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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Plautus (c. 254–184 B.C.)

Military Swagger

From “The Braggart Captain”


Pyrg.Take care that the luster of my shield is more bright than the rays of the sun when the sky is clear, that, when occasion comes, the battle being joined, ’mid the fierce ranks right opposite it may dazzle the eyesight of the enemy. But I must console this saber of mine, that it may not lament nor be downcast in spirits, because I have thus long been wearing it keeping holiday, though it so dreadfully longs to make havoc of the enemy. But where is Artotrogus?

Arto.Here he is; he stands close by the hero, valiant and successful, and of princely form. Mars could not dare to style himself so great a warrior, nor compare his prowess with yours.

Pyrg.Him you mean whom I spared on the Gorgonidonian plains, where Bumbomachides Clytomestoridysarchides, the grandson of Neptune, was the chief commander?

Arto.I remember him; him, I suppose you mean, with the golden armor, whose legions you puffed away with your breath, just as the wind blows away leaves or the reed-thatched roof.

Pyrg.That, by my troth, was really nothing at all.

Arto.Faith, that really was nothing at all in comparison with other things I could mention(aside)which you never did. If any person ever beheld a more perjured fellow than this, or one more full of vain boasting, let him have me for himself: I’ll become his slave.

Pyrg.What are you saying?

Arto.Why, that I remember in what fashion you broke the foreleg of an elephant, in India, with your fist.

Pyrg.How—the foreleg?

Arto.I meant to say the thigh.

Pyrg.I struck the blow without an effort.

Arto.Troth, if, indeed, you had put forth your strength, your arm would have passed right through the hide, the entrails, and the frontispiece of the elephant.

Pyrg.I don’t care to talk about these things just now.

Arto.I’ faith, ’tis really not worth while for you to tell me of it, who know your prowess well.(Aside.)My appetite creates all these tales. I must hear him right out with my ears, that my teeth mayn’t have time to grow, and whatever lie he shall tell I must agree to it.

Pyrg.What was it I was saying?

Arto.Oh, I know what you were going to say just now. I’ faith ’twas bravely done; I remember its being done.

Pyrg.What was that?

Arto.Whatever it was you were going to say.

Pyrg.Have you got your tablets?

Arto.Are you intending to enlist some one? I have them, and a pen as well.

Pyrg.How quickly you guess my thoughts!

Arto.’Tis fit that I should study your inclinations, so that whatever you wish should first occur to me.

Pyrg.What do you remember?

Arto.I do remember this: In Cilicia there were a hundred and fifty men, a hundred in Cryphiolathronia, thirty at Sardis, sixty men of Macedon, whom you slaughtered altogether in one day.

Pyrg.What is the sum total of those men?

Arto.Seven thousand.

Pyrg.It must be as much; you keep the reckoning well.

Arto.Yet I have none of them written down; still, I remember it was so.

Pyrg.By my troth, you have a right good memory.

Arto.(aside).’Tis the flesh-pots give it a fillip.

Pyrg.So long as you shall do as you have done hitherto, you shall always have something to eat; I will always make you a partaker at my table.

Arto.Besides, in Cappadocia you would have killed five hundred men altogether at one blow, had not your saber been blunt.

Pyrg.I let them live, because I was quite sick of fighting.

Arto.Why should I tell you what all mortals know, that you, Pyrgopolinices, live upon the earth with your valor, beauty, and achievements unsurpassed? All the women are in love with you, and that not without reason, since you are so handsome. Witness those girls that pulled me by my mantle yesterday.

Pyrg.What was it they said to you?

Arto.They questioned me about you. “Is Achilles here?” says one to me. “No,” says I, “his brother is.” Then says the other to me, “By my troth, but he is a handsome and a noble man. See how his long hair becomes him! Certainly the women are lucky who share his favors.”

Pyrg.And pray, did they really say so?

Arto.They both entreated me to bring you past to-day, so that they might see you.

Pyrg.’Tis really a very great plague to a man to be too handsome!

Arto.They are quite a nuisance to me; they are praying, entreating, beseeching me to let them see you; sending for me for that purpose, so that I can’t give my attention to your business.

Pyrg.It seems that it is time for us to go to the Forum, that I may count out their pay to those soldiers whom I lately enlisted; for King Seleucus entreated me with most earnest suit that I would raise and enlist recruits for him. To that business I have resolved to devote my attention this day.

Arto.Come, let’s be going, then.

Pyrg.Guards, follow me.