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Mimes of the Courtesans, by Lucian [1928], at

p. 116 p. 117

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p. 118 p. 119

MYRTALE, a courtesan

DORION, her sailor friend

p. 120 p. 121



You have impoverished me, Myrtale, and now you won't let me in. Before, when I brought you fine gifts from abroad, you called me your beloved, your man, your master. I was your all in all. But now that I am miserably flat, and you have found for yourself a rich merchant from Bithynia, you won't let me approach you. I sit on your doorstep and shed bitter tears while he enjoys your kisses and shares your warm bed. And now you tell me you will have a child by the fat merchant. (He weeps.)


Ah, you suffocate me, Dorion. You say that you have showered me with gifts and that I have impoverished you. How many gifts have you given me, you wet-nosed sailor? Count how many!


Very well, Myrtale, I shall count my gifts and estimate the total value of the wealth I have handed over

p. 122

to you, Myrtale, as proof of my love and esteem. To start with, you have those shoes from Sikyone. That's two drachmas. You won't deny that the shoes were worth two drachmas?


But you slept with me for two nights.


And when I returned from Syria, I brought you an alabaster full of Phœnician perfumes. By the tail of the great god Poseidon, that amounts to another two drachmas!


And what about me? Didn't I give you, before you left for the same Syria, a little tunic reaching till the thighs for you to wear while rowing? Do you remember? The proreus Epioros forgot it one day in my rooms. Yes, the proreus Epioros himself slept with me. Must I remember a poor sailor's gifts?


He took the tunic away from me, your proreus. He saw me wearing the tunic on the shore at Samos, and he took it away from me--but only after a long struggle!

And didn't I bring you a lot of onions from Cyprus and five saperdes and four perches when we returned

p. 123

from the Bosphorus? And when we returned from Patares, ten breads packed in one bundle and an amphora of Carian figs and a pair of sandals embroidered with gold thread? Oh, you ingrate! Dorion, the sailor, has presented you with sandals embroidered with gold. And I remember now, a huge Cythonian cheese.

MYRTALE (Contemptuously)

Altogether five drachmas. Five drachmas, and possibly less.

DORION (Sadly)

Ah, Myrtale, it was all a sailor could afford. But now I am in charge of the right flank of rowers on our ship. Why do you look at me that way? And--remember!--at the last feast of Aphrodite, I left for your account a whole drachma at the feet of the goddess. Yes, a whole silver drachma! And I gave your mother two drachmas for shoes. Very often would I leave two oboles or four in the beckoning palm of the old Lyde. All that mounts up to a fortune for a sailor.


Fish and onions, Dorion.


Well, what if it is fish and onions? I can't afford more. I wouldn't find amusement at the oar of a ship

p. 124

if I were rich. I have never brought more than a head of garlic to my own mother. But I'd like to know what great gifts the Bithynian has ever presented you with.


Do you see this robe? It was he who bought it for me. And do your fish eyes perceive this heavy necklace?


That? Why you have had it for some time!


The one you saw on me before was much thinner and had no emeralds. And look at these earrings and this rug! And yesterday he gave me two hundred drachmas, and he promised to pay the rent for us. This is not sandals from Patares or cheese from Cythion and a lot of worthless chatter about love, mournful sailor!


But you don't say how he is himself. You don't describe the man you prefer to me on account of his impossible riches. He is more than fifty years old. He is bald-headed. He is as red as a lobster. And you haven't noticed his teeth, I suppose. Where are his teeth, Myrtale? I ask you: Where are his teeth? And what grace is his? O Dioscores, what grace! It is

p. 125

most evident when he tries to sing and play the young fellow. An ass strumming on a lyre!

You can keep your Apollo! He is quite worthy of you. May you have a son that looks like the father! As for me, I'll find my Delphis or Kymbalion. Don't you worry! Your neighbor, the flute player, looks pretty good to me. Carpets, necklaces, gifts of two hundred drachmas aren't bad. You can't have a good-looking young man like me, but you must sleep with a sack of offal, insist on carpets, necklaces and rich gifts. We can't have everything, you know.

MYRTALE (Ironically)

Oh, happy will be the woman whom you choose as your beloved! For you will bring her Cyprian onions and cheese upon your return from Cythion.

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