Martial, Epigrams

Marcus Valerius Martialis (Martial, c. 38 CE – c.102 CE) was born in the Celtiberian town of Bilbilis. He was a poet and many of his works are sexually explicit.

The following is an adaptation of The Epigrams of Martial, trans. H. G. Bohn. London: George Bell and Sons, 1897.

§ 4.55 (“To The Poet Lucius”). For us, born descended from Celts and Iberians, let us not be ashamed of repeating in grateful verse the harsher names of our own land; Bilbilis, renowned for its mines of cruel iron, a town which surpasses in this respect the Chalybes and the Norici; Plates, resounding with the working of its own steel, a town which the river Salo, that tempers arms, surrounds with shallow but unquiet waters; Tutela; the dances of Rixamae; the joyful festivities of Cardua; Peterus, red with intertwined roses; Rigae, and its ancient theatres constructed by our ancestors; the Silai, unerring in the use of the light dart; the lakes of Turgontus and Perusia; the pure waters of the humble Vetonissa; the sacred oak-grove of Buradon, through which even the tired traveller walks; and the fields of the vale of Vativesca, which Manlius tills with lusty steers. Do these rough names excite a smile, o fastidious reader? Smile, if you please; I prefer them, rough as they are, to Butunti.

§ 10.65 (“To Carmenion, an effeminate man”). Whilst you vaunt yourself Carmenion, a citizen of Corinth, and no one questions your assertion – why do you call me brother? I, who was descended from the Iberians and Celts, a native of the banks of the Tagus? Is it that we resemble each other? You walk about with shining wavy tresses; I with my Spanish hair stubborn and bristling. You are perfectly smooth from the daily use of razors; I am rough-haired both in limb and face. You have lisping lips and a feeble tongue; my infant daughter speaks with more force than you. Not more unlike is the dove to the eagle, the timid gazelle to the fierce lion, than you to me. Cease then, Carmenion, to call me brother, lest I call you sister.

§ 12.18 (“To Juvenal”). While you, my Juvenal, are perhaps wandering restless in the noisy Suburra or pacing the hill of the goddess Diana; while your toga, in which you perspire at the thresholds of your influential friends, is fanning you as you go, and the greater and lesser Caelian hills fatigue you in your wanderings; my own Bilbilis, revisited after many winters, has received me, and made me a country gentleman; Bilbilis, proud of its gold and its iron! Here we indolently cultivate with agreeable labour Boterduna and Platea; these are the somewhat rude names of Celtiberian localities. I enjoy profound and extraordinary sleep, which is frequently unbroken, even at nine in the morning; and I am now indemnifying myself fully for all the interruptions to sleep that I endured for thirty years. The toga here is unknown, but the nearest dress is given me, when I ask for it, from an old press. When I rise, a hearth, heaped up with sticks from a neighbouring oak grove, welcomes me; a hearth which the bailiff’s wife crowns with many a pot. Then comes the housemaid, such a one as you would envy me. A close-shorn bailiff issues the orders to my boy attendants, and begs that they may be obliged to lay aside their long hair. Thus I delight to live, and thus I hope to die.