Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Sextiliane, bibis quantum subsellia quinque
   solus: aqua totiens ebrius esse potes;
nec consessorum uicina nomismata tantum,
   aera sed a cuneis ulteriora petis.
non haec Paelignis agitur uindemia prelis
   uua nec in Tuscis nascitur ista iugis,
testa sed antiqui felix siccatur Opimi,
   egerit et nigros Massica cella cados.
a copone tibi faex Laletana petatur,
   si plus quam decies, Sextiliane, bibis.

Sextilianus, you drink as much as five benches, on your own; you could get drunk on that much water. You go after not only the tokens of the people sitting next to you, but also bronze pieces from further off in the wedge-shaped stands. This vintage is not produced in Paelignian presses, and this grape does not grow on Tuscan ridges, but a fortunate jug of ancient Opimius is being drained, and a Massic store-room is bringing out black jars. You should ask the innkeeper for Laletanian dregs if you're drinking more than ten tokens' worth.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


ede tuos tandem populo, Faustine, libellos
   et cultum docto pectore profer opus,
quod nec Cecropiae damnent Pandionis arces
   nec sileant nostri praetereantque senes.
ante fores stantem dubitas admittere Famam
   teque piget curae praemia ferre tuae?
post te uicturae per te quoque uiuere chartae
   incipiant: cineri gloria sera uenit.

Publish your books to the people at last, Faustinus, and bring forth the work that has been tended by your learned mind and which neither the Cecropian citadels of Pandion would condemn, nor our old men pass by in silence. Do you hesitate to let in Fame who is just outside your doors, and are you ashamed to carry off the rewards of your trouble? Let the pages which will live on after you also begin to live through you: glory comes too late to a man who is ashes.

Monday, June 28, 2004


aspicis incomptis illum, Deciane, capillis,
   cuius et ipse times triste supercilium,
qui loquitur Curios adsertoresque Camillos?
   nolito fronti credere: nupsit heri.

Do you see that man, Decianus, with unkempt hair, whose stern brow even you fear - the man who talks about the Curii and our protectors the Camilli? You shouldn't put any trust in his facade: yesterday he was the bride.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


inuitas nullum nisi cum quo, Cotta, lauaris
   et dant conuiuam balnea sola tibi.
mirabar quare numquam me, Cotta, uocasses:
   iam scio me nudum displicuisse tibi.

You invite no one [to dinner], Cotta, unless you wash with him, and the baths alone provide you with a guest. I used to wonder, Cotta, why you had never invited me: now I know that when I'm naked I don't please you.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


quid nunc saeua fugis placidi, lepus, ora leonis?
   frangere tam paruas non didicere feras.
seruantur magnis isti ceruicibus ungues
   nec gaudet tenui sanguine tanta sitis.
praeda canum lepus est, uastos non implet hiatus:
   non timeat Dacus Caesaris arma puer.

Why, hare, do you now run from the savage mouth of a placid lion? They have not learned how to crush such small beasts. Those claws are saved up for large necks, and such huge thirst does not rejoice in a little blood. The hare is dogs' prey; it does not fill vast gaping mouths. The Dacian boy should not fear Caesar's weapons.

Friday, June 25, 2004


cum peteret regem, decepta satellite dextra
   ingessit sacris se peritura focis.
sed tam saeua pius miracula non tulit hostis
   et raptum flammis iussit abire uirum:
urere quam potuit contempto Mucius igne,
   hanc spectare manum Porsena non potuit.
maior deceptae fama est et gloria dextrae:
   si non errasset, fecerat illa minus.

When it sought the king, the right hand was deceived by the attendant and put itself, soon to perish, into the sacred fire. But the pious enemy could not bear such a savage miracle, and ordered the man seized from the flames to go away. Porsena could not look at this hand which Mucius could burn, disdainful of the fire. The fame and glory of the deceived right hand is all the greater: if it had not erred, it would have done less.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


dic mihi, quis furor est? turba spectante uocata
   solus boletos, Caeciliane, uoras.
quid dignum tanto tibi uentre gulaque precabor?
   boletum qualem Claudius edit, edas.

