Selected Epigrams


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De Spectaculis:1 The New Colosseum.. 4

De Spectaculis:2 Rome restored. 5

De Spectaculis:6 On display. 5

BookI:1 Heís here. 6

Book I:32† I donít love youÖ... 6

Book I:34 Lesbia. 6

Book I:77 Charinus, exhausted. 6

Book I:91 The critic. 7

Book I:94 Changed. 7

Book I:115 A certain girl7

Book II:25 Promises. 7

Book II:38 A fine view.. 7

Book II:87 Amazing. 7

Book III:9 A silent critic. 8

Book III:26 Possession. 8

Book III:27 Dinner invitations. 8

Book III:53 Sorry Chloe. 8

Book III:79 Incomplete. 8

Book III: 90 Uncertainty. 9

Book IV: 76 Half measures. 9

Book V:34 Erotion the slave-girl9

Book V:47 Itís logical9

Book V:58 Carpe diem.. 10

Book V:64 The Mausoleum of Augustus. 10

Book V:66 Ave, Pontilianus. 10

Book V:81 Itís a law.. 10

Book V:83 Contrary. 10

Book VI:40 Tempus fugit11

Book VI:60 My books. 11

Book VI:90 Bigamy. 11

Book VII:3 No thanks. 11

Book VII:14 True loss. 11

Book VII:30 Hard to please. 12

Book VII:73 Tell me, Maximus. 12

Book VII:76 The reality. 12

Book VIII:13 False description. 12

Book IX:8 Double negative. 13

Book X:14 Stop complaining. 13

Book X:29 My gifts. 13

Book X:32 Marcus Antonius Primus. 14

Book X:33 The hidden rule. 14

Book X:47 The good life. 15

Book X:50 Too soon. 15

Book X:97 Expectations dashed. 15

Book XI:3 Now, a patron would be nice!16

Book XI:7 Paulaís strategy. 16

Book XI:8 The Boy. 17

Book XI:13 The tomb of Paris the actor.18

Book XI:16 Iím readable. 18

Book XI:19 Galla, the eloquent18

Book XI:25 Beware!18

Book XI:62 On the nail19

Book XI:71 A weighty cure. 19

Book XI:92 Zoilus. 19

Book XII:21 Marcella. 19

Book XII:58 Two for a pair20

Book XIV: Us pipes. 20

Coda: Book XI:2 Freedom! Thanks to our Emperor Nerva. 20



††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††

De Spectaculis:1 The New Colosseum


Barbarian Memphis be mute re the pyramidsí wonders,

and you Assyrians stop bleating of Babylon;

no praise for tender Ionians, and Dianaís trivial temple,

and may Apolloís many-horned altar bury Delos deep;

donít let the Carians cry extravagant words to the sky

regarding the Mausoleum that hangs in vacuous air.

All efforts now give way to Caesarís new amphitheatre,

Fame can speak of the one, and that can do for them all.


De Spectaculis:2 Rome restored


Just here, where Neroís skyey colossus sees stars,

and the scaffolding towers up high, right in the way,

once shone the nasty halls of that cruel king,

and only the one Golden House in all of Rome.

Just here, where the Amphitheatreís honoured pile

rises, towering before our eyes, was Neroís lake.

Just here, where we gaze at Titusís thermal baths,

swift gift, proud acres razed the poor manís roof.

Where the Claudian colonnade spreads wide its shade,

that golden palaceís outermost corner came to an end.

Caesar, Romeís back to herself, now youíre in charge,

and the masterís pleasures are the peopleís now.


De Spectaculis:6 On display


Pasiphae really was mated to that Cretan bull:

believe it: weíve seen it, the old storyís true.

old antiquity neednít pride itself so, Caesar:

whatever legend sings, the arena offers you.


BookI:1 Heís here


Hereís the one you read, and you demand,

Martial, who is known throughout the land

for these witty little books of epigrams:

to whom, wise reader, you keep giving,

while he still feels, among the living,

what few poets merit in their graves.


Book I:32†I donít love youÖ


I donít love you, Sabidius, no, I canít say why:

All I can say is this, that I donít love you.


Book I:34 Lesbia


Doors open wide, unguarded, when you sin

Lesbia, you donít conceal your tricks,

you like a watcher better than a lover

youíre not thankful for obscure delights.

Whores conversely donít want witnesses,

curtains, bolts, no cracks, reveal the brothels.

At least you might learn modesty from them,

the foulest find a place behind the tombs.

Do you really think that what I sayís too harsh?

I donít say donít fuck, Lesbia: donít be seen.


Book I:77 Charinus, exhausted


Heís quite well, Charinus, still heís pale.

Hardly drinks, Charinus, still heís pale.

