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Introduction: A performing lion had savaged its trainer in the arena, ignoring the whiplashes with which lions were customarily controlled. Hence it was speared to death on the emperor's orders. Martial draws the moral that the emperor's subjects are bound to co-operate with a ruler who can impose his will even upon wild animals. It is a commonplace of panegyric that under good government even the savagery of wild animals is curbed. This topos affords neat closure in epigram. Cf. the closing couplet (ll. 7–8) of an epigram by Florus, Anth. Lat. 195 R = 186 SB (of a trained elephant) 'uis humana potest rabiem mutare ferinam: | ecce hominem paruum belua magna timet!', and the closing couplet (ll. 3–4) of an epigram by Luxorius at Anth. Lat. 330 R = 325 SB (with exaggerated inappropriateness, of a stunt in which dogs carried monkeys on their backs) '†quanto† magna parant felici tempora regno, | discant ut legem pacis habere ferae!'

Our epigram is therefore a variation on the theme of the emperor's power over nature, which is a constant feature of dynastic propaganda stretching back at least as far as Xerxes. This poem demonstrates how the skilled panegyrist can turn the most unpromising material to his advantage, since what happened here was actually an accident. Yet to see this episode as a spectacular failure and a potential embarrassment to the emperor may be a prejudicial view arising from very recent assumptions about the sort of act (if any) that a politically correct spectator may enjoy. For Martial's contemporaries, the potential for pg 113bloodshed was as thrilling as the likelihood that the animal would submit to the mastery of its trainer. When the turn succeeded, the animal's involuntary submission to the emperor's will could be praised (cf. Spect. 20); when (as here) the turn failed, the emperor's power of life and death over all his subjects, including the animal kingdom, could be glorified.1 Hovering behind this epigram is the fable of the grateful lion (the 'Androcles syndrome', one might call it), which is here completely subverted: see Marx (1889: 55–70).

Animal behaviour was a preoccupation from the Peripatetics onwards, and the question of attributing rationality to animals was a major point of contention between the Cynic and Epicurean schools on the one hand and the Stoa on the other: see in detail Dierauer (1977), Sorabji (1993). The absurdity of attributing moral responsibility to animals is subordinate to the requirements of panegyric: see Heironimus (1937). The paradigmatic value of animal behaviour is often adduced in popular philosophy, most obviously in fable, and it could be made to provide either positive or negative examples for mankind: compare the examples from the Latin Anthology cited in the first paragraph above. In our epigram the lion is cowed into submission when the emperor exercises force against it, whereas in Spect. 21 the tigress becomes more aggressive through contact with human beings: for parallels in diction and alliteration between the two poems see the table at Weinreich (1928: 88).

This epigram employs the pattern in which an incident is described, and comment appended: see Siedschlag (1977: 101–3). This type becomes established in Greek epigram from the time of Antipater of Sidon. It is frequent in Spect. (4, 5, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 31, 33) and elsewhere in Martial in epigrams dealing with the animal world: cf. Epigr. 4. 35 (gazelles fighting as senselessly as bulls or men), 5. 31 (bulls and acrobats co-operate because each pair wants to win the prize), 8. 26 (Domitian displays more tigresses in the arena than pulled Bacchus' triumphal chariot), 9. 31 (a sacrificial goose provides an omen of Domitian's victory over the Sarmatae). The reason for this appears to be that animal behaviour generally conforms to a predictable pattern, so that any deviation from the norm can be held up as a novelty requiring explanation. The possibility of attributing these exceptional instances to a beneficent superhuman influence makes the 'comment' an ideal vehicle for a conceit flattering the emperor: cf. AP 9. 562 = GP Crinagoras 24 (the parrot, escaped from its cage, that taught the wild birds to greet the emperor: see General Introduction, Section 5).

pg 114Detailed discussion: Weinreich (1928: 87–8), Heironimus (1937), Tremoli (1983: 387–8), Moretti (1992: 61–2)

Tit.: the pluperfect tense (uexauerat) is presumably determined by laeserat (1).

