People - Ancient Rome: Martial Born Marcus Valerius Martialis, he was a Latin poet best known for his twelve books of Epigrams.
Martiālis in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
M. Valerius, a writer of Latin epigrams, was born at
Bilbilis in Spain, in the third year of Claudius, A.D. 43.
He came to Rome in the thirteenth year of Nero, 66; and
after residing in the metropolis thirty-five years, he
returned to the place of his birth, in the third year of
Trajan, 100. He lived there for upwards of three years at
least, on the property of his wife, a lady named Marcella,
whom he seems to have married after his return to Bilbilis.
His death cannot have taken place before 104. His fame was
extended, and his books were eagerly sought for not only in
the city, but also in Gaul, Germany, and Britain; he secured
the patronage of the emperors Titus and Domitian, obtained
by his influence the freedom of the State for several of his
friends, and received for himself, although apparently
without family, the privileges accorded to those who were
the fathers of three children (ius trium liberorum),
together with the rank of tribune and the rights of the
equestrian order. His circumstances appear to have been easy
during his residence at Rome, for he had a mansion in the
city, whose situation he describes, and a suburban villa
near Nomentum, to which he frequently alludes with pride.
The extant works of Martial consist of a collection of short
poems, all included under the general appellation
Epigrammata, upwards of 1500 in number, divided into
fourteen books. Those which form the last two books, usually
distinguished respectively as Xenia and Apophoreta,
amounting to 350, consist of couplets, descriptive of a vast
variety of small objects, chiefly articles of food or
clothing, such as were usually sent as presents among
friends during the Saturnalia and on other festive
occasions. In addition to the above, nearly all the printed
copies include thirty-three epigrams, forming a book apart
from the rest, which has been commonly known as Liber de
Spectaculis, because the contents relate to the shows
exhibited by Titus and Domitian; but there is no ancient
authority for the title. The different books were collected
and published by the author, sometimes singly and sometimes
several at one time. The Liber de Spectaculis and the first
nine books of the regular series involve a great number of
historical allusions, extending from the games of Titus
(A.D. 80) down to the return of Domitian from the Sarmatian
expedition, in January, 94. All these books were composed at
Rome, except the Third, which was written during a tour in
Gallia Togata. The Tenth Book was published twice: the first
edition was given hastily to the world; the second, that
which we now read (x. 2), celebrates the arrival of Trajan
at Rome, after his accession to the throne (A.D. 99). The
Eleventh Book seems to have been published at Rome, early in
100, and at the close of the year he returned to Bilbilis.
After keeping silence for three years (xii. prooem.), the
Twelfth Book was despatched from Bilbilis to Rome (xii. 3,
18), and must therefore be assigned to 104. Books xiii. and
xiv., Xenia and Apophoreta, were written chiefly under
Domitian, although the composition may have been spread over
the holidays of many years. It is well known that the word
epigram (ἐπίγραμμα), which originally denoted simply “an
inscription,” was, in process of time, applied to any brief
metrical effusion, whatever the subject might be, or
whatever the form under which it was presented. Martial,
however, first placed the epigram upon the narrow basis
which it now occupies, and from his time the term has been
in a great measure restricted to denote a short poem, in
which all the thoughts and expressions converge to one sharp
point, which forms the termination of the piece. See
Martial's epigrams are distinguished by singular fertility
of imagination, prodigious flow of wit, and delicate
felicity of language; and from no source do we derive more
copious information on the national customs and social
habits of the Romans during the first century of the Empire.
But, however much we may admire the genius of the author, we
can feel no respect for one whose fulsome servility towards
the great is equalled only by the frightful obscenity of
much that he has written—an obscenity scarcely conceivable
in modern times. He himself seems to feel a certain shame
for so pandering to the corrupt tastes of his rich and
dissolute patrons, and in one epigram he tries to draw the
line between his life and his writings. “My Muse is wanton,
but my life is pure” (i. 4, 8); and in the prose dedication
to the First Book he explains that he is only following out
the traditions of this form of literature; but these are
excuses which, to many minds, only heighten the enormity of
The principal value of Martial's epigrams is in the insight
they give us into the daily life of the times, since they
abound in personal details, and are an indispensable
contribution towards the Culturgeschichte of Ancient Rome.
In modern literature they have been continually imitated and
translated, but rarely equalled except now and then by the
The MSS. fall into three “families,” of which the typical
representatives are a Paris Codex (T) of the ninth century,
a Codex Palatinus (P) of the fifteenth century, and an
Edinburgh Codex (E) of the tenth century. See the critical
account in the editions of Schneidewin and Friedländer. The
best texts are those of Schneidewin (Grimma, 1842),
Friedländer, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1886), with a list of words;
Gilbert (Leipzig, 1886). Friedländer's edition contains
explanatory notes, but the best commentary on the subject-
matter is his Sittengeschichte Roms, 3 vols (6th ed.
Leipzig, 1888- 1890). Editions of selected epigrams with
English notes are those of Paley and Stone (London, 1881);
Sellar and Ramsay (Edinburgh, 1884); Stephenson (2d ed.
London, 1888); and one (announced) by C. Knapp (N. Y. 1895).
See Brandt, De Martialis Poetae Vita (Berlin, 1853); Van
Stockum, De Martialis Vita et Scriptis (The Hague, 1884);
and on his language, etc., Pankstadt, De Martiale Catulli
Imitatore (Halle, 1876); Zingerle, Martials Ovidstudien
(Innsbruck, 1877); and Stephani, De Martiale Verborum
Novatore (Breslau, 1889).
Martial in Roman Biography
Martial, mar'she^l, [Fr. Martial, mtR'se'tl' ; Lat.
Martia'lis ; It. Marziale, maRt-se-a'la,] or, more
Mar'cus Vale'rius Martia'lis, a famous Latin epigrammatic
poet, born at Bilbilis, in Spain, about 40 a.d.,
went to Rome at the age of twenty-two, and resided there
thirty-five years. The events of his life are very
known ; but it appears that he devoted his atten
tion chiefly to poetry. Some epigrams which he wrote
on the occasion of the public spectacles given by Titus
about the year 80, procured him the favour of that prince.
He was also patronized by Domitian, who made him a
tribune and a Roman knight. He was intimate with
Juvenal, Quintilian, and Plniy the Younger. About 98
a.d. he returned to his native place, where he died a few
years later. Fourteen books of his
Epigrams" are still
extant, and are much admired by some eminent critics,
such as Scaliger, Lipsius, and Malte-Brun. The latter
thinks his writings are among the most interesting monuments
of Roman literature, though many of them offend
against good taste and pure morality. Probably no poet ever
estimated his works more justly than he did in the
following line :
"Sunt bona, sunt quxdam mediocria, sunt plura mala."
(" Some are good, some indifferent, and more are bad.")
Life of Martial," in " Lives of the Roman Poets,"
J726: Lrssing, "Vermischte Schriften;" A. Pbricaud. "
Mutial," 1^16; Fabricics,
Uibliotheca Latina:" " M. V. Mar-
; s Men-ch und Dichter," Berlin, 1S43: "Martial and his
Times," in the "Westminster Review" for April, 1853.
Martial in Wikipedia
Marcus Valerius Martialis (known in English as Martial) (March 1, between 38 and 41 AD - between 102 and 104 AD), was a Latin poet from
Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of
the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. In these short, witty poems he cheerfully satirises city life and the scandalous activities of his
acquaintances, and romanticises his provincial upbringing. He wrote a total of 1,561, of which 1,235 are in elegiac couplets. He is
considered to be the creator of the modern epigram...