Petronius' Satyrica 24.7: Quartilla's asellus


  • Martha Habash


In chapters 16-26 of Petronius' Satyrica Quartilla, a priestess of Priapus, conducts a Priapi genio pervigilium ("vigil to the guiding spirit of Priapus" 21.7), many of whose activities (including the application and drinking of aphrodisiacs, rape, and a wedding) are obviously meant to cure herself of Tertian Fever and perhaps even to expiate the crime of the trio of Encolpius, Ascyltus, and Giton. On (presumably) day two of the vigil, Quartilla kisses and fondles the young Giton, saying,

"haec" inquit "belle cras in promulside libidinis nostrae militabit; hodie enim post asellum diaria non sumo."

(She said) "This will serve well tomorrow in the antipasto of our lust. To be sure, today I am taking no daily rations after a little donkey" 24.7 (literally translated).

What could Quartilla mean by post asellum ("after the little donkey")? This paper argues that the rape of Encolpius by two catamites can be viewed as punishment for his earlier crimes. It is this rape to which Quartilla refers in this metaphor; Quartilla's post asellum diaria non sumo would mean, "I won't honor the god with such an ordinary dedication after a sacrifice." 

Martha Habash is an assistant professor of Classics at Creighton University in Omaha, NE.