1. ingrate … ore: for the anthropomorphizing euphemism involved in calling an animal ingratus cf. Spect. 24. 7 ('Orpheus' is savaged by a bear) 'ipse sed ingrato iacuit laceratus ab urso.' Of the other two instances cited at TLL vii/1. 1562. 43–7 (Szantyr) one describes a sign of the zodiac (Manil. 4. 350–1 'nec manet ingratus Capricornus … sed munus reddit') and the other comes from a fable (i.e. anthropomorphizing fiction) in which a wolf addresses a crane (Phaedr. 1. 8. 11–12 'ingrata es … ore quae nostro caput incolume abstuleris'). In our epigram the transferred epithet reinforces the designation of the lion as perfidus. In regressing to its bestial nature—the creature bit the hand that fed it—the lion is conceived as showing treacherous ingratitude towards its trainer. Martial wittily portrays this incident in terms of amicitia, a relationship characterized by reciprocity rather than equality. Ingratitude was seen as sufficient cause for severing the bonds of amicitia: Sen. Ben. 7. 31. 1, Saller (1982: 14). Condemnation of the ingratus homo is a topos in texts dealing with moral philosophy (e.g. Cic. Off. 1. 47): see Michel (1962: 502–29). If the lion had merely refused to obey its trainer, this behaviour would have been parallel to refusal on the part of an amicus to acknowledge in public his debt to his patron: Sen. Ben. 2. 23. 1, Saller (1982: 27). But ingratitude is condemned not merely as failure to observe the proprieties required in a reciprocal relationship, but as the direct cause of maleficent actions and hence the root of all crime, even the heinous sort: Sen. Ben. 1. 10. 4 'erunt homicidae, tyranni, fures, adulteri, raptores, sacrilegi, proditores: infra ista omnia ingratus est, nisi quod omnia ista ab ingrato animo sunt, sine quo uix ullum magnum facinus accreuit.'

leo: short o in the nom. sg. is first found in Ovid, although only once (AA 1. 762 'nunc leo, nunc arbor, nunc erit hirtus aper'). Thereafter both quantities are attested in Manilius, Germanicus, and Valerius Flaccus. The o is invariably short in Phaedrus, Seneca, Lucan, Silius Italicus, and Statius. Martial treats iambic nouns and verbs as pyrrhic, hence leŏ (Spect. 26. 11, Epigr. 1. 14. 5, 1. 60. 2, 2. 75. 1, 9. 71. 1, 9. 71. 10, 12. 92. 4). Cf. Mart. Cap. 9. 978 'aequale est igitur numeri genus, quod a disemo usque in sedecim pedes procedit, disemus autem appellatur pes, qui per arsin et thesin primus constare dicitur, ut est leo', Bednara (1905–6: 333), Hartenberger (1911: 86–92 = Martial, 99–105 = statistical tables for usage from Lucilius to the Ilias Latina).

magistrum: the misfortune that befell the magister implies that the display was neither a uenatio, nor an encounter between beast and beast (for which cf. Spect. 11) or between beast and bestiarius (cf. Spect. 17). Instead, Martial is pg 115describing a lion that had been trained to perform tricks in the arena. The nature of the lion's misdemeanour suggests that the trick in this case required the keeper to put his hand into the lion's jaws without supposedly coming to any harm. Seneca cites this feat as an example of the extent to which domitores ferarum can alter the natural temperament of their charges (Epist. 85. 41): 'leonis faucibus magister manum insertat.' It is one of the tricks performed in the arena by Domitian's favourite lion, at whose death he wept: Stat. Silu. 2. 5. 4–6 'quid, quod … suetus … insertas … manus laxo dimittere morsu?' Compare also Sen. Ben. 1. 2. 5 'leonum ora a magistris inpune tractantur', Spect. 21. 1–2 (a tigress trained to lick its keeper's hand), and Martial's cycle of epigrams on the lion displayed by Domitian which closed its jaws over a hare without harming it (1. 6, 14, 22, 44, 48, 51, 60, 104). But, as here, the training did not always work. Martial devotes a later epigram to another lion, trained to execute this trick, which nevertheless ran amok and mauled two of the slaves raking the sand in the arena: cf. 2. 75. 1–3 'uerbera securi solitus leo ferre magistri | insertamque pati blandus in ora manum | dedidicit pacem subito feritate reuersa', etc.

