VALERIVS MARTIALIS LECTORI SVO SALVTEM
spero me secutum in libellis meis tale temperamentum ut de illis queri non possit quisquis de se bene senserit, cum salua infimarum quoque personarum reuerentia ludant; quae adeo antiquis auctoribus defuit ut nominibus non tantum ueris abusi sint, sed et magnis. mihi fama uilius constet et probetur in me nouissimum ingenium. absit a iocorum nostrorum simplicitate malignus interpres nec epigrammata mea scribat: inprobe facit qui in alieno libro ingeniosus est. lasciuam uerborum ueritatem - id est epigrammaton linguam - excussarem, si meum esset exemplum: sic scribit Catullus, sic Marsus, sic Pedo, sic Gaetulicus, sic quicumque perlegitur. si quis tamen tam ambitiose tristis est ut apud illum in nulla pagina latine loqui fas sit, potest epistola uel potius titulo contentus esse. epigrammata illis scribuntur qui solent spectare Florales. non intret Cato theatrum meum, aut si intrauerit, spectet. uideor mihi meo iure facturus si epistolam uersibus clusero:
nosses iocosae dulce cum sacrum Florae
festosque lusus et licentiam uolgi,
cur in theatrum, Cato seuere, uenisti?
an ideo tantum ueneras, ut exires?
VALERIUS MARTIALIS GREETS HIS READER
I hope that in my books I have followed a policy of moderation such that no one who thinks well of himself can complain about them, since they make their play while maintaining the respect that is owed even to the lowest persons; this respect was so lacking in the old authors that these people were abused under names that were not only their real names but even important ones. For my part, let fame be valued more cheaply and let cleverness be the last thing found to be praised in me. May the spiteful interpreter keep away from the simplicity of our jokes, and let him not rewrite my epigrams. He who exercises his ingenuity on someone else's book is acting improperly. I would excuse the playful truthfulness of my words - that is to say, the language of epigrams - if I were setting the example: but Catullus writes like this, and Marsus, and Pedo, and Gaetulicus, and anyone who is read all the way through. However, if anyone is so ostentatiously grave that in his opinion it is not permitted to speak plain Latin on any page, he can be content with this epistle, or rather with the title. Epigrams are written for those people who are accustomed to watch the Games of Flora. Let not Cato enter my theatre, or, if he does enter, let him watch. I think I shall be acting within my rights if I close the epistle with some lines of verse:
When you knew the sweet rite of joyful Flora and the festival fun and the crowd's licence, why, severe Cato, did you come into the theatre? Or had you come only so that you could leave?