A fine digestion too, Charinus, still heís pale.

He takes the sun, Charinus, still heís pale.

He dyes his skin, Charinus, still heís pale.

Eats pussy, yet, Charinus, still heís pale.


Book I:91 The critic


You donít write poems, Laelius, you criticise

mine. Stop criticising me or write your own.


Book I:94 Changed


Aegle, when you were fucked you sang badly.

Now you sing fine, though never to be kissed.


Book I:115 A certain girl


She desires me Ė Procillus, envy me! Ė

one whiter than a new-wet swan,

than privet, lilies, silver, snow:

but I desire one dark as night,

cicada, black ant, pitch, or crow.

You thought to hang yourself:

I know you well, Procillus, oh, youíll live.


Book II:25 Promises


When I ask, you always promise, Galla, never give.

If youíre always to prevaricate, Galla, please, say no.


Book II:38 A fine view


You ask what I see in my farm near Nomentum, Linus?

What I see in it, Linus, is: from there I canít see you.


Book II:87 Amazing


You say pretty girls burn with love for you, Sextus,

with your face too, like a man swimming underwater.

Book III:9 A silent critic


They say Cinna writes little poems about me.

Heís no writer, whose verse nobody reads.


Book III:26 Possession


Only you have land, then, Candidus,

Gold plate, cash, and porcelain, only you,

Massic or Caecuban wine of famous vintage,

only you judgement and wit, only you.

You have it all Ė well say I donít deny it Ė

But everyone has your wife, along with you.


Book III:27 Dinner invitations


Though I invite you, Gallus, you never invite me back:

Iíd forgive you, Gallas, if you never invited a soul.

You do, though: we both have faults. ĎWhich?í you ask,

Iíve no sense, Gallas, and youíve no shame.



Book III:53 Sorry Chloe


Chloe, I could live without your face,

without your neck, and hands, and legs

without your breasts, and ass, and hips,

and Chloe, not to labour over details,

I could live without the whole of you.


Book III:79 Incomplete


Sertorius starts everything, finishes nothing.

When he fucks, I suspect, he never ends.


Book III: 90 Uncertainty


Galla wants, yet doesnít want, to give: and I canít say,

since she wants and doesnít want to, what she wants.


Book IV: 76 Half measures


When I asked for twelve thousand you sent me six,

Next time, for twelve, Iíll ask for twenty-four.


Book V:34 Erotion the slave-girl


To your shades Fronto, and Flacilla, this child

I commend: she was my sweet and my delight.

Little Erotion shall not fear the darkened shades

nor the vast mouths of the Tartarean hound.

Sheíd have completed her sixth chill winter,

if sheíd not lived a mere six days too few.

Now let her frisk and play among old friends

now let her chatter, and so lisp my name.

And let the soft turf cover her brittle bones:

earth, lie lightly on her: she lay lightly on you.


Book V:47 Itís logical


Philo swears he never eats in: itís true:

he never eats when nobody invites him.


Book V:58 Carpe diem


Postumus, tomorrow youíll live, tomorrow you say.

When is it coming, tell me, that tomorrow?

How far off, and where, and how will you find it?

In Armenia, or Parthia, is it concealed then?

Your tomorrowís as old as Nestor or Priam.

How much would it cost you, tell me, to buy?

Tomorrow? Itís already too late to live today:

He who lived yesterday, Postumus, he is wise.


Book V:64 The Mausoleum of Augustus


Pour me a double measure, of Falernian, Callistus,

and you Alcimus, melt over it summer snows,

let my sleek hair be soaked with excess of perfume,

my brow be wearied beneath the sewn-on rose.

The Mausoleum tells us to live, that one nearby,

it teaches us that the gods themselves can die.

Book V:66 Ave, Pontilianus


Youíre often greeted but never the first to greet:

if thatís so, Pontilianus, then vale forever.


Book V:81 Itís a law


Aemilianus, youíll always be poor if youíre poor.

These days they only give wealth to the rich.


Book V:83 Contrary


You chase, I flee; you flee, I chase; itís how I am:

what you wish I donít, Dindymus, what you donít I wish.


Book VI:40 Tempus fugit


No woman was to be preferred to you, Lycoris:

To Glycera no womanís to be preferred.

Sheíll be as you are: youíll never be as she is.

What power time has! I want her, wanted you.


Book VI:60 My books


Rome praises, loves, and quotes my little books,

Iím there in every pocket, every hand.

See them blush, turn white, stunned, yawn, disgusted.

I like it: nowís when my poems give me delight.


Book VI:90 Bigamy


Gellia only has a single lover.

The sin is worse then: sheís married twice.


Book VII:3 No thanks


Why donít I send you my little books?

Pontilianus, lest you send me yours.


