Craig A. Williams (ed.), Martial: Epigrams: Book Two
Themes. Another memorable character is introduced, as is a theme of some importance to Book II and Martial's epigrams in general: the hunt for dinner invitations. Barwick 1958: 300–301 speaks of a "cycle" of epigrams on Selius (2.11, 2.14, 2.27; mentioned at 2.69.6) introduced by the present epigram, observing that 2.11 and 2.14 offer a variation on more or less the same theme but in different meters, and detecting a pattern in the arrangement: in 2.11 Selius has been unsuccessful in his quest; in 2.14 it remains unclear whether he is successful or not; in 2.27 he has succeeded.
The dinner, or cena, and the various types of social (mis)behavior associated with it constitute a central theme of Martial's epigrams: in Book II alone, see 2.14, 2.18–19, 2.27, 2.37, 2.40, 2.53, 2.57, 2.59, 2.69, 2.79. While the subject matter was clearly taken from everyday life (see Marquardt 1886: 289–331, D'Arms 1990), Martial had literary precedents to drawn upon as well; some examples among many include Catull. 13, 44, 47, Hor. Sat. 2.8. This epigram introduces us to the problem neatly described by Sullivan 1991: 160 as "the undignified scrounging for dinner invitations": see 2.14, 2.27, 2.53, 2.69, 2.79, 5.44, 5.50, 9.10, 9.14, 9.19, 9.35, 11.77, 12.82, and see Damon 1997: 148–158 for the figure of the "parasite" in Martial. At Juv. 1.132–134 we find a description of characters like Selius, though they are pitied rather than ridiculed.
Modern scholarship on the phenomenon described here sometimes uses the term captatio cenae ("dinner hunting"), a handy phrase inspired by language such as Martial's cenam captare in 2.18 and 7.20, and men like Selius are variously called cenipetae ("dinner seekers": Szelest 1986: 2585 and Prinz 1911: 37–39, who adds the Greek equivalent πρεχέδειπνος, "dinner runner") or laudiceni ("dinner praisers": Szelest 1986: 2585). The noun cenipeta is not actually attested in any surviving classical text, but this may be an accident of survival, as the presumably late-antique or medieval lemma to 2.37 in E reads Ad Caecilianum cenipetam (L Ad Celipetam). For laudiceni, on the other hand, we have the explicit testimony of Pliny the Younger (Epist. 2.14.5).
This epigram is characteristic not only in its subject matter but also in its tone (satiric but not savage) and structure (building up a scenario, posing a question, and offering an unexpected, sharply pointed answer, or aprosdoketon), and it has been singled out for praise by various critics over the centuries (Pontanus, De sermone III.xviii ), Van Stockum 1884: 77, Laurens 1989: 317, Sullivan 1991: 242).
pg 59 This is the first appearance of the scazon, or choliambic, meter in Book II; see also 2.17, 2.57, 2.65, 2.74. The meter was traditionally associated with an aggressively satirical tone, most famously in the case of the archaic Greek poet Hipponax. In this case Salemme 1976: 54 sees the meter as expressing an "ironia canzonatoria."
Structure. A description of Selius' distraught behavior (1–5) is followed by the affirmation that none of the expected causes is at stake (6–9) and a final question-and-answer line culminating in a two-word point (10); Salemme 1976: 67–68 thus speaks of a "triple rhythm." Each element in the description of Selius in 1–5 (Laurens 1989: 317 calls them "savamment graduées") occupies a single line and takes the form of a quod-clause; each rejected explanation in 6–9 similarly takes up a whole verse. For the vivid accumulative technique, see on 2.7, and for sequences of subordinate clauses compare 2.53, 2.57, 2.62, 2.89, with Siedschlag 1977: 41, who points out that the technique is barely attested in Greek epigram, and Laurens 1989: 325.
