Martial, too (Book XII, Epigram LXXVII), tells of the embarrassment of one who broke wind while praying in the Capitol,
“One day, while standing upright, addressing his prayers to Jupiter, Aethon farted in the Capitol. Men laughed, but the Father of the Gods, offended, condemned the guilty one to dine at home for three nights. Since that time, miserable Aethon, when he wishes to enter the Capitol, goes first to Paterclius’ privies and farts ten or twenty times. Yet, in spite of this precautionary crepitation, he salutes Jove with constricted buttocks.” Martial also (Book iv, Epigram LXXX), ridicules a woman who was subject to the habit, saying,
“Your Bassa, Fabullus, has always a child at her side, calling it her darling and her plaything; and yet—more wonder—she does not care for children. What is the reason then. Bassa is apt to fart. (For which she could blame the unsuspecting infant.)”
The tale is told, too, of a certain woman who performed an aeolian crepitation at a dinner attended by the witty Monsignieur Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans, and that when, to cover up her lapse, she began to scrape her feet upon the floor, and to make similar noises, the Bishop said, “Do not trouble to find a rhyme, Madam!”
Nay, worthier names than those of any yet mentioned have discussed the matter. Herodotus tells of one such which was the precursor to the fall of an empire and a change of dynasty—that which Amasis discharges while on horseback, and bids the envoy of Apries, King of Egypt, catch and deliver to his royal master. Even the exact manner and posture of Amasis, author of this insult, is described.
St. Augustine (The City of God, XIV:24) cites the instance of a man who could command his rear trumpet to sound at will, which his learned commentator fortifies with the example of one who could do so in tune!
Benjamin Franklin, in his “Letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels” has canvassed suggested remedies for alleviating the stench attendant upon these discharges:
“My Prize Question therefore should be: To discover some Drug, wholesome and—not disagreeable, to be mixed with our common food, or sauces, that shall render the natural discharges of Wind from our Bodies not only inoffensive, but agreeable as Perfumes.
“That this is not a Chimerical Project & altogether impossible, may appear from these considerations. That we already have some knowledge of means capable of varying that smell. He that dines on stale Flesh, especially with much Addition of Onions, shall be able to afford a stink that no Company can tolerate; while he that has lived for some time on Vegetables only, shall have that Breath so pure as to be insensible of the most delicate Noses; and if he can manage so as to avoid the Report, he may anywhere give vent to his Griefs, unnoticed. But as there are many to whom an entire Vegetable Diet would be inconvenient, & as a little quick Lime thrown into a Jakes will correct the amazing Quantity of fetid Air arising from the vast Mass of putrid Matter contained in such Places, and render it pleasing to the Smell, who knows but that a little Powder of Lime (or some other equivalent) taken in our Food, or perhaps a Glass of Lime Water drank at Dinner, may have the same Effect on the Air produced in and issuing from our Bowels?”