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Tumulus meretricis.

The courtesan’s tomb


Quis tumulus? cuia urna? Ephyraeae est Laidos,[1] & non
Erubuit tantum perdere Parca[2] decus?
Nulla fuit tum forma, illam iam carpserat aetas,
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [c7r p45]Iam speculum Veneri cauta dicarat[3] anus.
Quid sculptus sibi vult aries[4], quem parte leaena
Unguibus apprensum posteriore tenet?
Non aliter captos qud & ipsa teneret amantes,
Vir gregis est aries, clune tenetur amans.

What tomb, whose urn is this? - It belongs to Lais of Ephyre. - Ah, was not the goddess of Fate ashamed to destroy such loveliness? - She had no beauty then. Age had already worn it away. She had become an old woman and had already wisely dedicated her mirror to Venus. - What’s the meaning of the ram carved there, which a lioness holds tight, gripping its hind-quarters with her claws? - It is there because she too would hold her captive lovers in just this way. The male of the flock is the ram. The lover is held by the buttocks.


Las ex Corinthia meretrix insignis mirae
pulchritudinis ac venustatis, ob id per totam
Graeciam celebris, quae neminem admittebat,
nisi tantum solveret, quantum ipsa peteret,
postulabat autem ingentem pecuniae sum-
mam, hanc Demosthenes Rhetor clam adie-
rat, utque sibi sui copiam faceret rogaverat, il-
la statim 40. sestertia (quae summa ut Budaeus
computat, mille fer Gallicos coronatos fa-
ciet) petiit. Expavit autem Demosthenes,
mox terga volvens inquit, Ego poenitere tan-
ti non emo. ut eleganter Aulus Gellius lib. 1 cap. 8.
Eius sepulcrum hc expressum, cui insculptus
est Aries (amatorem referens) quem sequens
Leaena (meretricem significans) unguibus
tergo comprehendit. Sic etenim meretrices
quavis Leaena ferociores, miseros amantes
etiam laniando captos tenent. De Lade au-
tem, eius monumento, & huiuscemodi pictu-
ria, similim recenset Leonicus de varia histo-
ria lib 1. cap. 81.


1. ‘Lais of Ephyre’. Ephyre is an old name for Corinth, the home of several famous courtesans called Lais.

2. One of the Parcae or Fates, here presumably Atropos, the Fate who cut off the thread of the individual’s life.

3. As a symbol of retirement, the tools of one’s trade were dedicated to the presiding deity. For Lais dedicating her mirror to Venus, see Anthologia graeca 6.1 and 18.

4. Scalptus...aries, ‘the ram carved there’. Pausanias Periegesis 2.2.4 describes such a tomb of Lais at Corinth.

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