Craig A. Williams (ed.), Martial: Epigrams: Book Two
Themes. The contrast between the final line of the preceding epigram and the blunt obscenity of this poem's opening words could hardly be greater. This epigram introduces a brief cluster of poems (2.60–63) on sexual themes, as well as a sequence offering commentary in the second person (2.60–64).
In its subject matter the epigram recalls 2.47 (where Gallus too seems to take pleasure in the "punishment") and 2.49 (where Martial indirectly imagines the pleasures of exacting it), while the name Hyllus brings us back to 2.51. Elsewhere described as soft and effeminate and finding pleasure in being penetrated, the young Hyllus here is having an affair with a married woman; LaPenna 2000: 91 suggests that he might be her slave (see on 1 below). For the image of an effeminate male who enjoys both intercourse with women and being penetrated, see on 2.47 and 2.62.
Traditional Roman folk justice provided various kinds of harsh punishments for an adulterer caught in the act. Val. Max. 6.1.13 and Hor. Sat. 1.2 provide an overview ranging from extortion to anal rape to castration to murder; see 2.83 for yet another punishment. Juv. 10.314–317 ("exigit autem / interdum ille dolor plus quam lex ulla dolori / concessit: necat hic ferro, secat ille cruentis / verberibus, quosdam moechos et mugilis intrat") suggests that while such extreme punishments went beyond what the law allowed, they were sometimes carried out nonetheless.
Structure. The opening line lays out the situation with notable clarity, its obscenity (futuis) resolutely bringing home the point that Hyllus is engaging in an adulterous affair. The subordinate clause in the second line introduces the detail upon which the rest of the epigram is built: Hyllus is willing to suffer the supplicium puerile. The second couplet complicates the scenario (castrabere) and ends on a note not of resolution but of challenge, marked by the pointed repetition of the key verb licet. The pace is lively throughout: consider the obscenity futuis, the exclamation vae tibi, the brief dialogue introduced with iam mihi dices, and the pointed rhetorical questions at the end. For the structural device of positioning the vocative (Hylle) in the second half of the first and last lines respectively, see on 2.10.
1: With Collesso, Izaac, Norcio, Ceronetti, Scandola, and LaPenna 2000: 91, I take armati tribuni to be a periphrasis for tribuni militaris or tribuni militum (as opposed to tribuni plebis). Ker, Shackleton Bailey, and Barié and Schindler translate the phrase literally ("an armed tribune"). In any case, the adjective may be anticipating the type of punishment the tribune will exact.
Instead of the obscene futuis, MSS of family α read the metrically equivalent tractas (Ker euphemizes in his own way: "you have relations with"). See on 2.31.1 for the tendency of family α to present euphemizing emendations and Lindsay's theory of an ancient edition in usum elegantiorum.
2: The text as given above is universally printed by modern editors but is not transmitted in this form by any of the extant MSS, which offer unsatisfying readings: supplicium tantum dum (or nec or num), puer Hylle (hille or ille), times. The reading puerile (easily corrupted into puer ille or puer Hylle) represents one of the few emendations by Italian humanists that have won acceptance among modern editors; see also versibus in 2.praef.
The phrase supplicium puerile (which echoes puer Hylle in the preceding line: Schmidt 1989: 66) reflects an association of anal intercourse with pueri that is amply attested in both Greek and Roman sources; see Williams 1999: 50–51, 185–188. Martial himself describes anal intercourse with a woman as illud puerile (9.67.3) and speaks of the anus and anal intercourse as mascula nomina (11.43.11); a Plautine joke refers to puerile officium (Cist. 657: cf. Adams 1982: 193), and Apuleius speaks of puerile corollarium (Met. 3.20). In A.P. 5.49 φιλόπαις is the equivalent of pedico just as γυναικομανής is of fututor and φιλυβριστής of irrumator; anal intercourse with a female is described as ἀρσενόπαις Κύπρις in A.P. 5.54 and as τὰ παιδικὰ κέρδη in A.P. 6.17. Ceronetti misinterprets Martial's supplicium puerile to refer to the kind of punishment one gives small children, a slap on the wrist as in Tac. Ann. 5.9 ("posse se puerili verbere moneri"). But, as Shackleton Bailey and Barié and Schindler observe, the parallels with 2.47 and 2.49 make the reference unmistakable.
3 ludis: For the sexual overtones of this verb, and of iocari, see Adams 1982: 161–163.
3–4 iam mihi dices / "non licet hoc": Probably in a.d. 82–83 (perhaps hence Martial's iam), Domitian issued a prohibition against castration: compare 5.2, 6.2 with Grewing, 9.5, 9.7; Stat. Silv. 4.3.13–15; Suet. Dom. 7.1; Dio 67.2.3; Philostr. Vit. Apoll. 6.42; Amm. Marc. 18.4.5; Grelle 1980. The fact that it was renewed by later emperors (Dio 68.2.4 [Nerva]; D. 184.108.40.206 [Hadrian]; cf. Just. Novell. 142) suggests that the prohibition was as ineffective as Domitian's revival of the lex Julia de adulteriis.
4 tu quod facis, Hylle, licet? By engaging in sexual relations with the wife of a Roman citizen, Hyllus is committing adulterium, among sexual offences perhaps the most threatening to a patriarchal society (Edwards 1993: 34–62, Williams 1999: 113–119). With the Augustan lex Julia de adulteriis coercendis, for which see especially Raditsa 1980, adulterium became an offense capable of being prosecuted in the public courts; for Domitian's revival of the law see Mart. 5.75, 6.2, 6.4, 6.7, 6.22, 6.45, 6.91, and Grelle 1980. Martial's allusions to adulterium, which most often take the form of a condemnation of a moecha or adultera, are too numerous to be listed here; in Book II alone see 2.17, 2.25, 2.31, 2.34, 2.39, 2.47, 2.49, 2.56, 2.83.
For the final question, unanswered and pointed, compare the end of 2.62 ("cui praestas, culum quod, Labiene, pilas?"), 2.72 ("quid quod habet testes, Postume, Caecilius?"), and 2.89 ("vitium, dic mihi, cuius habes?"). Otherwise, pointed questions at the end of epigrams are followed by an answer of one kind or another: see 2.7, 2.11, 2.28–29, 2.31, 2.39.