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)



Arrigis ad vetulas, fastidis, Basse, puellas,
nec formosa tibi sed moritura placet.
hic, rogo, non furor est, non haec est mentula demens?
cum possis Hecaben, non potes Andromachen.
(Martial 3.76)

You rise at old women, Bassus, you despise girls; not beauty but approaching death attracts you. I ask, is this not madness, is this not a crazy cock? You can do Hecuba, but you can’t do Andromache. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)



Laudantem Selium, cenae cum retia tendit,
accipe, sive legas sive patronus agas:
‘effecte! graviter! cito! nequiter! euge! beate!
hoc volui!’ ‘facta est iam tibi cena, tace.’
(Martial 2.27)

When Selius spreads his net for a dinner and praises you, take him along, whether you are reciting or pleading a case. “That does it!” “A hit!” “A quick one!” “Cunning!” “Jolly good!” “Lovely!” “That’s what I was waiting for.” – “All right, you’ve got your dinner. Now hush.” (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)


Versus et breve vividumque carmen
in te ne faciam times, Ligurra,
et dignus cupis hoc metu videri.
sed frustra metuis cupisque frustra.
in tauros Libyci fremunt leones,
non sunt papilionibus molesti.
quaeras censeo, si legi laboras,
nigri fornicis ebrium poetam,
qui carbone rudi putrique creta
scribit carmina quae legunt cacantes.
frons haec stigmate non meo notanda est.
(Martial 12.61)

You are afraid, Ligurra, of my writing verses against you, a brief, lively poem, and you long to seem worthy of such an apprehension. But idle is your fear and idle your desire. Libyan lions roar at bulls, they do not trouble butterflies. I advise you, if you are anxious to be read of, to look for some boozy poet of the dark archway who writes verses with rough charcoal or crumbling chalk which folk read while they shit. This brow of yours is not for marking with my brand. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)