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three pairs of lovers with space



The little anecdote presented here was recounted by the Greek writer Plutarch in his early 2nd-century biography of Marcus Antonius or Mark Antony  (83-30 BC), the powerful Roman general and politician, but its subject is rather a boy-love of his great rival, Octavian Caesar.

The sexual involvement of Octavian, later regarded as the first Roman emperor under the name Augustus, with kept boys, as well as girls, is also attested by the anonymously-authored Epitome de Caesaribus.

The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume CI (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1920).


Plutarch, Life of Antony 59 iii-iv

Describing how some of Antony’s followers were provoked into deserting him by the time of the battle of Actium in 31 BC, when he was decisively defeated by his rival Octavian Caesar:

And Cleopatra’s flatterers drove away many of the other friends of Antony also who could not endure their drunken tricks and scurrilities. Among these were Marcus Silanus and Dellius the historian. And Dellius says that he was also afraid of a plot against him by Cleopatra, of which Glaucus the physician had told him. For he had offended Cleopatra at supper by saying that while sour wine was served to them, Sarmentus, at Rome, was drinking Falernian.[1] Now, Sarmentus was one of the little-boy playthings[2] of Caesar, such as the Romans call “deliciae.”[3] [iii] πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων φίλων οἱ Κλεοπάτρας κόλακες ἐξέβαλον τὰς παροινίας καὶ βωμολοχίας οὐχ ὑπομένοντας, [iv] ὦν καὶ Μάρκος ἦν Σιλανὸς καὶ Δέλλιος ὁ ἱστορικός. οὗτος δὲ καὶ δεῖσαί φησιν ἐπιβουλὴν ἐκ Κλεοπάτρας, Γλαύκου τοῦ ἰατροῦ φράσαντος αὐτῷ. προσέκρουσε δὲ Κλεοπάτρᾳ παρὰ δεῖπνον εἰπὼν αὐτοῖς μὲν ὀξίνην ἐγχεῖσθαι, Σάρμεντον δὲ πίνειν ἐν Ῥώμῃ Φαλερῖνον. ὁ δὲ Σάρμεντος ἦν τῶν Καίσαρος παιγνίων παιδάριον, ἃ δηλίκια Ῥωμαῖοι καλοῦσιν.


A Roman Feast by Roberto Bompiani


[1] Falernian wine was a strong white wine grown on the slopes of Mount Falernus near the border of Latium and Campania, and was the most renowned wine in Rome.

[2] Perrin’s very inaccurate translation of παιγνίων παιδάριον as “youthful favourites” has been amended to “little-boy playthings”.

[3] If this was the Sarmentus who belonged to Octavian Caesar’s entourage and was mentioned in the satires of Juvenal (5 iii) and Horace (I 5 li-lxx), then according to the scholiast on the former’s satires, he was a slave of Favorinus, who, on his master’s proscription and death, was bought and set free by Octavian’s great friend Maecenas. The love affair of Antony and Cleopatra began in October 41 BC, about 22 months after the proscriptions in which Favorinus perished.




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