Tell me, what is this madness? An invited crowd looks on as you alone, Caecilianus, gobble down mushrooms. What shall I pray for that is worthy of such a huge belly and such a throat? That you might eat a mushroom such as Claudius ate.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


si memini, fuerant tibi quattuor, Aelia, dentes:
   expulit una duos tussis et una duos.
iam secura potes totis tussire diebus:
   nil istic quod agat tertia tussis habet.

If I remember rightly, you had four teeth, Aelia. One cough propelled out two of them, and another cough propelled out two more. Now you can cough all day long without a care: there's nothing left in that department for a third cough to do.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


quid te, Tucca, iuuat uetulo miscere Falerno
   in Vaticanis condita musta cadis?
quid tantum fecere boni tibi pessima uina?
   aut quid fecerunt optima uina mali?
de nobis facile est, scelus est iugulare Falernum
   et dare Campano toxica saeua mero.
conuiuae meruere tui fortasse perire:
   amphora non meruit tam pretiosa mori.

Why, Tucca, do you enjoy mixing with an old Falernian new wines stored in Vatican jars? What good have the worst wines ever done you? Or what ill have the best wines done? It's fine by me, but it's a crime to butcher a Falernian and give fierce poisons to a Campanian wine. Your guests perhaps deserve to perish; such a precious jar does not deserve to die.

Monday, June 21, 2004


   cogit me Titus actitare causas
   et dicit mihi saepe 'magna res est.'
   res magna est, Tite, quam facit colonus.

Titus urges me to plead cases and often tells me 'It's a grand job.' The job is grand, Titus, which a farmer does.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt mala plura
   quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Auite, liber.

Some of what you read here is good, some is mediocre, and more is bad: a book, Avitus, cannot be made any other way.

Saturday, June 19, 2004


o mihi post nullos, Iuli, memorande sodales,
   si quid longa fides canaque iura ualent,
bis iam paene tibi consul tricensimus instat,
   et numerat paucos uix tua uita dies.
non bene distuleris uideas quae posse negari,
   et solum hoc ducas, quod fuit, esse tuum.
exspectant curaeque catenatique labores,
   gaudia non remanent, sed fugitiua uolant.
haec utraque manu conplexuque adsere toto:
   saepe fluunt imo sic quoque lapsa sinu.
non est, crede mihi, sapientis dicere 'uiuam';
   sera nimis uita est crastina: uiue hodie.

You, Julius, should be counted after not a single one of my friends, if long loyalty and ancient oaths have any power; now your sixtieth consul is almost pressing upon you, and your life numbers but a few days. You cannot well put off what you may see can be denied you, and you may consider this alone - What Has Been - to be yours. Cares and a chain of labours await you; joys do not stay behind, but fly fugitive away. Seize them with both hands and with your whole embrace: even so they often flow away like this, dropping from the bottom of your pocket. It is not a wise man - believe me - who says 'I shall live'. Tomorrow's life is too late: live today.

Friday, June 18, 2004


delicias, Caesar, lususque iocosque leonum
   uidimus - hoc etiam praestat harena tibi -
cum prensus blando totiens a dente rediret
   et per aperta uagus curreret ora lepus.
unde potest auidus captae leo parcere praedae?
   sed tamen esse tuus dicitur: ergo potest.

We have seen, Caesar, the charms and tricks and jokes of your lions - the arena gives you even this - when the hare, though caught, returned so many times from their alluring teeth, and would run roaming about through their open mouths. How can the greedy lion spare his captured prey? Yet, however, it is said to be your lion: therefore it can.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


casta suo gladium cum traderet Arria Paeto,
   quem de uisceribus strinxerat ipsa suis,
'si qua fides, uulnus quod feci non dolet,' inquit,
   'sed tu quod facies, hoc mihi, Paete, dolet.'

