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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Master of the Feast

By Petronius (c. 27–66)

Translation of L. P. D.

IN the best of humors, Trimalchio began:—“My friends, even slaves are men, and suck the same milk as ourselves, though ill-luck keeps them down in the world. And by my life! they shall soon drink of the water of freedom. In short, I have set them all free in my will. I have given, besides, a farm to Philagyras, and the woman who lives with him, and to Carrio a whole block of buildings free of taxes, and a bed with bedding. Fortunata I make my residuary legatee, and I recommend her to the care of all my friends; and I make these facts known that my slaves may love me as well now as though I were already dead.”

All began to express their gratitude to their indulgent master. He took it with perfect seriousness; and ordered a copy of his will to be brought, which he repeated from the first word to the last, amid the groans of his household. Then, turning towards Habinnas, “Promise, my dearest friend,” said he, “that you will build my monument according to my directions. Let there be a little dog at the feet of my statue, and deck it with garlands and perfumes, and paint about it all the incidents of my life; so by your kindness, though dead, I shall still live. Moreover, I want my lot to have a hundred feet frontage, and be two hundred feet deep. I want you to plant all kinds of apple-trees about my ashes, and plenty of grape-vines. For it is wrong to beautify the homes of the living only, and neglect those abodes where we are sure to make a longer stay. And so I beg you, above all things, to set up a notice: ‘This monument does not pass to the heir.’ Moreover, I will provide in my will against any insult being offered my remains: I will put one of my freedmen in charge of my sepulchre, whose business shall be to see that no nuisance is committed there. I beg you put ships on my monument, going under full sail, and my likeness, clad in robes of state, and sitting on the tribune’s seat, with fine gold rings on my fingers, and scattering a bagful of money among the crowd;—you recollect when I gave a public entertainment and two denarii apiece to the guests all round. And pray have a dining-room, and all the folks enjoying themselves! At my right hand you must put a statue of my beloved Fortunata holding a dove, and leading a small dog by a leash; and have my Cicaro represented, and some big jars tightly sealed, so the wine cannot possibly run out; and see that they carve a broken urn with a boy weeping over it. Finally you must put a timepiece in the centre, so that whoever looks up to learn the hour will have no choice but to read my name.”…

At this point Trimalchio began to weep; Fortunata and Habinnas also burst out sobbing, and all the slaves followed suit, till the dining-room resounded with lamentations, as though they were all at a funeral. I also was preparing to burst into tears, when Trimalchio checked me by the remark, “Well then, since we know that we must die, why not live while we may?”