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Private Life

228. The dildo. Egypt, 3rd cent. B.C.? (Herodas, Mime 6. G)

A poem representing a discussion between two middle-class women about the virtues of a particular dildo, referred to here not by its generic name olisbos ('slipper'), but euphemistically as a 'pacifier' (baubon, from baubao, 'sleep'), made by a shoemaker named Kerdon, 'Greedy'. The poet manages to imply that the two famous women poets Nossis and Erinna are collaborators in their activities.

Koritto: Metro, sit down. (To her slave) Get up and give the lady your chair-I have to tell her to do everything-you couldn't do anything on your own, could you? Bah, she's a stone, sitting in the house, not a slave. But when I measure out your barley ration you count the crumbs, and if even a little bit falls off the top you complain for the entire day-the walls fall in with your shouting. Oh, now you're polishing and making it shine, you pirate, just when we need it. Offer a prayer to my friend, since without her here you'd have had a taste of my hands.

Metro: Dear Koritto, our necks are worn out by the same yoke: I bark like a dog yelling at these unmentionable creatures day and night. But the reason I've come to your house-get the hell out of the way, you smart-arses, all ears and tongues, and days-off the rest of the time please, don't hold back, dear Koritto, who was the man that made the red Pacifier for you?

Koritto: Metro-you haven't seen it have you?

Metro: Nossis, Erinna's daughter, had it a couple of days ago, Mm, nice gift.

Koritto: Nossis? Where'd she get it?

Metro: Will you tell on me if I tell you?

Koritto: By your sweet eyes, dear Metro, nothing you say will be heard escaping from Koritto's mouth.

Metro: Bitas' wife Euboule gave it to her and told her no one should find out about it.

Koritto: Women. That woman will wear me out. She begged me and I took pity on her and gave it to her, Metro, before I could even get to use it myself. And she snatches it away like some hidden treasure and gives it to people who shouldn't get it. A fond farewell to friends like that. She can look for somebody else instead of me to lend my things to Nossis-in case you think that for her (if I'm complaining more than is right, forgive me, Nemesis). If I had a thousand, I wouldn't give her one, not even a rotten one.

Metro: No, Koritto, don't let anger flare in your nostrils, when you hear of some silly story. It's a respectable woman's duty to put up with anything. I'm the one who's responsible, because I chatter so much, and I ought to have my tongue cut out. But what I particularly wanted to find out from you, who made it for you? If you love me, tell me. Why are you looking at me and laughing? Is this the first time you've ever seen me, Metro? Why are you behaving in such an affected way? Please, Koritto, don't hold back, and tell me who made it.

Koritto: Oh, why plead with me? Kerdon made it.

Metro: Who? Tell me! Kerdon? There are two Kerdons. One has grey eyes, Myrtaline's neighbour (Kylaethis' daughter). But he couldn't sew a plectrum for a lyre. The other one lives near Hermodorus' tenement houses, as you go out from Main Street. He was somebody once, but now he's got old. The old lady, Kylaethis, used to use him. (Piously) May her friends and family remember her in death.

Koritto: As you say, Metro, it isn't either of them. He is-I don't know, either from Chios or Erythrae, bald, a little man. You'd say he was Prexinus-they're as alike as fig and fig, except when he talks, then you know it's Kerdon and not Prexinus. He works at home and sells undercover-every door these days fears the tax collectors. But his workmanship-what workmanship. You'd think Athena's hands, not Kerdon's went into it. I-he came bringing two of them, Metro. When I saw them, my eyes swam at the sight-men don't have such firm pricks! Not only that, but its smoothness is sleep, and its straps are like wool, not leather. You couldn't find a kinder woman's shoemaker.

Metro: Why did you let the other one go?

Koritto: Metro, what didn't I do to get it? What sort of charm didn't I use to besiege him? I kissed him, and rubbed his bald head, and gave him something sweet to drink, and called him 'Daddy'-the only thing I didn't give him to use was my body.

Metro: Well, you should have given him that if he'd asked for it.

Koritto: Yes, I would have. But it's not a good idea to talk about what's not becoming a lady. Bitas' wife Euboule was there grinding. She has worn down my millstone night and day and turned it into trash, just so she wouldn't need to spend four obols to have her own sharpened.

Metro: How did he manage to come to your house, all this long way, dear Koritto? Don't hold back from me.

Koritto: Artemeis sent him, the wife of Kandas the tanner-she pointed my house out.

Metro: Artemeis always finds out about new discoveries-she can outdrink ... But since you couldn't rescue the two of them you ought to have found out who ordered the other one.

Koritto: I begged him, but he swore that he wouldn't tell me.

Metro: What you're telling me means that I must take a trip. I'm going now, to Artemeis' house, so I can find out who this Kerdon is. Stay well, Koritto dear. (Ambiguously) Someone is hungry, and it's time for me ...

Koritto: Close the door. You-count the hens, give them some darnel seed. You can be sure bird-snatchers will steal them, unless you hold them in your lap.