magister is the normal word for the person who trains and/or controls animals: see TLL viii. 84. 69–85. 3 (Wolff). Elsewhere in the Liber spectaculorum it is used of a person who trains elephants (20. 3) or tigers (21. 1), or of the attendants who supervise the entry of a rhinoceros into the arena (26. 1). The provenance of Dexter's hunting-hound, Lydia, for whom Martial composed an epitaph, may imply that the magistri employed hounds in training wild animals for the arena: cf. 11. 69. 1–2 'Amphitheatrales inter nutrita magistros | uenatrix'. Lydia's provenance also suggests that these magistri trained animals for private owners in addition to their official duties associated with the amphitheatre: see Jennison (1937: 81). The taming of lions is frequently cited as an example of the magister's prime responsibility, that of replacing the animal's natural ferocity with a mild and tractable temperament: cf. Manil. 4. 230–5 'at, quibus in bifero Centauri corpore sors est | nascendi concessa, libet … quadrupedum omne genus positis domitare magistris, | exorare tigris rabiemque auferre leoni', 5. 701 (of the person born under the constellation of the Great Bear) 'ille manus uastos poterit frenare leones', Firm. Mat. 8. 17. 6 'hoc itaque signo [= Septentrio] oriente quicumque nati fuerint, erunt mansuetarii ferarum, id est qui ursos uel tauros uel leones deposita feritate humanis conuersationibus socient.' It is, alas, impossible to gauge the response of those winners in Nero's public lotteries who were presented with wild animals that had been tamed (Suet. Nero 11. 2). It is easier to imagine the reaction of Elagabalus' drunken guests who are alleged to have woken to find his tame lions, leopards, and bears in their rooms at night (SHA Elag. 25. 1). On training animals see in general SG ii. 86–7. On the pg 116exhibiting of lions at the games see Keller (1909: 24–61), Toynbee (1973: 61–9).

The training and 'civilizing' of a wild animal was believed to inspire in it an instinctive loyalty towards its trainer: cf. Sen. Ben. 1. 2. 5 'officia etiam ferae sentiunt, nec ullum tam immansuetum animal est, quod non cura mitiget et in amorem sui uertat.' As with the permanent obligations enjoined upon the parties in the context of amicitia—on which see Michel (1962: 596)—the animal's loyalty might be portrayed as enduring despite its separation from its trainer, even to the extent of outweighing its pack instinct: cf. Sen. Ben. 2. 19. 1 'leonem in amphitheatro spectauimus, qui unum e bestiariis agnitum, cum quondam eius fuisset magister, protexit ab inpetu bestiarum.' A common topos, especially in epic similes, is the trained animal which, faced by weapons or blood, reverts to its natural ferocity and turns upon its trainer: cf. Luc. 4. 237–42, especially 240–2 'redeunt rabiesque furorque | admonitaeque tument gustato sanguine fauces; | feruet et a trepido uix abstinet ira magistro', Stat. Ach. 1. 858–63, especially 861–3 (where the animal interprets the weapons brandished in front of it as a breach of promise on the part of its trainer, i.e. the corollary to Martial's leo perfidus) 'si semel aduerso radiauit lumine ferrum, | eiurata fides domitorque inimicus, in illum | prima fames, timidoque pudet seruisse magistro', Juv. 14. 246–7 'nec tibi parcetur misero, trepidumque magistrum | in cauea magno fremitu leo tollet alumnus.'

Today's stereotype of the muscled lion-tamer wearing leopard-skin briefs is the antithesis of the representations surviving from Antiquity. A medallion on the amphitheatre mosaic in the Roman villa at Nennig in Germany depicts a lion clawing an antelope's head while an elderly man dressed (somewhat unexpectedly) in a long white tunic and sandals stands behind him holding a whip in his left hand and resting his right hand on the lion's flank: see Parlasca (1959: pl. 39 fig. 1), Hönle–Henze (1981: 71 fig. 40 f). The iconography is similar on a fragmentary sarcophagus relief from the third century ad in the Torlonia Collection in Rome, which depicts at one end a lion trampling a gazelle or wild goat while an elderly bearded man stands behind it holding a tapering prod in his right hand; the lion has a band around its belly that identifies it as an animal shown in the arena (Pl. 22).2 In both these representations it is unclear whether the kill comprised the actual display, the lion savaging the antelope only when its handler tells it to do so, or whether the pg 117

Pl. 22. Sarcophagus depicting a magister and a lion. Third century ad. Torlonia Collection, Rome

Pl. 22. Sarcophagus depicting a magister and a lion. Third century ad. Torlonia Collection, Rome

'prey' represents the lion's reward for having performed a trick similar to the one in which Martial's beast fatally disgraced itself.

