Saturday, March 19, 2022

An Intersex Bird and Her Intersex Zookeeper, Ausonius Epig. XLIV

It is important to note that the Romans did not necessarily differentiate between trans and intersex people; like cinaedus, the term androgynus was used as an umbrella term.

Vallebanae (nova res et vix credenda poetis,)

sed quae de vera promitur historia)

femineam in speciem convertit masculus ales

pavaque de pavo constitit ante oculos.

Cuncti admirantur monstrum, sed mollior agna...

[talia virginea voce puella refert:]

"quid stolidi ad speciem notae novitatis hebetis?

An vos Nasonis carmina non legitis?

Caenida convertit proles Saturnia Consus

ambignoque fuit corpore Tiresias.

Vidit semivirum fons Salmacis Hermaphroditum:

vidit nubentem Plinius androgynum

nec satis antiquum, quod Campana in Benevento

unus epheborum virgo repente fuit.

Nolo tamen veteris documenta arcesse famae.

ecce ego sum factus femina de puero."

--Ausonius, Epig. LXIV (1883); LXXVI (modern)

At Valbone (an unusual occurrence

that would scarcely be believed from poets,

but which is alleged by a historian),

a male bird turned into a female bird;

A peacock became a peahen right before our eyes!

Everyone marveled at the omen,

But a girl, softer than a lamb, announced with her maiden’s voice:

“You goofballs, why are so amazed by this marvel?

 Haven’t you read the poems of Ovid [The Metamorphoses]?

 Saturn’s offspring Consus* changed Caeneus,

And Tiresias was gender-fluid.

The Salmacis spring saw the intersex Hermaphroditus;

Pliny saw an intersex person get married

And, more recently, in Beneventum,

One young man suddenly became a young woman!

But nevermind these old stories,

I myself am a woman, though born a boy."

* Poseidon / Neptune, not Consus,  is usually associated with the myth of Caeneus



Name:  Decimius Magnus Ausonius

Date:  4th century CE

Works:  Letters, Mosella



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Ausonius was a Roman poet from Aquitania, Gaul [modern France] who lived during the 4th century CE. He is best known for his epic poem Mosella, which describes the Moselle River, and his Epistles, a series of literary poems between himself and the Christian poet Paulinus.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE


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