Saturday, July 27, 2013


Egestions of Port Esquiline

[John Bulwer (1606-1656),] Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform'd; or, The Artificial Changeling Historically Presented, In the mad and cruel Gallantry, Foolish Bravery, ridiculous Beauty, Filthy Finenesse, and loathsome Lovelinesse of most Nations, Fashioning & altering their Bodies from the Mould intended by Nature. With a Vindication of the Regular Beauty and Honesty of Nature. And an Appendix of the Pedigree of the English Gallant. By J.B. Surnamed, The Chirosopher (London: Printed for J. Hardesty, 1650), p. 220:
This phantastical cohibition against the freedom of Nature in this part, makes me reflect upon as inconvenient a restraint (deriving but a colaterall insertion) impos'd upon the egestions of Port Esquiline. For the Guineans are very careful not to let a fart, and wondered at the Netherlanders rusticity and impudence, who used it so commonly, & durst commit such a stink in presence, they esteeming it not only to be great shame and contempt done unto them, but they had rather dye then perpetrate such an abominable act. Purchas Pilgr. 2 lib. 7.

The Irish are much of the same opinion in this point of unnatural restraint, whereas the Romans by an edict of Claudius the Emperour, most consonant to the Law of Nature, at all times and in all places, upon a just necessity freely challenged the benefit of Nature. De Bry Hist. Ind.

Verily, although it be not held decent before superiours, as a note of some familiarity and contempt; yet they who have not confidence enough to claim the benefit of the Law of Nature, ratified by Claudius, had not need be subject to the Colick, for they would hardly endure that Criterumi [sic, read Criterium?] of Nature, when, as Hyppocrates speaks, Crepitus ventris soluit morbum.

Some notes:

egestions of Port Esquiline: Oxford English Dictionary defines egestion generally as "The action of discharging or emptying out" (sense 1), and specifically as "Evacuation of the bowels" (sense 2.b), although here a gas, rather than solid or liquid, is meant. A.C. Hamilton, ed., Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (London: Longman, 1977), p. 253 n. (on "Port Esquiline [was] a gate in ancient Rome, its anus as it gave passage to the common dump."

an edict of Claudius: Suetonius, Life of Claudius 32 (tr. J.C. Rolfe): "He is even said to have thought of an edict allowing the privilege of breaking wind quietly or noisily at table, having learned of a man who ran some risk by restraining himself through modesty." (dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum quendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset.)

Hyppocrates: I can't find the source of Crepitus ventris soluit morbum (passing gas has cured illness), but cf. e.g. Hippocrates, Coan Prenotions 485 (tr. Paul Potter): "For flatulence to pass out without any sound or breaking of wind is best, but it is still better for it to come out with a sound than to be pent up inside." (φῦσαν δὲ ἄνευ ψόφου καὶ πραδήσιος διεξιέναι, βέλτιστον· κρέσσον δὲ καὶ σὺν ψόφῳ διελθεῖν, ἢ αὐτοῦ ἀνειλέεσθαι.) Similarly Hippocrates, Prognostics 11.

There are dozens, nay hundreds, of synonyms for flatulence. "Egestions of Port Esquiline" is a quaint one worth reviving.


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