Petronius’ Short Poems in the "Satyrica</I>
Appendix I - Vegetables and Bald Heads (Petr. 109.10.3-4) 345
Appendix I Vegetable and Bald Heads (Petr. 109.10.3-4)* 1. At Satyrica 109.9-10 Eumolpus recites some verses1 poking fun at the plight of his two friends, Encolpius and Giton, whose heads have been completely shaved in the futile attempt to pass them off as fugitive slaves having been so punished, thus enabling them to escape recognition by Lichas and Tryphaena. Three elegiac couplets are followed by seven hendecasyllables. Here I mean to concentrate on a single problem, posed by an expression in the hendecasyllables. Addressing presumably Giton (or perhaps both him and Encolpius) in the sec- ond person singular, Eumolpus tells him: “Poor head, you gleamed with hair / than sun and moon more fair; / bronze-bald, as tuber round / rain-born in garden ground, / now mocking girls you dread”.2 I have purposely adopted this transla- tion by Bracht Branham and Kinney,3 though I do not agree with the reference to rain, because it preserves the exact equivalent of the Latin word around which our problem revolves, namely tuber. Giton’s bald head is called smoother than polished bronze or than a vegetable, referred to as tuber, which is round, grows in a vegetable garden, and is generated by water: levior aere vel rotundo / horti tubere, quod creavit unda (vv. 3-4; 9-10 of the whole poem). Opinions as to the nature of this vegetable have varied, and may fall into three categories. By far the greatest number of interpreters take this tuber to be some sort of mushroom...
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