When chaste Arria was handing to her Paetus the sword which she had herself pulled from her innards, 'Trust me,' she said, the wound which I have made does not hurt, but the wound you will make - that wound, Paetus, hurts me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


itur ad Herculei gelidas qua Tiburis arces
   canaque sulphureis Albula fumat aquis,
rura nemusque sacrum dilectaque iugera Musis
   signat uicina quartus ab urbe lapis.
hic rudis aestiuas praestabat porticus umbras,
   heu quam paene nouum porticus ausa nefas!
nam subito conlapsa ruit, cum mole sub illa
   gestatus biiugis Regulus esset equis.
nimirum timuit nostras Fortuna querelas,
   quae par tam magnae non erat inuidiae.
nunc et damna iuuant, sunt ipsa pericula tanti:
   stantia non poterant tecta probare deos.

On the road that leads to the cool citadel of Herculean Tibur and where white Albula smokes with sulphurous waters, the fourth milestone from the nearby city marks a country estate, a sacred grove and acres loved by the Muses. Here a simple colonnade used to provide summer shade - ah! how nearly did that colonnade dare to commit a novel crime! For it suddenly collapsed and was ruined, when Regulus had just driven his pair of horses beneath that very mass. No doubt Fortune feared our complaints, and was not equal to such great unpopularity. As things are, even disasters bring some good, and dangers themselves are worth so much: for standing buildings could not prove the existence of the gods.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


cum data sint equiti bis quina nomismata, quare
   bis decies solus, Sextiliane, bibis?
iam defecisset portantis calda ministros,
   si non potares, Sextiliane, merum.

When ten tokens are given to a knight, why do you alone, Sextilianus, drink twenty tokens' worth? The attendants carrying the warm water would have already run out of it if you were not drinking your wine, Sextilianus, undiluted.

Monday, June 14, 2004


petit Gemellus nuptias Maronillae
et cupit et instat et precatur et donat.
adeone pulchra est? immo foedius nil est.
quid ergo in illa petitur et placet? tussit.

Gemellus is seeking marriage with Maronilla, and longs and pursues and begs and gives gifts. Is she beautiful then? No, there's nothing more foul. So what about her is sought after and pleasing? She coughs.

Sunday, June 13, 2004


bellus homo et magnus uis idem, Cotta, uideri:
   sed qui bellus homo est, Cotta, pusillus homo est.

You want, Cotta, to appear a handsome man and at the same time a great man: but he who is a handsome man, Cotta, is a petty man.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


quod magni Thraseae consummatique Catonis
   dogmata sic sequeris saluos ut esse uelis,
pectore nec nudo strictos incurris in ensis,
   ;quod fecisse uelim te, Deciane, facis.
nolo uirum facili redemit qui sanguine famam,
   hunc uolo, laudari qui sine morte potest.

Because you follow the doctrines of the great Thrasea and of the consummate Cato in such a way that you want to be safe and sound, and because you don't run with breast bared onto drawn swords, you are acting, Decianus, as I should like you to act. I don't want a man who buys fame by means of his cheap blood; I want a man who can be praised without having to die.

Friday, June 11, 2004


   Stellae delicium mei columba,
   Verona licet audiente dicam,
   uicit, Maxime, passerem Catulli.
   tanto Stella meus tuo Catullo
   quanto passere maior est columba.

My Stella's pet dove - though I say it in Verona's hearing - has beaten, Maximus, Catullus' sparrow. My Stella is greater than your Catullus by as much as a dove is greater than a sparrow.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


aetherias aquila puerum portante per auras
   inlaesum timidis unguibus haesit onus:
nunc sua Caesareos exorat praeda leones
  ;tutus et ingenti ludit in ore lepus.
quae maiora putas miracula? summus utrisque
   auctor adest: haec sunt Caesaris, illa Iouis.

As the eagle was bearing the boy through the airy breezes its burden clung without injury to the timid claws: now Caesar's lions' own prey successfully begs them for mercy, and a hare plays safely in a massive mouth. Which marvel do you think the greater? The highest power is behind each of them: this latter is Caesar's, the former is Jupiter's.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


do tibi naumachiam, tu das epigrammata nobis:
   uis, puto, cum libro, Marce, natare tuo.