The positioning of the conjunction quod is noteworthy. In 1–2 it begins the lines; in the central verse, 3, it is found in the middle of the verse, after the caesura; in 4–5 it is once again at the beginning. Verses 6–9 display a different but equally chiastic structure. Verse 6 begins emphatically with non, thus signaling that various explanations are being rejected; 7–8 are phrased affirmatively; 9 returns to a negative formulation, beginning emphatically with nihil. Thus, each half of the poem's first part is given a chiastic structure, and the entire epigram has the structure ABACDCE. At the same time the epigram is framed by two lively devices: deictic vides and the question-and-answer format.
A tripartite structure is also provided by the "quod-non-sed structure" (Siedschlag 1977: 65–68) found here and elsewhere in Martial's epigrams: see Sp. 17, 1.28, 2.15, 2.26, 3.62, 4.80, 7.31, 9.62, 12.89, 14.88. In the present case sed is implied: quod vides … non luget … (sed) domi cenat. The medieval poet Godfrey of Winchester imitates the technique in some of his epigrams (Maaz 1992: 64).
1 quod: See on 2.10.1 for this opening technique.
1 fronte … nubila: In this poetic expression, the metaphorical use of nubila is perhaps Ovidian in inspiration: compare 6.10.5 ("nulla nubilus ira"), Ov. Met. 5.512 ("toto nubila vultu"). As the variorum commentary observes, nubila in this sense is the opposite of serena (cf. 2.24.7, ore sereno), the metaphor in both cases being that of the sky's appearance.
1 Rufe: Rufus is the most frequently occurring personal name in all of Martial (33 occurrences) after Caesar (126 occurrences!); it is followed by Flaccus (31 occurrences). Since Rufus is a cognomen, it could refer to any number of different men, fictional or real; Martial often distinguishes among the latter by specifying their nomina (e.g., Camonius Rufus, Canius Rufus, Julius Rufus, Safronius Rufus; see Nauta 2002: 41–47). Friedlaender tentatively identifies the man addressed in this epigram, and perhaps also in 2.29, 4.13, and 4.82, with Martial's friend Canius Rufus, a poet and historian from Cadiz (1.61, 1.69, 3.20, 7.69, 10.48), but since the current epigram gives us no direct information about its addressee, the identification is hardly compelling.
Indeed, as in several others out of the seventy-one epigrams in Book II having a vocative addressee (2.17, 2.29, 2.31, 2.74, 2.84, and probably 2.48), the addressee here has no obvious relationship to the epigram's subject. The vocative serves primarily to create an atmosphere of lively discussion: we overhear Martial pointing out Selius' absurd behavior to his friend Rufus, who himself remains in the shadows. Nauta 2002: 46 suggests that such "isolated vocatives" will generally have referred to real persons to whom the poem was dedicated "as a mark of homage," but it is worth emphasizing that, given the plurality of men named Rufus and the lack of specificity in this and other examples, such homage would have been a private matter.
2 ambulator porticum terit seram: It was a common habit to take strolls through the porticoes of the Campus Martius in the late afternoon and early evening, after the day's business was done but before dinner: see also 2.14.16 (serum carpit iter) and 3.20.2 (porticum terit). These porticoes, and the adjoining temples and shops, as well as the thermae, where one might bathe before the evening meal, were thus sought out by those interested in snagging a dinner invitation. Some claim that the porticus of this verse is specifically the "Portico of Europa," to which Martial alludes in conjunction with Selius at 2.14.3 (Collesso, Norcio, Merli), but a first-time reader of this epigram will probably not be led to think of any particular portico.
Martial is fond of using tero, as here, with a spatial direct object (OLD s.v. 5b, "to tread or traverse [ground] repeatedly"): compare 2.29.1 (subsellia prima), 3.20.10 (porticum), 10.10.2 (limina mille), 10.28.4 (medium iter), 11.13.1 (Flaminiam), 12.18.3 (collem), 12.29.1 (limina), 14.51.2 (lintea).
