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Narrat te, Chione, rumor numquam esse fututam
atque nihil cunno purius esse tuo.
Tecta tamen non hac, qua debes, parte lavaris:
si pudor est, transfer subligar in faciem.
Martial, Ep. 3.87
Rumour has it, Chione, that you have never been fucked and that nothing is purer than your cunt. But when you take a bath you don't cover yourself in the place you should: if you have any modesty, transfer your loincloth to your face.
The epigram is an amusing attack on a meretrix (‘prostitute’), with the ironic sobriquet Chione (‘Snow White’) who, though technically a virgin, in fact specialises in fellatio. To make the point that it is Chione's mouth, rather than her cunnus (‘cunt’), which is impure, Martial suggests that when bathing she should modestly cover that part which in her case is put to sexual use, that is, her mouth, by transferring her subligar (lit. ‘loin-cloth’) from her bottom half to her face. Although the meaning is clear and the piece looks uncomplicated enough, a discussion of the precise way in which the humour works, and second, of the underlying social customs, offers unexpected rewards.
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