A Selection of Martial's Poems

These epigrams were published at the Saturnalia of 84 or 85.
With the exception of number 7 (14.37),
they are written in Martial's favorite meter:
elegiac couplets.

1. Xenia (13.3)

The first epigram provides a rationale for the collection; the rest can be considered as labels for the gifts that they describe.
 

 

2. Pavones (13.70)

The second epigram is a protest against eating a bird as beautiful as the peacock.
 

 

3. Murices (13.87)

This epigram is written from the viewpoint of the gift itself: the murex, a mollusk from which purple dye was made.
 

 

4. Dammae (13.94)

Here is another epigram which expresses disapproval of giving expensive gifts, this time rare foods.
 

 

5. Unguentum (13.126)

In this couplet, the readers are urged to be Epicureans like Horace and to use their resources for simple self-enjoyment.
 

 

6. Coronae Roseae (13.127)

The demand for roses in Rome was great, especially for floral crowns to be worn at dinner.
 

 

7. Scrinium (14.37)

Unlike the others, this poem is written in the Phalacaean (hendecasyllabic) meter. In it, Martial speaks as if he were the bookcase being given.
 

 

8. Vergilius in Membranis (14.186)

The gift in this poem is a minature edition of Vergil, one with his picture on the first page.
 

 

9. Cicero in Membranis (14.188)

Martial recommends a parchment edition of Cicero as a fine traveling companion, but which works it would contain is unknown.
 

 

10. Catullus (14.195)

This tribute likely accompanied a parchment volume of Catullus' poetry.
 

 

This information is based on materials written in 1976 by the late Lorraine A. Strasheim, professor at Indiana University.
I have borrowed heavily from her notes.


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