The Roman Use of Anecdotes in Cicero, Livy, & the Satirists

By Elizabeth Hazelton Haight | Go to book overview

VI
MARTIAL AND THE ANECDOTAL EPIGRAM

THE poet Martial often called his verses nugae, but he assured a friend that these trifles were something:1

He misses what is meant by epigram
Who thinks it only frivolous flim-flam,

Nescit, crede mihi, quid sint epigrammata, Flacce, qui tantum lusus ista iocosque vocat.

The apparent inconsistencies of his statements are explained by his ample literary autobiography. In prose prefaces, in scores of epigrams about his writing, Martial gives a full length portrait of himself as artist. Since much of this is pertinent for a study of his anecdotal epigrams, it will be well first to see the poet as he saw himself. As an introduction, a paragraph on the known facts of his life will frame our picture.

Marcus Valerius Martialis was born in Bilbilis, Spain, on March first between A.D. 38 and 41. His parents, Fronto and Flaccilla, gave him a good education. In 64 he went to Rome to seek his fortune. There he found patrons who had come from Spain, Seneca and Lucan, but their aid was quickly cut off by their ruin in the Conspiracy of Piso one year later. We know nothing about Martial's next fifteen years in Rome. Then in 80 when

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1
IV. 49, translated by J. Wight Duff.

-120-

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The Roman Use of Anecdotes in Cicero, Livy, & the Satirists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • I - The Art of Writing Anecdotes 1
  • II - Cicero's Art of Narration 10
  • III - History from Exempla: Livy's Use of Anecdotes 37
  • IV - Horace as a Raconteur 79
  • V - The Anecdotes of a Fabulist: Phaedrus 95
  • VI - Martial and the Anecdotal Epigram 120
  • VII - The Anecdotes of a Stoic: Young Persius 140
  • VIII- The Bitter Stories of The Satiristal 156
  • IX - Retrospect 177
  • Index 183
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