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The Mimes of the Courtesans
Lucian of Samosata
Translated by A.L.H.
Decorations and illustrations by
The Mimes of the Courtesans By Lucian of Samosata
© David De Angelis 2017 [all rights reserved]
THE EDUCATION OF CORINNA
THE PLEASURE OF BEING BEATEN
THE TERROR OF MARRIAGE
THE RETURN OF THE SOLDIER
THE LITTLE FLUTE PLAYER
THERE IS A TIME FOR LYING
A POOR SAILOR'S LOVE
A MOTHER'S ADVICE
In view of the constantly changing standards for adequate translations, the task of the translator is not an easy one.
A rendition which a few years ago might have been entirely satisfactory would now be considered literal, stilted and uninspired.
And so, in our modern requirements for an effective version, something more is demanded than a merely accurate translation of words or even phrases; instead, a genuine appreciation of atmosphere, spirit and intent is insisted upon.
The Mimes of the Courtesans presents no exception to this perpetual problem of the translator. In fact, the task is intensified in this case because of the informality of the dialogues and the racy, whimsical style in which they are written.
The frequent occurrence of colloquialisms, of intimate and subtle humor, requires an ease and freedom in translation not permissible, perhaps, in works of scholarly import.
The translator has endeavored to keep constantly in mind the kindly humanism with which Lucian wrote these tales so descriptive of one phase of Greek life.
Lucian discusses intimate sex details with the frankness of one not immoral, but influenced by a system of morals that finds everything that is natural both beautiful and good.
These dialogues can hardly be offensive to the intelligent modern; for, somehow, our own civilization is changing, and as it becomes richer and fuller, it seems to have more in common with the civilizations of antiquity. A. L. H.
October 1, 1928.
CORINNA, a little girl
CROBYLE, her mother
Well, Corinna, you see now that it wasn't so terrible to lose your virginity. You have spent your first night with a man. You have earned your first gift, no less than a hundred drachmas. With that I'll buy you a necklace.
Yes, dear mother, do buy me a necklace. Let it be a necklace made of fine, shining stones like the one Philainis wears.
I promise. It will be just like the one Philainis wears. But listen: I want to teach you how you should conduct yourself with men. Take my words to heart, daughter. We have only your favor with men to depend on for a living.
You can't imagine how hard it has been for us to get along since your blessed father's death. We lacked nothing when he was alive. He had quite a reputation as a blacksmith in the Piræus. People say there will never be another blacksmith like Philipinos. After his death I sold his tongs, anvil and hammer for two hundred drachmas. We lived on that for some time. I found work weaving and turning thread, barely earning enough to buy bread with. I have raised you, however, my precious little daughter. You are the only hope left me.
Weren't you going to say something about my hundred drachmas, mother?
No, child. But I thought you were now big enough to support your tired mother. Not only that: you can even earn enough to dress richly, to buy yourself the newest robes of purple, and slaves.
What do you mean, mother? Why do you say that?
Don't you understand, little fool? Why, you will earn a great deal being attentive to nice young men, drinking in their company and going to bed with them--for money, of course.
You mean like Lyra, the daughter of Daphnis?
But she is--a courtesan!
What of it? There is no harm in that. You will become rich. You are sure to have many lovers.
Why, Corinna! Why do you weep? Don't you see how many courtesans there are, how they are all sought after, and how they all make money? I knew Daphnis when she was in rags--that was before she got sense enough to make use of her body. Look at her now! She struts like a queen, all bespangled with gold, wearing flowery dresses, and no less than four slaves behind her.
And how did she get all that, dear mother?
Well, in the first place, by dressing elegantly and being amiable and cheery with everybody. She does not giggle at any little thing, as you do; instead, she only smiles, which is much more attractive. She treats shrewdly, but without double-crossing, the men that come to see her or take her to their houses. She never approaches them first. When she is paid to assist at a banquet, she takes care not to get drunk--it is foolish and men can't bear it--and she does not stuff herself with food like an imbecile, so that when she gets into bed she is in condition to serve her lover well. She no more than touches the various dishes served-delicately, with her fingertips, and always in silence. And she never guzzles her wine, but drinks slowly, quietly, in gentle little sips.
But supposing she is thirsty, dear mother?
Especially when she is thirsty, foolish girl! And she never speaks more than is necessary, and never pokes fun at anybody present, and has eyes only for the man who has paid her. That is why everybody appreciates her. Furthermore, when it is time to get into bed, she never resorts to any obscenity, but does her task with care and loving attention. In bed, she bears one thing in mind--to win the man and make a steady lover of him. That is why everybody speaks highly of her. If you take this lesson to heart and do likewise we, too, shall be rich, for she is far from having your looks and your complexion. But I won't say anything more. Long may you live, little daughter, and prosper!
But tell me, dear mother: Will all those that will pay me be as handsome as Eucritos, the fellow I slept with yesterday?
Not all. There will be better looking fellows. And some will be very vigorous and energetic--you know what I mean; while others will not be quite as handsome.
And shall I have to give myself to the homely fellows too?
Especially to them, my child. It is that class that pays best. The beautiful kind only want to give their looks. I repeat: be careful to attach yourself to men who pay best--if you want to have people point you out on the street and say: "Do you see that Corinna, the daughter of Crobyle? Do you notice how rich she became, and what happiness she brings to her old mother? Oh, thrice happy has she rendered her, blessed be the girl!"
What do you say, child? Will you do that? You'll do what your old mother tells you, won't you? Ah, you will easily surpass the best of our courtesans. Now run and wash yourself, child. Possibly little Eucritos will be back tonight. He has promised to come to my little daughter. Both of you will enjoy it more tonight.
MOUSARION, a courtesan, 18 years old