Sepulchrum Trimalchionis

Now the story draws to a close, in probably the most extravagant and most unusual way. In fact, the next display is so extravagant, that even Trimalchio himself does not posses it; it is in his plan to have things this way.

As the dinner was drawing to a close, and I shall always thank whichever god was responsible for that, Trimalchio decided to read to us a portion of his testamentum (will). So that his slaves may love him now as if he were dead, all of his slaves shall be set free upon his death. Fortunata will be Trimalchio’s heres (heir), and he ‘recommends’ her to all of his friends. He goes on to read more of the gifts he gives to others in the event of his demise. All of his slaves cheered and groaned at the reading of his will. Then Trimalchio said to Habinnas, “Quid dicis amice carissime? Aedificas monumentum meum quemadmodum te iussi?” (Now tell me, my dear friend: will you erect my monument as I have ordered?).

And this monument was a vast order. Its dimensions confuse the mind, as well as all of its aspects. I am convinced Trimalchio forgot the earlier requests as he made up the later ones, and I do not know how his mind did not go in a circle requesting what he forgot.

In short, the tomb of the master was to include: a statue of his little dog, some wreaths, and bottles of perfume, and all the fights of Petraites, with dimensions of 100 feet wide and 200 feet deep. Trimalchio ordered fruit trees to grow around his ashes, along with vines. He requested the inscription, “HOC MONVMENTVM HEREDEM NON SEQUATVR” (this monument is not to descend to the heir). A freedman was to be appointed to prevent commoners from defiling his grave, a precaution I was certain would be necessary. Trimalchio wanted ships in full sail on the monument, as well as a carving of the master himself in his official robes sitting on his official seat, wearing 5 golden rings and throwing money to the masses from a small sack. He wanted a dining room depicting guests enjoying themselves at Trimalchio’s table. On his right hand Fortunata will be carved, holding a dove in one hand, and leading a dog on a leash with the other. He wanted his son carved there, weeping over a broken urn, and wine jars sealed with gypsum. In the middle of it all, there must be a sundial with Trimalchio’s name carved on it, so that none may see the time without reading his name.

Trimalchio requested a large transcription on the front of the tomb.

I invite you to read it for yourself, but I shall not copy it here. I would not want to rob that master of his vanity, nor would I subject you to it either.

Then the old man began to weep, and I did not doubt those tears could make any man drunk. Then Fortunata began to weep, and Habinnas, and all the slaves, as if we were at Trimalchio’s funeral. The master then felt inspired, and decreed that we should all go to the baths. Habinnas seconded the idea, for making two days out of one delights him.

I looked at my uncle, and he understood my opinion. While everyone followed Trimalchio to the baths, uncle Traianus and I slipped outside. I had seen the trio of friends attempt to leave the way we had come in, with Giton still trailing behind. Once we were outside, I spilled most of the evening’s contents onto the street. My uncle, supporting me, led me back to his house. In slurred speech, I asked my uncle how he handled Trimalchio’s parties.

“Wine spilt and wine drunk are no different to Trimalchio. You must learn to do more of one than the other.”

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