The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Umbricius and the Frogs (Juvenal, Sat. 3.44–5)1

S. H. Braunda1

a1 University of Exeter

In Satire 3, Umbricius states his intention to leave Rome and delivers a long explanation of his decision, an explanation which develops into an invective against life in Rome. In the lines quoted above, Umbricius lists the ‘skills’ which (he implies) are essential for success at Rome, ‘skills’ which he does not possess. The list comprises various mendacious, nefarious and criminal activities; Umbricius' stated inability to undertake such activities reinforces his claim to be a simple, honourable man (e.g. lines 21–2). In this list is his claim ‘I have never examined frogs’ entrails'. TLL glosses this passage ‘(sc. ueneni indagandi gratia)’ (TLL inspicio 1951.70), the view taken by Friedländer too (‘zur Bereitung von Gift’). Courtney takes a different view: ‘Presumably not for poisoning, which inspicere would hardly suit, but of divination … of an oriental type.’


1 Deep thanks are due to Barbara Bell, whose astute questioning caused me to take a fresh look at this passage; to Duncan Cloud for helpful comments on a earlier draft; and to Professor Nisbet for providing most fruitful suggestions on the earlier draft.