|Satire 16 - The Immunities of the Military
by , translated by G. G. Ramsay
The Immunities of the Military
Who can count up, Gallius, all the prizes of prosperous soldiering? I would myself pray to be a trembling recruit if I could but enter a favoured camp under a lucky star: for one moment of benignant fate is of more avail than a letter of commendation to Mars from Venus, or from his mother,1 who delights in the sandy shore of Samos.
Let us first consider the benefits common to all soldiers, of which not the least is this, that no civilian will dare to thrash you; if thrashed himself, he must hold his tongue, and not venture to exhibit to the Praetor the teeth that have been knocked out, or the black and blue lumps upon his face, or the one eye left which the doctor holds out no hope of saving. If he seek redress, he has appointed for him as judge a hob-nailed centurion with a row of jurors with brawny calves sitting before a big bench. For the old camp law and the rule of Camillus still holds good which forbids a soldier to attend court outside the camp, and at a distance from the standards. "Most right and proper it is," you say, "that a centurion should pass sentence on a soldier; nor shall I fail of satisfaction if I make good my case." But then the whole cohort will be your enemies; all the maniples will agree as one man in applying a cure to the redress you have received by giving you a thrashing which shall be worse than the first. So, as you possess a pair of legs, you must have a mulish brain worthy of the eloquent Vagellius to provoke so many jack-boots, and all those thousands of hobnails. And besides who would venture so far from the city? Who would be such a Pylades 2 as to go inside the rampart? Better dry your eyes at once, and not importune friends who will but make excuses. When the judge has called for witnesses, let the man, whoever he be, who saw the assault dare to say, "I saw it," and I will deem him worthy of the beard and long hair of our forefathers. Sooner will you find a false witness against a civilian than one who will tell the truth against the interest and the honour of a soldier.
And now let us note other profits and perquisites of the service. If some rascally neighbour have filched from me a dell or a field of my ancestral estate, and have dug up, from the mid point of my boundary, the hallowed stone which I have honoured every year with an offering of flat cake and porridge; or if a debtor refuses to repay the money that he has borrowed, declaring that the signatures are false, and the document null and void: I shall have to wait for the time of year when the whole world begin their suits, and even then there will be a thousand wearisome delays. So often does it happen that when only the benches have been set out----when the eloquent Caecilius is taking off his cloak, and Fuscus has gone out for a moment----though everything is ready, we disperse, and fight our battle after the dilatory fashion of the courts. But the gentlemen who are armed and belted have their cases set down for whatever time they please; nor is their substance worn away by the slow drag-chain of the law.
Soldiers alone, again, have the right to make their wills during their fathers' lifetime; for the law ordains that money earned in military service is not to be included in the property which is in the father's sole control. This is why Coranus, who follows the standards and earns soldier's pay, is courted by his own father, though now tottering from old age. The son receives the advancement that is his due, and reaps the recompense for his own good services. And indeed it is the interest of the General that the most brave should also be the most fortunate, and that all should have medals and necklets to be proud of.
The Satire breaks off here.
1. Juno. 2. The inseparable friend of Orestes.
|This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.|