaits this man, or a son who little dreams of storms or wrecks; or perhaps he left behind a fattier, whom he kissed good-by at parting! Such is the end of mortal’s plans, such is the outcome of great ambitions! See how man rides the waves!" Until now, I had been sorrowing for a mere stranger, but a wave turned the face, which had undergone no change, towards the shore, and I recognized Lycas; so evil- tempered and so unrelenting but a short time before, now cast up almost at my feet! I could no longer restrain the tears, at this; I beat my breast again and yet again, with my hands. "Where is your evil temper now?" I cried. "Where is your unbridled passion? You be there, a prey to fish and wild beasts, you who boasted but a little while ago of the strength of your command. Now you have not a single plank left of your great ship! Go on, mortals; set your hearts upon the fulfillment of great ambitions: Go on, schemers, and in your wills control for a thousand years the disposal of the wealth you got by fraud! Only yesterday this man audited the accounts of his family estate, yea, even reckoned the day he would arrive in his native land and settled it in his mind! Gods and goddesses, how far he lies from his appointed destination! But the waves of the sea are not alone in thus keeping faith with mortal men: The warrior’s weapons fail him; the citizen is buried beneath the ruins of his own penates, when engaged in paying his vows to the gods; another falls from his chariot and dashes out his ardent spirit; the glutton chokes at dinner; the niggard starves from abstinence. Give the dice a fair throw and you will find shipwreck everywhere! Ah, but one overwhelmed by the waves obtains no burial! As though it matters in what manner the body, once it is dead, is consumed: by fire, by flood, by time! Do what you will, these all achieve the same end. Ah, but the beasts will mangle the body! As though fire would deal with it any more gently; when we are angry with our slaves that is the punishment which we consider the most severe. What folly it is, then, to do everything we can to prevent the grave from leaving any part of us behind {when the Fates will look out for us, event against our wills."} (After these reflections we made ready to pay the last rites to the corpse,) and Lycas was burned upon a funeral pyre raised by the hands of enemies, while Eumolpus, fixing his eyes upon the far distance to gain inspiration, composed an epitaph for the dead man:






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Chicago: Petronius Arbiter, "Chapter the One Hundred and Fifteenth.," Satyricon, trans. W. C. Firebaugh in Satyricon (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922), Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024,

MLA: Arbiter, Petronius. "Chapter the One Hundred and Fifteenth." Satyricon, translted by W. C. Firebaugh, in Satyricon, New York, Boni and Liveright, 1922, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Arbiter, P, 'Chapter the One Hundred and Fifteenth.' in Satyricon, trans. . cited in 1922, Satyricon, Boni and Liveright, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from