Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene

Plautus on the Prison-House of Luxury

A parasite in Plautus’ Menaechmi humorously channels Huxley’s Brave New World on the numbing and enslaving effects of idle overindulgence (he’s a fan, by the way; he likes his chains):

quem tu adservare recte, ne aufugiat, voles,

esca atque potione vinciri decet:

apud mensam plenam homini rostrum deliges.

dum tu illi, quod edit et quod potet, praebeas

suo arbitratu usque ad fatim cottidie,

numquam edepol fugiet, tam etsi capital fecerit:

facile adservabis, dum eo vinclo vincies.

ita istaeac nimis lenta vincla sunt escaria:

quam magis extendas, tanto adstringunt artius. (87-95)


The one you want to guard right well so that he doesn’t escape

should be bound by food and drink:

at a full table you can bind fast a man’s snout.

While you offer to him what he can eat and drink,

to the point of satiety in his own judgment every day,

he will never, by Pollux!, flee, even if he has committed a capital crime:

you will guard him easily, as long as you bind him with this chain.

Thus are these shackles of food exceedingly pliant:

the more you stretch them, the more closely they bind.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.