MARTIAL, mar/chi-al (MARCUS VALIMIUS MARTIALIS) the world's greatest early writer of epigrammatic poetry, was born in Bilbilis, Spain, 1 March of one of the years 39 to 41 A.D., and died probably between 102 and 104 A.D. Like his literary friends, the Senecas, Lucan and Quintilian, who also were of Spanish birth, Martial in his writings was thoroughly Roman, and indeed has left us our most valuable picture of contemporary Rome. A Fronto and Flacilla, whom he mentions, may have been his parents, but we know nothing of their origin or station. The grammatical and rhetorical training which his parents secured for him perhaps at Tarraco or Corduba, he half-seriously disparaged as being of no financial advantage, but it was really to his pen that he owed, at least indirectly, his support through life. For, although he was apparently fully equipped for practice at the bar, the profession of an advocate was too ex acting to be attractive. On his arrival in Rome, perhaps in 64 powerful friends launched him on a literary career which rapidly carried his fame even to the limits of the empire. But success as a poet brought him no contentment, since in return for the money, food, clothing, etc., which by flattery and begging he got from imperial courtiers and other men and women of wealth, he had daily to perform social duties that were highly irksome to his indolent na ture. From the patron's reception at dawn to the end of the latest dinner, he had to dance at tendance with wit that should never fail. We find him living at first in humble lodgings on the Quirinal, later in a house of his own on the same hill. A barren farm near Nomentum was his usual refuge from the cares and noises of the capital, but he sometimes made long jour neys in Italy, often visiting the country houses of his friends. To his poetical and social tal ents he also owed political favors from Titus and Domitian. A tribuneship gave him mem bership in the equestrian order, but probably not the fortune of a knight. He likewise re ceived the coveted privileges to which a father of three children was entitled, the ins trium liberorum, though unearned; for the references that have given rise to the theories that he was married from one to three times are not of personal application. It is probable that even
Marcella was no more than his patroness. When disgust at the client's life in Rome led him in 98 to return to Bilbilis, this Spanish lady gave him a fine estate. A longing soon seized him, however, to be back in Rome with all its inspirations, a longing never to be gratified; Pliny the Younger, who had helped Martial with a gift of money on his departure from Rome, records the poet's death in Spain. Be sides those already named, Juvenal and Silius Italicus should be mentioned as Martial's friends. Noteworthy among contemporaries i whose names do not appear in his poems are Tacitus and Statius. The former could have had little sympathy with his character, the latter was no doubt his rival in literary mendicancy. We have 1,575 of Martial's poems. More than half of these are of four lines or less. His earliest book published in 80 contains epigrams describing shows given by the emperor. Then followed books XIII and XIV made up of two line inscriptions for presents at the Saturnalia. The other books (I–XII), containing many poems which we should not call epigrams at all, appeared at varying intervals in the period 85– 101. Martial's influence in his chosen field has never ceased. A remarkable number of the best epigrams in modern languages are merely adaptations or translations of his poems. His personal character has received general con demnation. Obscenity and servile flattery are the main charges. But in judging even the in sincere language that he uses in speaking of the tyrant Domitian we must remember that it went only a step beyond the requirements of formal court etiquette. Kindly critics find in Martial some good points, his modest valuation of his own work, his freedom from envy, his scorn of all hypocrisy, his steady resistance to all temptations to use his powerful weapon of satire in either an unjust or unkind spirit, his tender love of children, humane treatment of slaves and above all his deeply affectionate at tachment to his friends. See EPIGRAM.
The best text edition of his poems is that of W. M. Lindsay, Oxford, Clar endon Press. The German annotated edition of Friedlaender is invaluable. The only complete translation in English, is in the Bohn series.