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three pairs of lovers with space



Quintus Sertorius (ca. 123-72 BC) was a Roman general who withdrew to Hispania when the popular party lost power in Rome and, with enthusiastic support from the native population, brilliantly held out against attempts to crush him.

The Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch wrote a biography of him at the beginning of the second century AD, as one of his Parallel Lives. Here follows the only passage in it relating to pederasty.

The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume C (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1919). His Romanisation of Actaion has been amended in favour of more literal transliteration.


1 ii

In a long list of the strange historical coincidences that some delight in:

that there were two Actaions, one of whom was torn in pieces by his dogs, the other by his lovers;[1]  ἑκάτερος ὑπὸ συὸς ἀπώλετο, δυεῖν δὲ Ἀκταιώνων, ὁ μὲν ὑπὸ τῶν κυνῶν, ὁ δ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν ἐραστῶν διεσπάσθη,

Sertorius's army in Hispania

26 i-ii

A conspiracy against Sertorius having been formed by some of his most senior Roman followers grown jealous of his success, M. Perpenna Vento, the main instigator, murdered Sertorius at a banquet on learning in the following manner that knowledge of his plot had become dangerously wide:

Perpenna, accordingly, having now more accomplices in his attempt upon Sertorius, brought into their number Manlius also, one of those in high command. This Manlius was enamoured of a beautiful boy, and as a mark of his affection for him told him of the conspiracy, bidding him neglect his other lovers and devote himself to him alone, since within a few days he was to be a great personage. But the boy carried the tale to another one of his lovers, Aufidius, to whom he was more devoted.

And Aufidius, on hearing the story, was astounded; for though he himself was a party to the conspiracy against Sertorius, he did not know that Manlius was. But since the boy mentioned by name Perpenna, Gracinus, and sundry others of those whom Aufidius knew to be among the conspirators, Aufidius was confounded, and after making light of the story to the boy and exhorting him to despise Manlius as an empty braggart, he himself went to Perpenna, told him of the sharpness of the crisis and of their peril, and urged him to attempt the deed.[2]

[i] Ὁ δ᾿ οὖν Περπέννας πλείονας ἐνωμότους ἔχων πρὸς τὴν ἐπίθεσιν προσάγεται καὶ Μάλλιον, ἕνα τῶν ἐφ᾿ ἡγεμονίας. οὗτος ἐρῶν τινος τῶν ἐν ὥρᾳ μειρακίου καὶ φιλοφρονούμενος πρὸς αὐτὸ φράζει τὴν ἐπιβουλήν, κελεύων ἀμελήσαντα τῶν ἄλλων ἐραστῶν αὐτῷ μόνῳ προσέχειν ὡς ἐντὸς ἡμερῶν ὀλίγων μεγάλῳ γενησομένῳ. τὸ δὲ μειράκιον ἑτέρῳ τινὶ τῶν ἐραστῶν Αὐφιδίῳ μᾶλλον προσπεπονθὸς ἐκφέρει τὸν λόγον.

[ii] ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Αὐφίδιος ἐξεπλάγη· καὶ γὰρ αὐτὸς μετεῖχε τῆς ἐπὶ Σερτώριον συνωμοσίας, οὐ μέντοι τὸν Μάλλιον ἐγίνωσκε μετέχοντα. Περπένναν δὲ καὶ Γρακῖνον καί τινας ἄλλους, ὧν αὐτὸς ᾔδει συνωμοτῶν, ὀνομάζοντος τοῦ μειρακίου, διαταραχθεὶς πρὸς ἐκεῖνον μὲν ἐξεφλαύριζε τὸν λόγον, καὶ παρεκάλει τοῦ Μαλλίου καταφρονεῖν ὡς κενοῦ καὶ ἀλαζόνος, αὐτὸς δὲ πρὸς τὸν Περπένναν πορευθεὶς καὶ φράσας τὴν ὀξύτητα τοῦ καιροῦ 3καὶ τὸν κίνδυνον ἐκέλευσεν ἐπιχειρεῖν.


The Murder of Sertorius by Wilhelm Wägner, 1863

[1] The Theban Actaion son of Aristaios  saw Artemis bathing naked whilst out hunting, was changed by the goddess into a stag and torn apart by his own hounds. The Corinthian Actaion son of Melissos, the most beautiful boy of his time, had many suitors, including Archias, who belonged to the ruling family and tried to take him by force when persuasion failed; the boy’s friends tried to pull him back, so he was likewise torn to pieces. The latter story, which took place about 733 BC, was recounted in full by Plutarch in “Love Stories”, the 51st essay in his Morals (772e-773a).

[2] The conspirators, presumably including Manlius, were put to death either by Pompey, representing the Roman state, or by Mauritanians on fleeing to Africa. Plutarch says (27 iv) that Aufidius alone escaped and “came to old age in a barbarian village, a poor and hated man.”




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