Terrence Lockyer

Testamentum Porcelli – A Little Pig’s Will

In Classics on April 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I was reminded of this late Latin text, the will of a young pig (onto which various interpretations have been placed), by a friend’s link to the Wikipedia article on the ‘Pig stele of Edessa‘.  Having put together this text, translation, and a few notes for my own purposes, I thought them worth posting in case they were of use to others.


Incipit testamentum porcelli.

M. Grunnius Corocotta porcellus testamentum fecit. quoniam manu mea scribere non potui, scribendum dictavi.

Magirus cocus dixit ‘veni huc, eversor domi, solivertiator, fugitive porcelle, et hodie tibi dirimo vitam’. Corocotta porcellus dixit ‘si qua feci, si qua peccavi, si qua vascella pedibus meis confregi, rogo, domine coce, vitam peto, concede roganti’. Magirus cocus dixit ‘transi, puer, affer mihi de cocina cultrum, ut hunc porcellum faciam cruentum”. porcellus comprehenditur a famulis, ductus sub die XVI kal. lucerninas, ubi abundant cymae, Clibanato et Piperato consulibus. et ut vidit se moriturum esse, horae spatium petiit et cocum rogavit, ut testamentum facere posset. clamavit ad se suos parentes, ut de cibariis suis aliquid dimittere eis. qui ait:

‘patri meo Verrino Lardino do lego dari glandis modios XXX, et matri meae Veturinae Scrofae do lego dari Laconicae siliginis modios XL, et sorori meae Quirinae, in cuius votum interesse non potui, do lego dari hordei modios XXX. et de meis visceribus dabo donabo sutoribus saetas, rixoribus capitinas, surdis auriculas, causidicis et verbosis linguam, bubulariis [=botulariis?] intestina, isiciariis femora, mulieribus lumbulos, pueris vesicam, puellis caudam, cinaedis musculos, cursoribus et venatoribus talos, latronibus ungulas. et nec nominando coco legato dimitto popiam et pistillum, quae mecum attuleram: de Tebeste usque ad Tergeste liget sibi collum de reste. et volo mihi fieri monumentum ex litteris aureis scriptum: ‘M. Grunnius Corocotta porcellus vixit annis DCCCC.XC.VIIII.S. quod si semissem vixisset, mille annos implesset’. optimi amatores mei vel consules vitae, rogo vos ut cum corpore meo bene faciatis, bene condiatis de bonis condimentis nuclei, piperis et mellis, ut nomen meum in sempiternum nominetur.  mei domini vel consobrini mei, qui testamento meo interfuistis, iubete signari’.

Lardio signavit. Ofellicus signavit. Cyminatus signavit. Lucanicus signavit. Tergillus signavit. Celsinus signavit. Nuptialicus signavit.

explicit testamentum porcelli sub die XVI kal. lucerninas Clibanato et Piperato consulibus feliciter.


Here begins the will of the piglet.

M. Grunnius Corocotta[1] the piglet made this will.  Because I was not able to write it with my own hand, I gave dictation to be written down.

Magirus[2] the cook said, ‘Come here, destroyer of the home, soil-rooter, runaway piglet, and today I will end your life!’  Corocotta the piglet said, ‘If I have done anything, if I have done wrong in any way, if I have trampled any little pots under my feet, I ask, my lord cook, I beg for my life;  grant what I ask.’  Magirus the cook said, ‘Go, boy, and bring me a blade from the kitchen, that I may make this piglet bleed.’  The piglet was seized by the servants, taken on the 16th day before the kalends of the lamps, when the greens flourish, in the consulship of Clibanatus and Piperatus.[3]  And when he saw that he was going to die, he pleaded and asked the cook for an hour’s grace, that he might make his will.  He summoned to himself his parents, that he might bequeath them something from his foodstore.  And he said:

‘To my father Verrinus Lardinus I give and bequeath 30 measures of acorns, and to my mother Veturina Scrofa I give and bequeath 40 measures of Laconian white wheat, and to my sister Quirina, in whose marriage I cannot be involved, I give and bequeath 30 measures of barley.[4]  And from my body I shall give and contribute to the cobblers my bristles, to quarrelers my head-parts, to the deaf my ears, to lawyers and the wordy my tongue, to sausage-makers my intestines, to makers of meat products my thighs, to women my little loins, to boys my bladder, to girls my tail, to poofters my muscles, to runners and hunters my ankles, to brigands my hooves.[5]  And to the cook-who-may-not-be-named I assign as a legacy the soup-ladle and pestle, which I have borne with me;  from Tebeste as far as Tergeste let him bind them by a rope about his neck.  And I desire to be made for me a monument written in gilded letters:  “M. Grunnius Corocotta the piglet lived 900 and 90 and 9 and a half years.  Had he lived another half, he would have completed a thousand years.”  You who love me best or care for my life, I ask that you handle my body well, that you embalm it well with a good seasoning of nuts, pepper, and honey, that my name may be spoken for all time.  My lords or my relations, who were present at the making of my will, I instruct you to sign.’

