Craig A. Williams (ed.), Martial: Epigrams: Book Two
Themes. Returning to hendecasyllabics (2.4, 2.6) and to the two-line format (2.3, 2.9), the poet broaches yet another recurring topic in his social satire: the vicissitudes associated with moneylending, for which see on 2.3. Sextus has been brought before court for nonpayment of debt (Friedlaender suggests that Sextus has initiated the proceedings himself) and has hired a patronus to defend him. Now not only is the patronus asking for his fee, but the judge is demanding a bribe, and Martial's wry advice is presumably prompted by the consideration that the cost of paying off both judge and lawyer would exceed the debt itself.
Structure. Martial's two-line epigrams are most often elegiac monodistichs (see on 2.3); there is only one other two-line hendecasyllabic poem in Book II (2.15). The epigram falls naturally into two halves, the situation being sketched in the first verse and commentary provided in the second. Here the dryly humorous effect is heightened by the asyndeton abruptly introducing the poet's response in the second line.
1: Note the chiastic order iudex petit … petit patronus adorned by the symmetrically positioned et … et.
Although in the context of criminal law the function of iudices combined those of modern jurors and judges, the present epigram alludes to a civil procedure, in which the iudex was usually a single individual appointed (normally by both parties involved, after having been approved by the responsible magistrate) to conduct the hearing. In Martial's day patroni might legitimately accept a small fee or honorarium (3.38.6 with Walter 1995), but iudices obviously not. Bribery of jurors or judges was a much lamented risk (see Petr. Sat. 14.2: "ergo iudicium nihil est nisi publica merces, / atque eques in causa qui sedet empta probat"; and Dio 54.18.3) and could provoke excesses of moralizing outrage, as in the case of the trial of P. Clodius Pulcher in 61 b.c. (Cic. Att. 1.16.5, 1.18.3, Mil. 87, Dio 37.45–46, Val. Max. 9.1.7, Sen. Epist. 97.2).
1 petit: Martial often uses this verb with money as its implicit or explicit object: see 1.76.5 ("quid petis a Phoebo? nummos habet arca Minervae"), 2.30.6 ("quod peto da, Gai: non peto consilium"), 2.44.5 ("ne quid forte petam timet cavetque"), 3.61, 4.76.1, 10.15.3 ("mutua cum peterem sestertia quinque"), 10.70.13–14 ("centumque petuntur / quadrantes").
1 patronus: An important item in the Roman language of social relations, patronus (derived from pater) denotes various roles in which a man might exert influence, protection, or authority over another, such as a libertus (5.34, 5.70, 6.28–29, 9.73, 10.34) or, as here, a defendant in a legal action. In the latter case, patronus is thus the equivalent of causidicus (see 1.97.2 with Citroni ad loc., 2.27.2, 7.72.14). Although Martial has much to say about clientela (see on 2.18), he never uses the term patronus to refer to a "patron" of a "client" (pace the OLD entry, 5.34 refers to the former masters of a dead slave girl), nor indeed does any other classical literary writer; amicus (e.g., 2.32.7) is generally preferred to the blunt patronus. (See White 1978: 79, who discusses the one apparent exception at Hor. Epist. 1.7, and Saller 1982: 10, who observes that inscriptions of the classical period do use the term in this sense.)
2 censeo: The verb suggests a response to a deliberative question previously posed by Sextus: "Should I pay, or go through with the trial?" (Walter 1995: 101).
2 Sexte: See on 2.3.1.
2 creditori: This fairly prosaic word brings home the point with emphasis. Of the numerous occurrences cited in OLD and TLL, nearly all are found in prose texts, and those few verse passages using the word are all satiric in nature: Hor. Sat. 2.3.65, Bibac. fr. 2, Publ. Syrus. Q 33 ("qui debet, limen creditoris non amat"), Mart. 9.3.2, Juv. 7.108, 11.10. The writer of the inscription CLE 1001.4 uses the term to refer to Death, and the effect is presumably quite blunt: "in requiem excessi; quod quaeritis, id repetitum / apstulit iniustus creditor ante diem."