The only external ancient evidence regarding Martial is limited but valuable: Pliny the Younger's letter to Cornelius Priscus, datable to no later than A. D. 105, records Martial's death and reveals a few precious details (Epist. 3.21). Otherwise, as is the case with most ancient authors, our knowledge is fairly sketchy and largely dependent upon inferences drawn from the poet's own work. It has long been recognized that we must approach the latter with great skepticism in view of the fact that epigram is not autobiography; the relationship between poetic persona and the historical figure of the poet himself is particularly complex in the case of Martial.
On such an apparently straightforward point as whether or not Martial ever married, for example, the epigrams themselves offer conflicting perspectives: sometimes he speaks as a married man, sometimes as a bachelor (see on 2.91.5, 2.92.3). Yet there are certain basic facts about himself to which he alludes in a consistent manner and which have generally been taken to be autobiographical: his name and that of his hometown, his approximate age, and the facts that he had the status of “knight, ” or eques, and had been awarded the ius trium liberorum. Exercising due caution, we can thus reconstruct a bare outline of the poet's life. His name was Marcus Valerius Martialis (1.5, 2.praef; Plin. Epist. 3.21); his parents were almost certainly named Valerius Fronto and Flaccilla (5.34); he was born in Bilbilis in Spain