Book VII:14 True loss


Aulus, atrocious tragedyís struck my girl;

sheís lost her plaything and her fond delight:

not such as Catullusí tender mistress wept for

his Lesbia, bereft of worthless sparrow,

nor, sung by Stella, his Ianthis grieves for,

whose black dove wings it through Elysium:

Sheís not won by such loves, such nonsense,

mea lux: they donít stir my ladyís heart:

sheís lost a slave boy hardly twelve years old,

his member not yet eighteen inches long.


Book VII:30 Hard to please


You do Germans, and Parthians, and Dacians, Caelia,

you donít scorn Cappadocian, Cilician beds;

and fuckers from Memphis, that Pharian city,

and Red Seaís black Indians sail towards you.

Youíd not flee the thighs of a circumcised Jew,

not an Alan goes by, with Sarmatian horse too.

Whatís the reason, then, since you are a Roman,

not one Roman member pleases you, woman?


Book VII:73 Tell me, Maximus


Youíve a house on the Esquiline, house on the Aventine,

and Patrician Street owns a roof of yours too;

add one with a view of poor Cybeleís shrine,

one Vestaís, one Jupiterís old, one his new.

Tell me where to meet you, tell me where to find you:

Who lives everywhere, Maximus, lives nowhere at all.


Book VII:76 The reality


If powerful men take you up,

at meals, theatres, and porticos,

like riding and bathing with you,

wherever you happen to go,

donít be too proud, Philomusus:

you give pleasure, it isnít love.


Book VIII:13 False description


They said heís an idiot: I paid twenty thousand.

My money back, Gargilianus: heís no fool.


Book IX:8 Double negative


Fabius, to whom I think you used to give, if I recall,

six thousand a year, Bithynicus, leaves you nothing.

No one else has had more: donít moan, Bithynicus:

he leaves you, after all, six thousand a year.


Book X:14 Stop complaining


Though a fitted carriage bears your painted servants,

though a Libyan horseman sweats in a trail of dust,

and purple draperies dye your Baian villas

and Thetisí waters yellow with your creams,

though draughts of Setine brim your lucent crystal,

and Venus sleeps beneath no softer down,

still at night you lie at a proud girlís threshold

drenching, alas, her mute door with your tears,

while ceaseless sighs burn through your wretched breast.

Want to know your curse, Cotta? Youíre too well off.


Book X:29 My gifts


That dish youíd send to me on Saturnís day,

you send to your mistress now, Sextilianus:

that green outfit you gave her on the Kalends,

those called after Mars, that my togaís paid for.

Your girls begin to cost you nothing now:

Sextilianus, youíre fucking with my gifts.


Book X:32 Marcus Antonius Primus


This portrait I deck with violets and roses,

do you ask whose face it is, Caedicianus?

Itís Marcus Antonius Primus in his prime:

in this the old man sees his younger self.

If art could show his mind and character!

No picture in the world would show lovelier.


Book X:33 The hidden rule


Munatius Gallus, of Sabine simplicity,

in kindness of heart outdoing Epicurus,

by your daughterís eternal marriage torches,

chaste Venus grant you preserve that fair tie:

if foul envy claims by chance that verses

tinted with green verdigris are mine,

deny them, as you do, and contend

that no-one who is read writes such things.

This law my little books know how to keep:

to spare the person, ah, but speak the vice.


Book X:47 The good life


These, my dearest Martialis, are

the things that bring a happy life:

wealth left to you, not laboured for;

rich land, an ever-glowing hearth;

no law, light business, and a quiet mind;

a healthy body, gentlemanly powers;

a wise simplicity, friends not unlike;

good company, a table without art;

nights carefree, yet no drunkenness;

a bed thatís modest, true, and yet not cold;

sleep that makes the hours of darkness brief:

the need to be yourself, and nothing more;

not fearing your last day, not wishing it.†


Book X:50 Too soon


Sad Victory break your Idumaean palms,

Fame beat your naked breasts with savage hands;

let Honour dress in mourning, grieving Glory

throw your wreathed tresses in the hostile flames.

Ah! Scorpus, cheated of your first youth, you die

and all too swiftly yoke the coal-black horses.

That goal, your speeding chariot always touched,

why was your lifeís goal, like to it, so near?


Book X:97 Expectations dashed


While the frail pyre was built, with flammable papyrus,

while his weeping wife was buying cinnamon and myrrh,

there, with the grave, the bier, the undertaker ready,

Numa created me his heir: and then Ė recovered!


Book XI:3 Now, a patron would be nice!


Not only idle Rome rejoices in my Muse,

my fragments donít just fall on empty ears,

no, my bookís thumbed by rigid centurions

stuck to their Martial standards in Getic frost,

and they even say the Britons recite my verse.

