I wrote about Sergius in the past two blogs. He was that outlandish ex-gladiator who fled to Alexandria with Eppia, the senator’s wife who’d given up everything, her several hundred slaves, her villa in Rome, and her seaside estate at Antium, to be with him. He appears in THE DEADLIEST LIE and more recently in THE DEADLIEST SPORT, where Miriam describes him as something of a local celebrity:
Still the favorite of gossipmongers, he’s the subject of abounding rumors, that he’d been seen here or there, at the theater or the games, our clearly recognizable popular hero with a stump for a right arm, a dent in his head, a wart on the end of his nose, and an ichor trickling from his swollen eyes. Word has it that the senator is still searching for them.
So, I began to wonder whether he and Eppia actually existed or whether they were just Juvenal’s invention to portray his disdain for women in his famous Satire 6. In reading the satire, I certainly got a whiff of his vitriol. Here’s some of what he wrote about Eppia:
When Eppia, the senator's wife, ran off with a gladiator to Pharos and the Nile and the ill-famed city of Lagos, Canopus itself cried shame upon the monstrous morals of our town. Forgetful of home, of husband and of sister, without thought of her country, she shamelessly abandoned her weeping children…. And what were the youthful charms which captivated Eppia?...Her dear Sergius had already begun to shave; a wounded arm gave promise of a discharge, and there were sundry deformities in his face; a scar caused by the helmet, a huge wen upon his nose, a nasty humour always trickling from his eye. But then he was a gladiator! It is this that she preferred to children and to country, to sister and to husband. What these women love is the sword. [note bene: The word “sword,” gladiusin Latin, was the euphemism at the time for a man’s organ and the root for our word “gladiator.”]
I didn’t find out whether Eppia and Sergius actually existed, but Juvenal gives so many details that I suspect they did. Make up your own mind. Click here for an eye-opening view of his contempt for women. In a hurry? Then begin with line 91. click here: