1 The satire begins as the satire addresses Trebius. In the Latin, the name Trebius doesn’t appear until line 19. It is typical of Juvenal to start a satire as if we are breaking into another’s conversation. Trebius may be based on a historical character , the name appears on inscriptions in Juvenals home town , Aquinum or may refer to A. Trebius Sergianus consul for 132 B.C. As with all satire, it is probable that Juvenal exaggerates characteristics from someone in history. He may , of course, have made the whole thing up.
2 Trebius is accused of being unashamed of being a client who “scrapes crumbs from another’s board”. In the ancient world , men who held prominent political or social positions were patrons to a number of clients (often simply men who worked for the patron) The patron would invite his clients around for dinner , hence Trebius the client “scrapes crumbs from under the table of the patron”. Trebius also has to swallow iniquities (injustice) from his patron – even the jesters of Augustus wouldn’t have to put up with such treatment from a patron. It is interesting Juvenal uses a comparison with his own day and the court of Augustus ,it should remind us that Juvenal writes satire in a similar style to Horace ,who was a client of Maecenas, Augustus’ minister for propaganda.
6 Juvenal claims there’s nothing more cheap for a patron to feed than a clients belly and asks Trebius to imagine that his patron does not offer him food. Couldn’t Trebius become another type of beggar ?the satirist asks. Juvenal imagines Trebius on the streets , sharing a beggars mat and waiting under bridges (in Rome this was a useful place to beg since traffic was slower here.
10 Juvenal asks Trebius whether dinner from his patron is worth loosing his self respect. Trebius would probably have more self respect suggests the satirist if he lived on dogs bread (than if he endured insults from his patron)
15 Juvenal tells him that patrons only invite clients to dinner since it settles his conscience , the fact that these people work for him is rewarded by dinner when the patron feels like it! Juvenal is quick to point out that the patron reckons each meal against his client i.e. ultimately the client by his hard work for the patron will pay for the meal. Juvenal comically imagines Trebius being summoned to a meal with his patron in the dark when he is only half dressed and Trebius is filled with joy at being summoned in the middle of the night.
23 When Trebius arrives at the dinner , the wine is rough (often wine was steeped in sheep clippings or wool and used as a medical dressing hence here “sheep clippings wouldn’t absorb it) Wine turns the guests at the dinner mad . the clients and the freedmen (slaves who’d bought their freedom) fight. Cups fly around the table and Trebius has to mop up the blood from the table!
30 The meal of the client is contrasted with the meal of the host. Virro is the host. In Satire IX Virro is used as a name for a homosexual or it may refer to Vibidus Virro who was expelled from the Senate in A.D. 17 for dissolute behaviour. Virro drinks vintage wine (lain in its bottle since the “Consuls wore long hair” – a long time.) This contrasts with the rough wine of the clients . The grapes were trodden in the Social wars i.e. 91-88 B.C. and he even refuses to share this vintage wine with his closest friends. Tomorrow too , Juvenal records, he will drink vintage wine –wine such as “the stoic martyrs would toss down on the birthday of Brutus and Cassius.” The point is that the “stoic martyrs” lost their lives because they tried to overthrow the emperor , they celebrate Brutus and Cassius’ birthday (murderers of Julius Caesar) It is safe to conclude like the stoic martyrs and Brutus and Cassius, Virro is anti authoritarian while keeping a close authoritative eye on his clients.
Having contrasted the wine of the patron with the wine of the client , the goblets are contrasted. Virro's goblet is amber encrusted , studded with beryl but the cups of Trebius aren’t or if he is given an expensive cup, Virro makes sure that a waiter checks he hasn’t stolen the jewels.
It appears to be fashionable for Romans in this satire to show off jewels on wine cups and not on rings. Aeneas, the founder of the Roman race wore his on his sword in contrast. The point that Juvenal is making is that the Romans are going soft – once the thing that was most precious to them was the sword but now it is a wine cup.
Virros jewel encrusted cup is compared to that of Trebius’ which is cracked and shoddy and in need of fixing. The cup is named after one of Neros cobblers who gradually became rich. The cup has 4 nozzles presumably because Virro is afraid his guests will spill the wine! The nose of Neros cobbler was said to look like one of these nozzles. Trebius wishes to become rich like Neros cobbler and rise to a prominent position through his patron.
48 If Virros stomach is fed , he calls for the best water and it is brought straight away. If Trebius calls for water however it is brought by a rough looking black boy slave. The satirist comments that he would not like to bump into this slave on a dark night driving past the tombs on the Appian way (where Criminals hang out.)
51 Ironically Juvenal comments that even the kings of Rome couldn’t scrape together enough money to buy this slave (Tullus Hostillius and Ancus Marcius were kings of Rome)
55 Trebius catches black “Ganymedes” eye to call for water. Ganymede was a beautiful young boy in Greek mythology that Zeus fell in love with and carried him to Olympus to serve him with wine. This is typical of Juvenals mock epic tone in his satires.
The point is that the black slave is worth more to Virro than his clients and the slave knows it. The slave is disdainful of Virros clients and refuses to fetch water for Trebius.
68 Another slave is mentioned – he resents handing out the stale bread for the guests while Virro is served fresh bread. The bread even appears to be colour coded – a voice tells Trebius to learn the colour of his bread as he reaches for it (he is, after all, only a client!)
