Carmen 94 – Mentula de lul
Mentula moechatur. Moechatur mentula? Certe.
Hoc est quod dicunt: ipsa olera olla legit.
The first squib attacking "Prick" (Mentula), generally, on account of 29. 13 (q.v.),
identified as Caesar's chief engineer Mamurra. Here the joke simply depends on
the identity of name and function: Prick behaves as pricks will, and suffers appropriate
retribution as a result. The proverb implied in line 2 (and which emphasizes
the joke still further) is otherwise unknown: that does not necessarily mean
that Catullus invented it for the occasion. The saying is the rough equivalent of
"Birds of a feather flock together"; olla seems to have been a slang term for the
vagina, the implication being that loose ladies collect randy men, as the pot its
potherbs (cf. Adams I982, 29, 86-87). Damschen (1998, I75-76) argues that olla
can also be the anus (for which there is no evidence), and that (h)olera ("vegetables")
hints at the punishment per anum for adultery (see 15 with note) by means
of radishes or, as Juvenal knew (1O.3I7), a mullet. Unfortunately, olera refers only
to green vegetables (OLD s.v. holus), not to stiff and phallic roots such as European
radishes or parsnips.
Prick's an adulterer. "Adulterer, Prick?" For certain:
The pot picks its own potherbs, as they say.
- Mentula moechatur - Mentula/a cock is an adulterer.
This play on the man's nickname and the word for 'penis' is deliberately implemented to catch our attention. The word order is then reversed to further emphasise it, with the capital 'M' taken away to show that Catullus is only talking about a penis this time.
- Certe. - Certainly.
This abrupt use of the word imprints the statement to the reader.
- dicunt - they say
"They" is understood here as a saying, i.e. "you know what they say..." and is designed to represent a universal agreement to the statement above, adding further to Catullus' mockery of Mentula.
Mentula is an adulterer. Why certainly he is. How could he be anything
else with a name such as his. It is as natural as for a pot to gather vegetables.