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The Poet in this satire proves, that the condition of a soldier is
much better than that of a countryman ; first, because a countrymun, however affronted, provoked, and struck himself, dares not strike a soldier, who is only to be judged by a court-martial ; and, by the law of Camillus, which obliges him not to quarrel without the trenches, he is also assured to have a speedy hearing, and quick dispatch; whereas, the townsman, or peasant, is delayed in his suit by frivolous pretences, and not sure of justice when he is heard in the court. The soldier is also privileged to make a will, and to give away his estate, which he got in war, to whom he pleases, without consideration of parentage, or relations, which is denied to all other Romans. This satire was written by Juvenal, when he was a commander in Fgypt: it is certainly his, though I think it not finished. And if it be well observed, you will find he intended an invectire against a standing army.
HAT vast prerogatives, my Gallus, are
One happy hour is to a soldier better,
See what our common privileges are;
* Juno was mother to Mars, the god of war; Venus was his mistress.
+ Camillus, (who being first banished by his ungrateful countrymen the Romans, afterwards returned, and freed them from the Gauls,) made a law, which prohibited the soldiers from quarrelling without the camp, lest upon that pretence they might happen to be absent when they ought to be on duty.
1 The poet names a Modenese lawyer, whom he calls Vagellius, who was so impudent, that he would plead any cause, right or wrong, without shame or fear.
But would'st thou, friend, who hast two legs alone, (Which, heaven be praised, thou yet may'st call thy
own) Would'st thou to run the gauntlet these expose To a whole company of hob-nailed shoes? * Sure the good-breeding of wise citizens Should teach them more good-nature to their shins.
Besides, whom canst thou think so much thy friend, Who dares appear thy business to defend ? Dry up thy tears, and pocket up the abuse, Nor put thy friend to make a bad excuse; The judge cries out, "Your evidence produce.” Will he, who saw the soldier's mutton-fist, And saw thee mauled, appear within the list, To witness truth? When I see one so brave, The dead, think I, are risen from the grave; And with their long spade beards, and
matted hair, Our honest ancestors are come to take the air. Against a clown, with more security, A witness may be brought to swear a lie, Than, though his evidence be full and fair, To vouch a truth against a man of war.
More benefits remain, and claimed as rights, Which are a standing army's perquisites. If any rogue vexatious suits advance Against me for my known inheritance, Enter by violence my fruitful grounds, Or take the sacred land-mark † from my bounds, Those bounds, which with procession and with prayer, And offered cakes, have been '
my annual care;
* The Roman soldiers wore plates of iron under their shoes, ur stuck them with nails, as countrymen do now.
+ Land-marks were used by the Romans almost in the same manner as now; and as we go once a year in procession about the bounds of parishes, and renew them, so they offered cakes upon the stone, or land-mark.
Or if my debtors do not keep their day,
Another branch of their revenue still
* The courts of judicature were hung, and spread, as with us; but spread only before the hundred judges were to sit, and judge public causes, which were called by lot.
+ The Roman soldiers had the privilege of making a will, in their father's life-time, of what they had purchased in the wars, as being no part of their patrimony. By this will, they had power of excluding their own parents, and giving the estate so gotten to whom they pleased : Therefore, says the poet, Coranus, (a soldier contemporary with Juvenal, who had raised his fortune by the wars,) was courted by his own fatł.er, to make him his heir.