74 Trebius mourns his life as a clients - leaving his wife early in the morning to go to the Esquiline (business heart of Rome - see Horace 2:6)
80 Trebius now contrasts the crayfish with the asparagus garnish and the peacock tail brought for Virro with his own egg stuffed with prawn that looks like a funeral offering (9 days after a funeral offerings of salt, eggs and lentils were left on the grave of the deceased ) Comically here, even the crayfish appears to look down on the clients as it is brought in.
85 Virro has the finest fish oil but the clients eat colourless boiled cabbage that “smells of the lamp” The implication is that Virro has the best oil on his food but has scraped the oil out of the lamp for the clients. The lamp oil was imported in a felucca (foreign boat) like olive oil that was used in the ancient world to light lamps and served on food. Africans often used cheap and smelly oil to rub themselves down at the baths – thus people avoided them, but Virro is serving this to his clients! It is suggested the best thing to do is rub the sauce Virro has served the clients onto the body to keep snakes away!
93 Virro has the best mullet (fish) from Corsica , the native Italian fish has all been fished out due to the demand from people like Virro. The satirist says now such fish has to be imported from abroad . Only the parasites of society like Virro and the legacy hunter (people who befriended others to get in their will) can afford such fish. Virro gets lamprey fish (which a fisherman had to risk his life for) but Trebius gets eel or river pike from a pollouted river Tiber (here the pollution comes form cess pools, eels do prefer water around sewage pipes )Note the pollution is also from the slums , in other words, Trebius’ eel has fed on the sewage of poor people . (Virro the patron feeds on the sewage that are his poor clients - is this symbolic?)
106 Virro tells his clients not to expect the same generous gifts as patrons gave before the Emperors (called the Republican period) He claims the dinners under the Republic brought honour whereas he bestows something better - titles and office. Ironically, he calls on his clients to dine with him as an equal. He even goes so far as to say that it is fashionable to keep his wealth and act poor to his friends.
114 Dinner is served:
Virro has gooses liver
Castrated cock (Capon) and Virro castrates his guests self esteem
Boar (note the mock epic tone – it’s worthy of Meleager – who killed the boar of Calydon)
Truffles in season from Africa . Virro appears to prefer truffles to bread telling Africa to “Keep it’s corn supply” Truffles are sniffed out by pigs and Virro sniffs out the best ones.
A slave carves the meat on the order of Virro (both hare and hen is served)
27 If Trebius tries to pretend he’s important (a man “with a double handled name”) then he would be dragged out of the front door just like Heracles dragged Cerberus the hell hound from Hades (mock epic heroic tone and humour as the implication is that Virros feast is like hell)
132 Virro would never toast a client and even refuses to drink out of the same glass as one! In the ancient world the one who proposed the toast then passed his cup on to the one whose health was being drunk, therefore no one would dare propose a toast to Virro as he would be obliged to drink from the same cup as someone of a lower order. However, should some twist of fate mean that Trebius should become a knight (equites) Virro would be quick to give him the best meat (tenderloin) since cash earns Virros respect (a “knight” had to earn 300,000 sesterces to earn the title.
138 If Trebius wants to head for the political social heights Juvenal warns him :
a)Don’t have an heir or daughter , hope for a barren wife.
b)Hope that his wife doesn’t have triplets in case Virro should play uncle to them . People with 3 children were given state money and that is why Virro remains his patron.
The point that is being made here is that Virro won’t like an heir to a fortune since he himself won’t get any money but 3 children would bring a bigger fortune for Trebius (and thus for Virro)
147 Virros poorer guests are given toadstool that look like the ones given to the Emperor Claudius by his wife Agrippina (they killed him!) Virro, however , is served choice fruits like those grown in Phaeacia (a fairy tale land in “The Odyssey” again a mock epic tone) The apples might even be from the “Hesperides” (Heracles was reputed to have brought these back on his 12 th labour) The point is that the clients in contrast are given rotten apples , only fit to be munched by performing monkeys (the clients are Virros performing monkeys)
158 Is Virro a fraud (“Chiseller”) Juvenal the satirist asks. He makes his client suffer for kicks he replies – it’s a joke to starve his clients and feed himself . He intends to reduce his clients to tears. The clients thinks himself a freedman at Virros table . In fact, the client is there because he is enslaved by his appetite. No one who respects himself should allow himself to be so humiliated claims Juvenal the satirist – whether he’s rich (“born to the purple”) or poor. The greed of Trebius makes Virro continue to be cruel and thus the satirist seems to be saying that Trebius deserves this bad treatment. Trebius is compared to a public buffoon (a clown in the theatre always had his head shaved to show that he was a clown) Juvenal accuses Trebius of liking the whip and deserving such foul treatment since he is not self controlled and gives into his bodily indulgences (Stoic philosophy stated that a wiseman was self controlled – Trebius isn’t!)
Note the contrasts between rich and poor (seen especially in the food) The dinner party theme is common in satire , here Juvenal uses it to highlight the difference between the patron Virro the parasite and Trebius – on occasions even the food regards Trebius with contempt! Note the deliberate imitation of epic poetry. The point that Juvenal is trying to make is philosophical - Trebius is punished because he is a slave to his physical appetite and desire for social acceptance. If Trebius were more self controlled and lacked these carnal desires then he would be free to enjoy life without the humiliation that he deserves.