Lardio signed.  Ofellicus signed.  Cyminatus signed.  Lucanicus signed. Tergillus signed.  Celsinus signed.  Nuptialicus signed.[6]

Here ends the will of the piglet on the 16th day before the kalends of the lamps, when Clibanatus and Piperatus were fortunate to be consuls.


[1]  The name may mean something like Grunter Roastpig;  but Corocotta is also the name of a known bandit, mentioned in Cassius Dio 56.43.3, and the word itself means some kind of wild animal, perhaps a hyena.

[2]  Magirus = Cook.

[3]  The names of the family all have porcine elements:  ‘verrinus’ is an adjective to do with boars, pigs, and pork;  ‘lardum’ is pig-fat;  ‘Veturina’ suggests ‘vetus’, meaning “aged”;  ‘scrofa’ is a breeding-sow, but also found as a name, presumably based on occupation;  ‘Quirina’ was a Roman name, but may also suggest Greek ‘khoiros’, a pig (also used as slang for the female genitals).

[4]  Clibanatus seems related to ‘clibanus’, an oven or a vessel for baking bread;  Piperatus means “seasoned with pepper, peppery”.

[5]  Some of the body parts also have sexual connotations:  ‘vesica’ is both the bladder and a term for female genitals;  ‘cauda’ means both “tail” and “penis” (like ‘penis’ itself);  and it is likely that a similar connotation attaches to the ‘musculos’ left the ‘cinaedis’ (a term, generally of abuse, for a man thought effeminate in both manner and sexual behaviour;  to which ‘poof[ter]’ or ‘faggot’ is perhaps the closest English equivalent).

[6]  The witnesses all have names suggesting food:  Lardio seems related to ‘lardum’ (pig-fat), Offellicus suggests ‘ofella’ (a morsel;  though Ofella and Ofellus are both attested as names), Cyminatus means ‘seasoned with cumin’, Lucanicus is a type of sausage, ‘tergilla’ is pork-rind, and Nuptialicus suggests a wedding-feast.  The reference of Celsinus is not clear, but ‘celsus’ can mean simply “lofty, elevated, eminent”, so the word could conceivably imply delicacies or fancy cooking (something like “haute cuisine”).


The Latin text given here is based on that of F. Buecheler, Petronii Satirae et Liber Priapeorum. Third edition (Berlin : Weidmann 1882), pp. 241-2.  I include in brackets, and translate, Haupt’s suggestion of ‘botulariis’ for ‘bubulariis’.  Buecheler’s edition is available online at http://archive.org/details/petroniisatirae00arbigoog

There is also a slightly different, and in places erroneous (e. g., ‘colum’ for ‘collum’, ‘vei’ for ‘mei’), text at http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/testamentum.html

I have benefited from looking at Graham Anderson, ‘The Cognomen of M. Grunnius Corocotta:  A Dissertatiuncula on Roast Pig’, The American Journal of Philology 101.1 (Spring 1980) 57-58;  Edward Champlin, ‘The Testament of the Piglet’, Phoenix 41.2 (Summer 1987) 174-183; and Jean-Jacques Aubert, ‘”Du lard ou du cochon”?  The Testamentum Porcelli as a Jewish Anti-Christian Pamphlet’, in Jean-Jacques Aubert and Zsuzsanna Varhelyi (edd.), A Tall Order.  Writing the Social History of the Ancient World.  Essays in Honor of William V. Harris (Munich : KG Saur Verlag 2005) 107-141.

Translation and notes by Terrence Lockyer
Johannesburg, South Africa
2012-04-20, 09h45 GMT+2

  1. […] genre that comprises animal complaint poetry and animal testaments. Our texts were the late antiqueTestamentum Porcelli, two Middle English works, “By a Forest as I gan fare” (aka The Hunting of the Hare) and the […]

  2. […] It was even known in Roman times and probably earlier. A satirical text from the 4th century, the testamentum porcelli, tells us about a piglet that bequeathed his bristles to the the shoemakers : “Donabo […]

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