Amores II:2

Bagoas, the duty of guarding your mistress is in your hands, so listen well while I go over a few necessary matters with you.

Yesterday I saw my girlfriend taking the air in the Portico of the Palatine Apollo, decorated with the procession of the daughters of Danaus. Immediately I wrote her a note asking to get together with her. She wrote back in a trembling hand, “I can’t!” And when I asked why she couldn’t, she answered my complaints by explaining that your care of your mistress was too unpleasantly complete. 

Believe me, good attendant, if you’re wise you’ll stop earning yourself hatred: everybody wants to destroy the person they fear.

Her husband isn’t smart either. Why is he so determined to protect something that won’t be diminished even if you don’t guard it? But regardless, let him go on with his foolish version of love and demand that his wife be chaste, as many do. You can give her the gift of secret freedom, and what you provide her with will come around to you as well.

Do you wish to know all? Then your mistress is under obligation to her slave. Do you fear to know all? It’s easy to ignore things.

For example: she gets a note that she reads privately. You can assume her mother sent it. A stranger comes to see her? Presently he won’t be a stranger. She goes to see a dear girlfriend who isn’t sick? Let her visit and perhaps you’ll decide the girl is sick after all.

Nor should you object to what may happen in the temple of linen-veiled Isis nor fear the curved benches of the theater. The confederate in a conspiracy has many duties, but what task is easier than to keep your mouth shut?

The slave who pleases and keeps his own counsel at home is never beaten. He has power, and his fellow slaves lie at his feet. False reasons for his success are invented to hide the real ones, but both master and mistress approve of him–because the mistress alone does. While the husband composes his face cheerfully and smoothes his wrinkles, my girl is able to do as she likes with a bland expression.

However she’ll be careful to feign complaints against you and weep false tears and call you a torturer. You in turn accuse her of doing harmless things, so that you may destroy belief in the truth by inventing false sins.

Thus you’ll always be held in high regard, thus your personal wealth will increase. If you follow this plan, you’ll be able to buy your freedom in no time at all.

But do you notice the chains binding the necks of tattletales? The slave pen waits for those whose hearts are without honor. Tantalus lies in water tormented by thirst and snatching at the fruits which flee his touch, the punishment his wagging tongue brought him. Because Ion, the servant of Juno, was too good a guard, he died before his time. She was, after all, a goddess.

I’ve seen a slave with legs scarred to his feet because a husband was required to learn that his wife was unchaste. That punishment was less than he deserved, for his evil tongue harmed two: the husband was miserable, and the wife got a bad reputation.

Believe me, a wife’s sins don’t make any husband happy, nor will they help anybody even if he listens to them. If he doesn’t care about his wife, then you waste your indictment on complaisant ears. If he loves her, however, your officiousness has made him miserable.

Nor is this sort of accusation easy to prove even if it happens in plain sight: often the wife comes through safely because the judge is on her side. A husband who’s seen the very act may still believe her denials, faulting his eyes and cursing himself for doubting. Let him see his wife crying and he’ll wail himself, crying, “That busybody will pay for his lies!”

Why would you take part in a contest so one-sided? If you lose, you’ll be beaten while she sits on the judge’s lap.

We aren’t plotting some crime, we’re not getting together to mix poisons; drawn swords won’t gleam in our hands. We’re asking to be able to love in private by your help: what could be easier to grant than our prayers?

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