lector, opes nostrae: quem cum mihi Roma dedisset, “nil tibi quod demus maius habemus” ait.
O reader, my treasure! When Rome gave you to me, she said, “I have nothing greater to give you. ”
“illa tamen laudant omnes, mirantur, adorant. ” confiteor: laudant illa sed ista legunt.
“But everyone praises, admires, and reveres that [mythological] poetry!” Yes, I admit it, they praise that kind of poetry. But what they read is this.
Martial's epigrams display a remarkable interest in what we would now call their own reception by readers. But while this poet self-consciously distances himself from arcane mythological poetry and boasts that his readers should have no need of learned commentary (10.21.5–6: “mea carmina, Sexte, / grammaticis placeant, ut sine grammaticis”), it is precisely because he so firmly anchors his epigrams in the Rome of his day that readers of the early twenty-first century need assistance. The central goal of this commentary is