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Gnosia pasiphae tauro ut frueretur amato[1]
Factoris arte Daedali.[2]
Dicitur in vaccae sese assimilasse figuram
Inclusa fabrili bove.
Fabula. credibili sed re. nam PasiphaŽ ipsa
Domo latens adultera,
Taurus adulter erat, quem admisit. non alienum
Secuta taurum, sed torum.
In quam non etenim se vertit foemina formam,
Ut expleat libidinem?
Messalina Lupae titulum mentita Lyciscae
Augusta Lais prostituit.[3]

Pasiphae of Cnossos, they say, made herself similar to a cow’s shape to enjoy her beloved bull by the art of Daedalus the craftsman, enclosed in a crafted cow. It’s a fable, but believable. For Pasiphae herself is the adulterous wife lying hidden in the house, the bull the lover whom she admits; she follows not other bullocks, but bollocks.* For what form will a woman not take on to satisfy her lust? Messalina, the Empress Lais, prostituted the false name of Lycisca the Whore.
* The pun is rather more sedate but just as awful: on taurus (‘bull’) and alienus torus (‘another man’s bed’).


1.Epodic metre, a dactylic hexameter followed by an iambic dimeter.

2.PasiphaŽ was daughter of Helios, wife of Minos of Crete. Either because of a curse from Poseidon or by choice, she mated with a bull, which produced the Minotaur.

3.Messalina was wife of the Emperor Claudius; she was forced to commit suicide in AD 49 for her alleged promiscuity. The ‘Empress Lais’ refers to her as a prostitute-empress (refering to the ancient courtesan, Lais of Corinth), as does the pseudonym she adopted, Lycisca (Greek for ‘little wolf’); in Latin, a lupa is a prostitute.

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