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Martial, Epigrams. Spurious epigrams. Mainly from Bohn's Classical Library (1897)


These epigrams come from various sources.  Some are found in the manuscripts and old glossaries; others in the editions of Hadrianus Junius (Adrien de Jonghe, 1512-1575) and others.


When asked what are my employments while living in the country, I answer briefly thus: At dawn I address my prayer to the gods; I visit my slaves and my fields, and allot to my people each his due portion of work. Then I read, and invoke Phoebus, and solicit the Muses. Next I anoint myself with olive oil, and take gentle exercise in the palaestra; at peace in mind, and free from interest-bearing debts. Then I dine, drink, sing, play, bathe, sup, and go to bed; while my little lamp consumes its modicum of oil, and furnishes these trifles elaborated by the aid of the muses at night.


Varus happened lately to ask me to supper; the appointments were splendid, the supper itself was paltry. The table was laden with golden dishes, not with meats; the servants placed before us plenty to delight the eye, but very little to satisfy the appetite. I then observed: "I came to feed, not my eyes, but my stomach; either place food before me, Varus, or take away your rich service."


You run about, Ponticus, incessantly, from one great man's house to another, and leave no spot untrodden: the objects at which you aim, Ponticus, are great; you are a great man. Whatever you do, Ponticus, you do without witness, without noise; you admit few persons, Ponticus, into your confidence; you are a cautious man. Nature made you, Ponticus, remarkable for good looks; you would have been worthy of Helen, Ponticus; you are a handsome man. With your voice, Ponticus, you could have moved adamant; your voice sounds sweetly, Ponticus; you are a sweet man. Thus is it you deceive others, Ponticus, thus it is you deceive even yourself. Will you have me say the truth, Ponticus? You are no man at all.


You are pleasing, when touched; you are pleasing, when heard; if not seen, you are altogether pleasing; if seen, you please in no way whatever.


Milo is not is home: Milo having gone abroad, his fields lie fallow; his wife however is none the less productive. The reason why his fields are sterile, and his wife fruitful, I will tell you: his field receives no attention, his wife much.


A well-fed player was guilty of an offence against propriety, before the statue of Jupiter; as a punishment, Jupiter enjoined that he should live at his own expense.


You say that you have the mouth of your uncle, the nose and eyes of your father, and the gait of your mother. Since you thus represent your family, and there is no part in your body but attests it, pray tell me, whose forehead 1 do you have?

1 I.e. cheek.  The forehead was the part that was the seat of shame. cf. Persius v.103.


He who is denied, when you knock at his door, know you not what he says? "I am asleep to you, Mattus."


Frankincense, pepper, dresses, silver, cloaks, gems, you are accustomed, Milo, to sell, and the buyer carries them off with him. Traffic in your wife is more profitable; for, though often sold, she never leaves the seller, or lessens his store.


Learn, young man, how with eloquence to plead your cause, that you may be your own defender, guard, and support. I would not that fortune should place me in the highest or in the lowest rank, but that she should assign to me the middle walk of life. Envy besets those in high places, oppression those who are needy; how happy does he live, who is free from both. What nature denies, industry may accord; rarely do the rich attain the blessings which are allotted to the poor. O you young men, who rejoice in a time of life apt for study, learn; years pass away like running water. Do not, while you have the opportunity of learning, waste your days, you docile youths, in idle pursuits; neither the running water nor the fleeting hour ever returns. Let youth ripen in the study of Virtue, that life may pass with well-merited esteem and honour.

The Ker Loeb edition has a different epigram here, and does not include the epigram above.  Epigram 10 is as follows:


I would not have Fortune set me in the highest or the lowest place; rather let her moderation grant life's middle station.  Envy assails the high, wrong the weak: how happy does he live, who escapes both!


Scaevola, you dine with every one, but no one with you; you drain the wine cups of others; but no one drains yours. Either make a return, or cease to court invitations; it is disgraceful always to receive and never to give.


You expect from us Auctus, that love which you accord to no one; you expect from us that confidence which you repose in no one. You expect from us honour which you have not earned. It is remarkable that one who grants nothing himself should ask so much from others.