The phrase porticum … seram is unusual, probably poetic in tone, as serus ("occurring at a late hour") normally modifies actions, events, and conditions (cf. 2.14.16: serum carpat iter; Liv. 28.15.3: sera pugna) rather than, as here and at 6.89.1 ("cum peteret seram media iam nocte matellam"), a static object or place. Manuscripts of family β read sera rather than seram, pg 61and Lindsay comments in his apparatus that this is just possibly correct; if so, sera would stand for sera hora; compare Ov. Her. 19.14 (serior hora) and Italian sera.
3 piger vultus: Like fronte nubila, this is a striking phrase in that piger ("lazy") does not usually describe faces or facial expressions. The variorum commentary explains the image: a sad man looks slow and lazy ("quia maestus pigro similis et lento").
Although many modern editors print voltus, the shift from vo to vu in volnus, volt, servos, etc. > vulnus, vult, servus, etc., was more or less complete by Martial's day (LHS 1.49). It is thus almost certain that Martial himself wrote vultus, etc., and consequently, like Shackleton Bailey, I print the forms in vu (see, e.g., 2.29.6). Lindsay 1904: 32–33 suggests, by contrast, that Martial himself may not have been consistent and argues for flexibility based on the MS readings.
4 indecens: Like most translators, I have taken this as an attributive adjective modifying nasus ("his ugly nose almost touches the ground"). For this sense of the adjective, compare 5.37.12: "cui comparatus indecens erat pavo." A parallel suggests itself between nasus indecens and piger vultus (3), and the passing insult of physical appearance is characteristic of Martial (cf. 2.35, 2.87; Damon 1997: 155 sees a different kind of insult: "his nose—none too clean"). But some translators have taken indecens to be adverbial, modifying tangit ("his nose almost touches the ground, disgracefully": Izaac, Ceronetti); compare 5.14.7 ("oculoque ludos spectat indecens uno"). In this case there would be no insult of Selius' physical appearance but rather a criticism of his indecent behavior.
5 pectus pulsat: Note the expressive alliteration, coincidentally reproducible in English: "beats his breast." The phrase pectus pulsare is common throughout Latin literature, and in Martial describes a hypocrite at 5.37.19 (with an extended alliteration: "pectusque pulsans pariter et comam vellens").
6 non ille amici fata luget aut fratris: It is interesting to observe that the first possible cause of Selius' distraught appearance proposed by the speaker is the loss of a male friend or of a brother. These two relationships played a central role in Roman male social relations, and the discourses of friendship and brotherly love often overlap: see, for example, Cic. Att. 1.5.8 ("te a me fraterne amari"), Ov. Tr. 1.3.65 ("quos … ego dilexi fraterno more sodales"), Domitius Marsus (FLP 300–302), A.L. 428 Riese, Mart. 7.24, 9.pr.; Williams 1992: 331–367, Bannon 1997.
7 vivit et precor vivat: A fervently expressed wish; see Wills 1996: 307 for discussion of the phenomenon ("verb-shift"). Examples, often with a verb like precor or rogo, include V. Aen. 12.828 ("occidit, occideritque sinas cum nomine Troia"), Ov. Pont. 1.9.5–6 ("nec quicquam ad nostras pervenit acerbius aures, / ut sumus in Ponto, perveniatque precor"), Pont. 2.6.15 pg 62("idque facis faciasque precor"), Pont. 3.1.90 ("quod facis ut facias teque imitere rogo").
8 salva est et uxor sarcinaeque servique: It is striking, but not surprising in a Roman context, that Martial groups Selius' wife along with his slaves and possessions rather than with his sons. For the division of one's possessions into human and nonhuman, as well as for the alliteration (salva … sarcinaeque servique) and the use of the adjective salva, we might compare a phrase from Cato's prayer for the suovetaurilia preserved in his treatise De agricultura (141): "pastores pecoraque salva servassis." It may be that Martial is drawing on some ancient, solemn formulations.
