Ferreus es, si stare potest tibi mentula, Flacce,
cum te sex cyathos orat amica gari,
vel duo frusta rogat cybii tenuemve lacertum
nec dignam toto se botryone putat;
cui portat gaudens ancilla paropside rubra
allecem, sed quam protinus illa voret;
aut cum perfricuit frontem posuitque pudorem,
sucida palliolo vellera quinque petit.
at mea me libram foliati poscat amica,
aut virides gemmas sardonychasve pares,
nec nisi prima velit de Tusco Serica vico,
aut centum aureolos sic velut aera roget.
nunc tu velle putas haec me donare puellae?
nolo, sed his ut sit digna puella volo.
(Martial, Ep. 11.27)

You are made of iron, Flaccus, if your cock can stand when your mistress begs you for half a pint of garum or asks for two pieces of tunny or a meagre mackerel and thinks herself unworthy of a whole bunch of grapes; one to whom her maid delightedly carries fish-sauce on a red platter for her to devour immediately; or, when she has rubbed her forehead and laid modesty aside, one who petitions for five greasy fleeces to make a small mantle. Let my mistress on the other hand demand a pound of foliatum* or green gems or matching sardonyxes; let her want none but the finest silks from Tuscan Street, or let her ask me for a hundred gold pieces as if they were copper. Do you now suppose that I am minded to give my girl such things? I am not, but I wish my girl to be worthy of them.

* The foliatum or nardinum was a compound of nard, myrrh, and other aromatic herbs; cf. Pliny N.H. 13.15.

(tr. David Roy Shackleton-Bailey, with his note)



Audio Valerium Martialem decessisse et moleste fero. erat homo ingeniosus, acutus, acer, et qui plurimum in scribendo et salis haberet et fellis nec candoris minus. prosecutus eram viatico secedentem; dederam hoc amicitiae, dederam etiam versiculis, quos de me composuit. fuit moris antiqui eos, qui vel singulorum laudes vel urbium scripserant, aut honoribus aut pecunia honorare; nostris vero temporibus ut alia speciosa et egregia ita hoc in primis exolevit. nam postquam desiimus facere laudanda, laudari quoque ineptum putamus. quaeris, qui sint versiculi, quibus gratiam rettuli? remitterem te ad ipsum volumen, nisi quosdam tenerem; tu, si placuerint hi, ceteros in libro requires. alloquitur Musam, mandat, ut domum meam Esquiliis quaerat, adeat reverenter:

sed ne tempore non tuo disertam
pulses ebria ianuam videto;
totos dat tetricae dies Minervae,
dum centum studet auribus virorum
hoc, quod saecula posterique possint
Arpinis quoque comparare chartis.
seras tutior ibis ad lucernas;
haec hora est tua, cum furit Lyaeus,
cum regnat rosa, cum madent capilli.
tunc me vel rigidi legant Catones.
[Martial, Ep. 10.20.12-21]

meritone eum, qui haec de me scripsit, et tunc dimisi amicissime et nunc ut amicissimum defunctum esse doleo? dedit enim mihi, quantum maximum potuit, daturus amplius, si potuisset. tametsi, quid homini potest dari maius quam gloria et laus et aeternitas? ‘at non erunt aeterna, quae scripsit!’ non erunt fortasse, ille tamen scripsit, tamquam essent futura. vale.
(Pliny Minor, Ep. 3.21)

I hear that Valerius Martial has died, and I find it sad news. He was a talented and intelligent man with a keen mind, the sort of poet with abundant wit and gall, and an equal measure of openness. When he was retiring from Rome, I presented him with his travelling-expenses as a gesture of friendship and acknowledgement of the verses he composed about me. It was an ancient custom to honour poets who had written eulogies of individuals or of cities with distinctions or with money. But in our day this practice in particular, like other splendid and notable customs, has lapsed. For now that we have abandoned praiseworthy pursuits, we consider it pointless to receive accolades. Would you like to hear the verses for which I thanked him? I would refer you to the collection, if I did not remember some of them. If you like these, you must look out the rest in his publications. He is addressing his Muse, bidding her make for my house on the Esquiline, and to approach with deference.