Philus has fine mantles, and encircles his fingers with gold rings; and yet Philus is poorer than a pauper. He has Tyrian cloaks, mules, beasts of burden, clients; and yet Philus is poorer than a pauper. Philus has halls furnished with royal magnificence; and yet Philus is poorer than a pauper. He is hungry and thirsty, though surrounded with gold and clad in stately robes of purple, he is nevertheless hungry and thirsty. That the pangs of hunger visit him, is told by his paleness and thinness; yet his golden bulla would indicate that the pangs of hunger are unknown to him. Shall the unhappy man, then, become a slave for bread? His golden bulla prevents him from being a slave. Or if, with suppliant prayer, he asks any favour, his silken robe is an obstacle to success. That he may not perish, then, let him become poor instead of rich for, if he became poor, he might become richer.


Neither your birth, nor your good looks, nor the dignity of your rank, nor the respectability of your character, Aulus, will profit you in the least; for being poor, you will always be poor; and you will be enrolled in the lowest of the lowest class.


Regulus, Hermagoras says that we must not please everybody. Choose out of the many whom you would please.


You give me much, Aulicus; I fear that you will expect much in return. I had rather that you would not give, if you look for a return.


You raise your voice, Germanicus, in the strife, that your furious tones may give utterance to the fury of your mind.


Every friend loves, but not every one that loves is a friend. But whomsoever you love, Bassus, be also a friend to him.


You prolong your dinner, Turgidus, till nightfall; your supper till day-break; and you drench yourself day and night with all kinds of wine. And although you study appearances, you decline to marry; and you give as your reason for declining, "A chaste life pleases me." You lie, Turgidus; yours is not chaste life. Would you have me tell you what a chaste life is? Moderation.


You long for a wanton Ganymede; you are the toy of any one; you overcome even the Hippolytuses 1 with desire. Many an adulterer meanwhile haunts your threshold; you are exposed for sale to anyone; how general is your taste! I should willingly have called you Demophile 2, had not your mother chosen to call you Chloe. She is wrong and she is right.

1 The most chaste.  See viii.46.  Hippolytus rejected the advances of his stepmother Phaedrus, the wife of his father Theseus.
2 i.e. loved by the mob.


Lais, most beauteous of women, whenever I ask you the price of your charms, you forthwith demand a great talent 1. I do not buy repentance, Lais, at so high a price.

1 The Attic talent was of 60 minae of silver.


You used to say, Macrinus, that men never died of mushrooms. But mushrooms have at last been the cause of your death.

Epigrams XXIII onwards are not included in the Ker Loeb edition.


You will be steward, Trebonus, for a long time, since you are so skilled in multiplying a single hare. A hare is scarcely sufficient for one person; but you, by your skill in preserving an old hare, make it do duty for a thousand.


The Poet, who has everywhere seized the useful and presented it with the agreeable, is everywhere mentioned with praise in the well-known page. Him, I would follow at a distance, lightly touching on matters both serious and sportive, nay, I would even furnish sport, while treating on serious matters. I proposed to sketch, with a dash of colour, certain traits of character; if I carp at others, I also carp at myself. There is no malice or ill-nature, no spiteful attempts at a grin; I laugh at myself, and I laugh at others. I laugh at myself as well as others, that no one may laugh at me. The ill-natured carper delights in repeated attacks; and contrives that he who has been satirized once should be satirised three or four times. But I am unwilling that any serious consequence should attach itself to those whom I have satirised; let the cause and its effect be forgotten together.


I now know, Gallus, why you avoid the society of ladies, your purse is full of wind, not of coin. But if your flesh does not sin, your mind, my friend, defiles itself; your devotion to the pleasures of the table is sufficient to convict you of want of self-control. Your stomach, I suppose, has resolved to empty your purse; under its influence you will always be a poor man. Yet in this way, Gallus, you may certainly secure peaceful slumbers, and set thieves at defiance. Your stomach takes care of all your money.


You have a horse that wants barley, Glaucus, a slave that wants clothes, and a house that wants a broom. Your hack is dirty and thin, and your servants' bones are stiff; disgusting dirt defiles your dwelling. Your horse no longer obeys the spur, * * * * 1 your house is entered only on rare occasions. * * * * No poverty or needy toil compels you to live thus. The sheep gives you a fleece, clothe your slave with it; the field gives you oats, let your horse taste them; bid farewell to dirt, and sweep your house.

1 The text is corrupt at this point.


That the cockerell might not suffer in plumpness from amorous excesses, he is converted into a capon. After this, he is brought up in darkness, while a kind hand provides him with corn, and his crop, purged with myrtle, is crammed to fatten him. How ingenious is luxury!

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