Life of Martial M. Valerius Martialis was born between 38 and 41 A.D. Born and educated in Roman province of Hispania (Spain) Went to Rome around A.D. 64 to find his fortune under patronage of fellow Spaniards Seneca and Lucan Their condemnations by Nero and deaths meant he had to find his own way Through patronage and by writing occasional poetry Martial made his living
Life of Martial continued “What reason or what confidence draws your to Rome, Sextus...?” “I will compose poems: hear them, you will call them Virgil’s work.” You are crazy. “I will haunt the halls of great men.” Barely three or four has that procedure supported: all the rest of the crowd are pale with hunger. “What shall I do? Advise me, I am bent on living in Rome.” If you are a good man, Sextus, you may live by accident.”
Patronage and Poems First volume was published in A.D. 80 Over next 15 years continued to write well- timed poems to gain imperial patronage Praised and flattered Titus and Domitian He did receive some minor privileges and some financial rewards
Liber Spectaculorum or The Book of Spectacles The collection survives only in fragments; we have about 200 lines A verse narrative commemorating the opening of the Roman Colosseum in A.D. 80 the opening was a spectacular event celebrated with great pomp and expense mesmerized the city's population for 100 days Martial describes some of the highlights of the occasion such as -- encounters between professional gladiators, a mock sea battle, and a fight between a rhinoceros and a bull
Liber Spectaculorum or The Book of Spectacles All the descriptions include extravagant praise for the emperor Titus, who built the Colosseum and sponsored its inauguration “It is the only surviving vestige of an epigrammatic collection commemorating a specific public event. We assume that it was one of many such works that were written at the time because this sort of thing was what poets were trained to do.“ Coleman, editor of recent edition.
Martial’s Poetry and Later Patronage Transferred allegiance to emperors Nerva and Trajan and renounced earlier, pro- Flavian poems
Martial’s Epigrams Also wrote to order short poems for other patrons Wrote two volumes of verse-mottoes to accompany presents Bulk of his poetry consists of 12 books of epigrams Mostly in elegiacs but also in hendecasyllabics and ‘limping iambics’
Martial’s Epigrams Issued these books of epigrams annually from 86 onward with exception of Book 12 which was finished in Spain about 100 Model was Catullus Every poem concerns some little incident of everyday life Enormous range from obscene to tender Full of characters from the young boys who raked the sand at the Circus, to terrible poets reciting their verses, to charioteers who fix races
Martial’s Epigrams continued Give us vivid description of Roman society and daily life Poems are witty and satiric Claimed that his pages were dirty but his life was clean Embittered that his talent never earned him the income he felt he deserved
Martial returns home By 98 Martial returned to Spain, having become tired of life in Rome Perhaps were political reasons too Accepted financial help from Pliny Continued to write Died between 101 and 104 Pliny the Younger, in the short tribute which he pays to him on hearing of his death, wrote, "He had as much good-nature as wit and pungency in his writings" (Ep. iii. 21).
Some of Martial’s Best-known Epigrams “Live for today; tomorrow is too late.” “If fame comes after death, then I’m in no hurry for it.” “Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men.” “Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.”
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