Whatís the good? My purse would never know it.

And yet, what excellent pages I could scribble,

what battles my Pierian trumpet could blow,

if while re-incarnating Augustus here on earth,

the kind gods had sent Rome a Maecenas, too!


Book XI:7 Paulaís strategy


When you want to go visit a distant lover, for sure, now,

Paula, youíll not be telling that stupid husband of yours,

ĎCaesarís ordered me off to Alba tomorrow first thing,

Caesar: Circeii.í The age of such tricks has gone.

Under Nervaís rule itís all right to be a Penelope:

but those Ďneedsí of yours, your true nature, wonít let you.

Bad girl, what can you do? Discover an ailing friend?

Your husband would stick fast to his lady himself

and go with you, if it were brother, mother, or father.

So, my ingenious one, what ruse do you consider?

Some other adulteress would say, for her nerves,

she needed to take the waters at Sinuessa.

You do better, Paula, when you want to go fucking,

you choose to tell that husband of yours the truth!


Book XI:8 The Boy


Odour of dried balsam from last nightís vases,

the last scent that falls from the saffronís arc;

that of apples ripening in winter storage,

or a field luxuriant with springís green shoots,

silks from our Empressís Palatine presses,

or amber warmed there in a young girlís hand;

or a shattered jar, not too near, of dark Falernian,

or a garden where they keep Sicilian bees;

what the alabaster boxes Cosmus sells, smell of,

the godís altars, a wreath slipped from perfumed hair Ė

why speak of them? None will do, mingle them all:

and thatís the fragrance of my boyís dawn kisses.

You wish to know his name? If itís re: kisses, Iíll tell you.

You swear it! Sabinus, youíre far too anxious to know.



Book XI:13 The tomb of Paris the actor.


Traveller, who treads the Flaminian Way,

donít pass this noble marble by.

the wit of the Nile, the cityís delight,

grace and art, and pleasure and play,

the worth and grief of the Roman stage,

and every Venus, and every Cupid,

here in Parisís tomb, together, buried, lie.


Book XI:16 Iím readable


You can leave now, Reader, over-severe,

go, where you please: I write for the city;

my page, now, runs wild with Priapic verse,

strikes the cymbals, with a dancing-girlís hand.

O, how youíll beat your cloak in rigid vein,

though youíre weightier than Curius, Fabricius!

You too, that read naughty jokes in my little book,

youíll be wet, girl, though youíre from moral Padua.

Lucretia would have blushed, and shut my volume,

while Brutus was there; but when he left: sheíd have read.


Book XI:19 Galla, the eloquent


You ask me why I donít want to marry you, Galla?

Youíre so eloquent, and my pen is often in error.


Book XI:25 Beware!


That hyper-active member known to so many girls

has ceased to rise for Linus. Tongue, beware!


Book XI:62 On the nail


Lesbia swears sheís never been fucked for free.

True. When she wants to be fucked, she has to pay.


Book XI:71 A weighty cure


Leda tells her aged spouse she suffers from nerves,

and cries that she absolutely has to be fucked;

but, with tears and moans, sighs nothing is worth that,

and declares sheís reconciled to dying instead.

He begs her, live, not lose her years of youth,

and lets be done what he canít do now himself.

The female doctors leave, males take their place,

her knees are raised. O weighty remedy!


Book XI:92 Zoilus


Zoilus, he lies: the man who says youíre vicious.

Youíre not vicious, Zoilous, youíre vice itself.


Book XII:21 Marcella


Marcella, whoíd think you hailed from frozen Salo,

that you were born in those haunts of mine?

So rare, so sweet: your flavour. The Palatine,

hearing you once, would name you for its own;

no one born in Suburaís midst, no daughter

of the tall Capitoline Hill could rival you;

nor will a glory of foreign birth, soon show

more worthy of becoming a Roman bride.

You tell me to quell my longing for the City:

you, of yourself, create a Rome for me.


Book XII:58 Two for a pair


Your wife says youíre fond of slave-girls, sheís fond of boys,

the ones who carry her litter: Alauda, youíre two for a pair.


Book XIV: Us pipes


The tipsy flute-girl blows us with moistened cheeks:

sometimes she blows just one, often both together.


Coda: Book XI:2 Freedom! Thanks to our Emperor Nerva


You, sad brow, and harsh look, of Cato the severe,

or of Fabricia, impoverished ploughmanís daughter,

and you, pride in character, and you, the moral law,

and whatever weíre not, in the darkness, off with you!

Behold my verses crying: ĎIo, for the Saturnaliaí:

Nerva itís fun, under you, to do, and freely done.

You, gloomy readers, go learn Santraís jerky lines:

nothing of yours, for me: this little book is mine.