Annotations to James Joyce's Ulysses/Oxen of the Sun/384
Talis ac tanta depravatio hujus seculi, O quirites, ut matres familiarum nostrae lascivas cujuslibet semiviri libici titillationes testibus ponderosis atque excelsis erectionibus centurionum Romanorum magnopere anteponunt (Latin) Such and so great is the depravity of our generation, O Citizens, that our materfamiliases greatly prefer the lascivious titillations of any barbaric half-man whomsoever to the ponderous testicles and extraordinary erections of Roman centurions. Needless to say, this is not a quotation from the Classics, though the style is deliberately Ciceronian.
Mulligan's libici is problematic. Thornton translates it as lustful, which would actually be libidinosi. Gifford translates it as Gallic, an allusion to the Libici, a Gallic people; but Libicorum would be the correct form. In the first draft Joyce wrote Libycci (or Libyeci), so his original intention seems clear: Libyci (Libyan, African).
The point of the passage is that Roman matrons prefer sexual satisfaction to conception: copulation without population, another form of contraception, which is the interpretation Joyce puts on the slaughter of the Oxen of the Sun in this episode. Joyce was influenced here by an epigram of Martial:
Cur tantum eunuchos habeat tua Caelia, quaeris
Do you ask why your Caelia has only eunuchs,
R. J. Schork renders the passage literally as: Such and so great is the depravity of this age, O fellow citizens, that our mothers of families greatly prefer the wanton titillations of some one or another half-male barbarian to the massive testicles and sky-high erections of Roman centurions.
- O quirites — In Latin, the vocative is not introduced by O.
- titillationes — In classical Latin, titillationes means ticklings.
- excelsis erectionibus — To a Roman, this would refer to tall buildings, not hardons.
- centurionum Romanorum — In Classical Latin the noun centurio (centurion) is never qualified by the adjective Romanus.
- anteponunt — This should be the subjunctive anteponant.