2. contemerare: a compound of temerare, 'desecrate', which is attested prominently in verse from the Augustans onwards, and occasionally in post-Augustan prose. The compound is rare; only two other examples are attested: cf. Ov. Am. 2. 7. 18 'sollers ornare Cypassis obicitur dominae contemerasse torum', Ruf. Hist. 5. 28. 15 'diuinas scripturas absque ullo timore contemerant et corrumpentes eas emendare se dicunt', TLL iv. 634. 75–9 (Burger). Here, pg 118the reminiscence of Ovidian diction is probably deliberate, pointing to the quotation that constitutes the denouement of the epigram (see on l. 6).

3. dignas … poenas: the principle of matching the penalty to the gravity of the crime is frequently enunciated by the jurists, especially Marcianus: cf. Dig. 48. 13. 4. 2 'et sic constitutionibus cauetur, ut sacrilegi extra ordinem digna poena puniantur', 49. 14. 22. 2 'et adiecit et illum dignum fuisse puniri pro tam turpi tamque inuidioso commento.' This notion is distinct from talio, in which it is not the gravity of the crime but its nature that is reflected in the type of penalty (see on Spect. 4. 4).

4. qui non tulerat uerbera, tela tulit: the antithesis is pointed by the repetition of the same word in different inflections (tulerat … tulit), chiasmus, alliteration, and juxtaposition of neuter plural nouns. Verbal parataxis of the type fecit et facit is common from the beginnings of Latin (H–Sz 708), but the combination of stylistic embellishments here is especially reminiscent of Ovid: cf. AA 2. 166 'cum dare non possem munera, uerba dabam', Her. 9. 17 (Deianira to Hercules) 'quod te laturum est, caelum prius ipse tulisti', Frécaut (1972: 28–54). The figure points up the subtle difference between two senses of fero: the lion that had not suffered (i.e. put up with) the blows of its trainer suffered (i.e. sustained) a volley of weapons. Philo, arguing that performing animals do not learn by reasoning, mentions starvation as the trainers' means of coercion, without any reference to the whip: see De animalibus 90 (Armenian translation) = Terian (1981: 105).

6. ingenium mitius esse feris: the adjectives mitis and ferus are antonyms, hence the pointed contrast here between mitius and feris: cf. Ov. Her. 10. 1 (Ariadne to Theseus) 'mitius inueni quam te genus omne ferarum', Sen. Phaedr. 558 'mitius nil est feris.' For Martial's exact phrasing cf. Ov. Am. 1. 10. 26 (arguing that Corinna's avarice outstrips the rapacity of wild animals) 'turpe erit, ingenium mitius esse feris.' The epigrammatic roots of elegy, combined with Ovid's epigrammatic conceits, make his elegiac couplets congenial pasture for Martial, who alludes to him more frequently than to any other author, either by means of verbatim quotations (as here) or through more oblique intertextual allusions: see Zingerle (1877), Siedschlag (1972: 116, 156), Sullivan (1991: 105–7), Hinds (2007).

Apart from our example and its Ovidian prototype, ingenium is attributed to fauna in poetry of the classical period only at Virg. G. 1. 415–16 (of rooks: see Mynors ad loc.) 'haud equidem credo, quia sit diuinitus illis | ingenium aut rerum fato prudentia maior', Ov. Met. 15. 85–7 'at quibus ingenium est inmansuetumque ferumque, | Armeniae tigres iracundique leones | cumque lupis ursi dapibus cum sanguine gaudent' (with Bömer's n.). Prose examples cluster in technical authors, Varro (one example), Columella, the younger Seneca's Natural Questions (one example), the elder Pliny: see TLL vii/1. pg 1191534. 42–70 (Hofmann). But ingenium is not confined to the animal kingdom, being used of trees, minerals, etc., in both prose and verse: see TLL vii/1. 1534. 84–1535. 39. Everything, whether animate or inanimate, has its own 'nature'.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 The rhetorical potential of this motif is overlooked by Tremoli (1983: 388), who interprets this epigram as a veiled reference to the reputation for saeuitia that attached to Titus (Suet. Tit. 6. 1–7. 1), with whom he identifies the princeps at l. 5.
Editor’s Note
2 Although the sarcophagus has since been restored, a drawing in the 'Museo Cartaceo' of Cassiano dal Pozzo preserves the appearance of the relief in its fragmentary state, from which it is clear that the group with the old man and the lion is part of the original artefact: see Visconti (1883: no. 417), Rodenwaldt (1936: 226, pl. 152 fig. 1).
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