I give you a sea-battle; you give me epigrams. You want, I think, to go along with your book, Marcus, for a swim.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


contigeris nostros, Caesar, si forte libellos,
   terrarum dominum pone supercilium.
consueuere iocos uestri quoque ferre triumphi
   materiam dictis nec pudet esse ducem.
qua Thymelen spectas derisoremque Latinum,
   illa fronte precor carmina nostra legas.
innocuos censura potest permittere lusus:
   lasciua est nobis pagina, uita proba.

If, Caesar, you happen to take hold of my books, put aside the stern brow that is master of the world. Your triumphs also are used to putting up with jesting, and there is no shame in a commander being the butt of jokes. I pray you read my poems with the same expression with which you watch Thymele and the mocking Latinus. Censorship can permit harmless amusement: my page is playful, my life is virtuous.

Monday, June 07, 2004


Argiletanas mauis habitare tabernas,
   cum tibi, parue liber, scrinia nostra uacent.
nescis, heu, nescis dominae fastidia Romae:
   crede mihi, nimium Martia turba sapit.
maiores nusquam rhonchi: iuuenesque senesque
   et pueri nasum rhinocerotis habent.
audieris cum grande 'sophos', dum basia iactas,
   ibis ab excusso missus in astra sago.
sed tu ne totiens domini patiare lituras
   neue notet lusus tristis harundo tuos,
aetherias, lasciue, cupis uolitare per auras:
   i, fuge; sed poteras tutior esse domi.

You prefer to live in the shops of the Argiletum, although my book-boxes have room, small book, for you. You know not, alas, you know not the disdain of mistress Rome: trust me, the crowd of Mars is too discerning. Nowhere are there bigger snorts: young men and old men and boys have rhinocerus's noses. When you've just heard a great 'Bravo!' and you're throwing kisses, you will be sent from a shaken-out blanket and go up to the stars. But, so that you may not suffer so often your master's erasures, and so that his harsh pen may not keep making annotations to your jests, you long to flutter through the airy breezes: go! away with you! But you could have been safer at home.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


qui tecum cupis esse meos ubicumque libellos
   et comites longae quaeris habere uiae,
hos eme, quos artat breuibus membrana tabellis:
   scrinia da magnis, me manus una capit.
ne tamen ignores ubi sim uenalis et erres
   urbe uagus tota, me duce certus eris:
libertum docti Lucensis quaere Secundum
   limina post Pacis Palladiumque forum.

You who long for my little books to be with you everywhere and want to have companions for a long journey, buy these ones which parchment confines within small pages: give your scroll-cases to the great authors - one hand can hold me. So that you are not ignorant of where I am on sale, and don't wander aimlessly through the whole city, I will be your guide and you will be certain: look for Secundus, the freedman of learned Lucensis, behind the threshold of the Temple of Peace and the Forum of Pallas.

Saturday, June 05, 2004


   hic est quem legis ille, quem requiris,
   toto notus in orbe Martialis
   argutis epigrammaton libellis:
   cui, lector studiose, quod dedisti
   uiuenti decus atque sentienti,
   rari post cineres habent poetae.

This is the man you're reading, the man you're looking for - Martial, known throughout the whole world for his lively little books of epigrams: the glory which you, diligent reader, have given him while he is alive and can appreciate it, is a glory that few poets have after they have become ashes.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Book One : Preface


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?


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?

Thursday, June 03, 2004


This is an insanely ambitious project. On this blog I intend to present the Latin text and an English translation of all the epigrams of the first-century AD poet Marcus Valerius Martialis, better known to the English-speaking world as Martial. By my reckoning there are 1565 epigrams together with the five prose prefaces - which at a rate of one a day will take the better part of four-and-a-half years to cover.

By concentrating on one poem a day I hope to encourage readers to make their own observations in the comments section and develop a discussion to which anyone can contribute on matters of translation and interpretation: some books and some poems are rather better served than others by existing translations and exegetical works.

Try subscribing to the site feed which can be found here.

I'm beginning with Book One; the Liber de Spectaculis (an incomplete version of what appears to have been Martial's first published work) will be included at some point later on.