The primary meaning of sarcina is "a bundle of things tied together so as to be conveniently carried by a man or animal" (OLD s.v.; cf. sarcio, "mend, repair"); compare 8.75.14. In the plural, sarcinae can refer to any movable goods or belongings (2.68.4, 12.32.2, 12.32.25). Bridge and Lake describe Martial's use of the noun to mean "property" as colloquial, but [Quint.] Decl. 12.13 ("iacent relictae sine herede sarcinae") suggests otherwise.
Garrido-Hory 1981: 91–92 observes that the term servus, as opposed to puer or minister, is often found in the context of enumerations of property.
9 colonus vilicusque: The former is a freeborn tenant farmer, the latter, a slave in charge of the other slaves of a country estate, accountable either to the master himself or to his procurator (see Colum. 11.1 with Marquardt 1886: 139). Martial's remark reveals an awareness of the potential risk involved with these two types of dependents. Elsewhere, in more humorous vein, he imagines a potential advantage: among the pleasures of life in an Italian town is the possibility of having sexual relations with the wife of one's vilicus or colonus (4.66.11). The vilicus and colonus are again cited together at 7.31.9; see also Colum. 1.7.6 ("cum omne genus agri tolerabilius sit sub liberis colonis quam sub vilicis servis habere") and Sen. Epist. 123.2 (vilicus, atriensis, colonus).
9 decoxit: The verb literally means "to boil down, melt down, melt away," and is here, as elsewhere, most likely used transitively in a figurative sense to refer to squandering money or property, taking objects like patrimonium or pecuniam (OLD s.v. 4, TLL 22.214.171.124–35). Ker and Shackleton Bailey translate "default," a meaning the verb can have when intransitive (OLD s.v. 5); if that is the sense here, nihil is not the direct object of decoxit but rather an adverb.
10 maeroris igitur causa quae? For the closing technique of posing a "rhetorical" question and immediately supplying its answer, see on 2.7.8. Maeror is a fairly strong word. This is the only occurrence of the noun in Martial, while the verb maereo occurs twice (9.5.5: "virilitatis damna maeret ereptae"; 14.217.2: "captas non sibi maeret aves"). Martial uses the adjective maestus to describe a mother mourning the death of a child (2.41.19), him-pg 63self upon a friend's death (6.85.11), and the sufferings of the mythological figure Io (2.14.8). Illustrative examples of the intensity of maeror in other authors include Lucr. 5.175 ("in tenebris vita ac maerore iacebat"), Cic. Att. 3.17.1 ("sane sum in meo infinito maerore sollicitus"), Sen. Herc. F. 705 (in Hades, "cuncta maerore horrida"), Tac. Ann. 12.26 ("nemo … fuit quem non Britannici fortuna maerore adficeret"). There is thus a comic effect when maeror is used to describe Selius' feelings at not having received a dinner invitation.
10 domi cenat: Presumably alone, because no one else has invited him to dinner. In the group-oriented, status-conscious world of Martial's Rome, dining alone at home could be taken as a sign that one has received no invitations, and perhaps for a good reason; thus, a mere allusion to domi cenare could suffice to make a point. Not only does the phrase appear on several other occasions in Martial (2.14.2, 2.79.2 [where ceno domi likewise constitutes the epigram's sharp point], 3.50.10, 5.47.1, 5.50.1, 6.94.2 with Grewing, 11.24.15, 12.19.2; contrast cenare foris at 2.53.3, 2.69.1, 9.10.1), but the poet uses and indeed perhaps coins the noun domicenium: see 5.78.1 ("si tristi domicenio laboras") and 12.77.6 (where Martial jokingly represents domicenium as the punishment inflicted by Jupiter on a man for having farted in his temple). See further Braund 1996, and consider the etymology reported by Plutarch (Mor. 726e: cena was derived from κοινωνία), as well as the saying of Epicurus repeated by Seneca (Epist. 19.10): to eat without friends is to live the life of a lion or a wolf.