But be sure that you don’t when drunk go knocking
At that eloquent door when you’re not welcome.
He devotes all his days to stern Minerva,
While for the ears of the court of Centumviri
He works away at what men of later ages
Can compare even with Arpinum’s pages.*
You will go more safely when late lamps burn;
That is your hour, when Bacchus rages wildly,
When the rose is queen, when men’s hair is perfumed.
Why, unbending Catos would then read me!

Surely it was right that he who penned these lines should then have been waved off in the friendliest way, and should be mourned as a close friend now he has died? For he gave me the greatest tribute that he could, and he would have given more if that had been possible. Yet what greater thing can a man bestow on a person than fame, praise, and immortality? You will respond that his writings will not be immortal. Perhaps they will not be, but he composed them believing that they would be. Farewell.

* At this early stage of his career Pliny’s chief occupation was with the lawsuits in the civil court. Arpinum was the birthplace of Cicero, with whom Pliny loves to be compared.

(tr. Patrick Gerard Walsh, with one of his notes)



Fascia, crescentes dominae compesce papillas,
ut sit quod capiat nostra tegatque manus.
(Martial, Ep. 14.134)

Band, compress my lady’s swelling breasts, so that my hand may find something to clasp and cover. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)



Si meus aurita gaudet lagalopece Flaccus,
si fruitur tristi Canius Aethiope,
Publius exiguae si flagrat amore catellae,
si Cronius similen cercopithecon amat,
delectat Marium si perniciosus ichneumon,
pica salutatrix si tibi, Lause, placet,
si gelidum collo nectit †Gadilla† draconem,
luscinio tumulum si Telesilla dedit:
blanda Cupidinei cur non amet ora Labyrtae,
qui videt haec dominis monstra placere suis?
(Martial 7.87)

If my Flaccus delights in a long-eared fennec, if Canius enjoys a sombre Ethiop, if Publius is a-fire with love for a tiny lapdog, if Cronius adores a long-tailed monkey that resembles him, if a destructive ichneumon charms Marius, if a magpie that can speak your name pleases you, Lausus, if Glaucilla(?) twines a clammy snake about her neck, if Telesilla gave a tomb to a nightingale, why should not anyone who sees these freaks pleasing their owners not love the face of Cupid’s Labyrtas? (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)



Quid te, Tucca, iuvat vetulo miscere Falerno
in Vaticanis condita musta cadis?
quid tantum fecere boni tibi pessima vina?
aut quid fecerunt optima vina mali?
de nobis facile est; scelus est iugulare Falernum
et dare Campano toxica saeva mero.
convivae meruere tui fortasse perire:
amphora non meruit tam pretiosa mori.
(Martial 1.18)

Tucca, what satisfaction do you get out of mixing must stored in Vatican* jars with old Falernian? What great good have vile wines done you or fine wines what harm? Never mind about us; it’s a crime to murder Falernian and put fierce toxins into a Campanian vintage. Maybe your guests deserved to perish, but so costly a jar did not deserve to die. (tr. David Roy Shackleton-Bailey)


naked swimmer

Invitas nullum nisi cum quo, Cotta, lavaris
et dant convivam balnea sola tibi.
mirabar quare numquam me, Cotta, vocasses:
iam scio me nudum displicuisse tibi.
(Martial 1.23)

You never invite anybody, Cotta, unless you have bathed with him; only the baths give you a guest. I used to wonder why you had never asked me to dinner. Now I know that you didn’t like me in the nude. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)



Lintea ferret Apro vatius cum vernula nuper
et supra togulam lusca sederet anus
atque olei stillam daret enterocelicus unctor,
udorum tetricus censor et asper erat:
frangendos calices effundendumque Falernum
clamabat biberet quod modo lotus eques.
a sene sed postquam patruo venere trecenta,
sobrius a thermis nescit abire domum.
o quantum diatreta valent et quinque comati!
tunc, cum pauper erat, non sitiebat Aper.
(Martial 12.70)

Not long ago, when a bow-legged, home-bred slave carried Aper’s towels and a one-eyed old woman sat watching over his little gown and a ruptured masseur handed him his drop of oil, he was a stern, harsh censor of boozers. He would shout that the cups should be smashed and the Falernian poured away which a knight, fresh from his bath, was imbibing. But now that three hundred thousand has come his way from an aged uncle, he doesn’t know how to go home from the baths sober. Oh, what a difference open-work goblets and five long-haired boys can make! When Aper was poor, he wasn’t thirsty. (tr. David Roy Shackleton-Bailey)