The Matron of Ephesus
The Matron of Ephesus – From The Satyricon
Word spread through the city, and every one agreed that it was a unique example of conjugal love and fidelity.
Keep guard over the crosses
Meantime, the provincial governor crucified certain thieves near the sepulcher where the matron was weeping over the body of her late husband. And a soldier was commanded to keep guard over the crosses, to prevent the bodies from being taken down and buried.
The following night he perceived a light shining brightly among the trees and heard the moans of the woman. Like all human beings, he was curious, and desired to know who was groaning. And what was the cause of it.
So, He therefore entered the sepulcher, and on seeing a beautiful woman, stopped short and was as deeply moved as though he had seen an omen or a ghost from the nether world. The moment he set eyes on the body and remarked the matron’s tears. And her face scarred by the marks of fingernails, he understood; she was desperate in her love for the man who was dead. He then brought his frugal supper into the sepulcher. And begged the matron not to give way so to a grief that was useless; nor break her heart in weeping. All men, he said, had the same fate. And the same last resting-place.
The Matron of Ephesus – Maidservant
But she was ill-pleased by such commonplace consolation, and smote her breast more violently than ever, tearing out her hair and throwing it upon the body before her. Still, the young soldier did not leave. He tried to give the woman food. Though she resisted, her maidservant was won over by the smell of the wine, and stretched out her hand for the supper that was offered her.
The Matron of Ephesus – After she was fortified by food and drink, she strove to win over her mistress. “How,” she asked, “will you be benefited, if you starve to death and bury yourself alive, dying before Destiny has demanded your soul?
Do you imagine that your mourning can be acceptable to the body or the soul of a man who is dead and buried? Why not rather begin your life anew? Why not forget this misguided fidelity— adhered to only by women—and enjoy the daylight as long as the gods allow? This cold body ought to be a warning to you to enjoy life to the utmost.”
Petronius (Died 66 A.D.)
Gaius Petronius Arbiter was born some time early in the First Century of the Christian era, and committed suicide in the year 66. Writer, government official, dilettante and friend of Nero, he “had idled into fame,” as Tacitus tells us. His best-known work, The Satyricon, is a strange straggling sort of satirical novel, into which he introduced this short masterpiece, The Matron of Ephesus. The tale is supposed to be in the manner of one of the so-called lost Milesian Tales, a collection renowned for its cynical oudook on humanity in general and woman in particular. This brief story (in one form or another) is to be found running through all literature, especially the literature written by men. The present version is a revision (by the editors) of two older versions.
The Matron of Ephesus
From The Satyricon
A certain matron of Ephesus was so notably pure that women came from afar to look upon her. When her husb