Christer Henriksen (ed.), A Commentary on Martial, Epigrams Book 9

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pg 371Editor’s Note95b

  • Editor’s Note1        Nomen Athenagorae credis, Callistrate, verum.
  • 2           Si scio, dispeream, qui sit Athenagoras.
  • 3        Sed puta me verum, Callistrate, dicere nomen:
  • 4           non ego, sed vester peccat Athenagoras.

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Editor’s Note
This epigram, the sequel to 9. 95, was joined to it in the manuscripts and was first separated by Scriverius, the two being obviously separate pieces.1 They are nonetheless intimately connected, the former occasioning a situation from which the latter emerges (cf. the introduction to 9. 53). The present epigram also provides some information useful for the understanding of the preceding one, but the main theme here is Martial's use of pseudonyms. A certain Callistratus, a name used elsewhere by Martial of a passive homosexual, thinks that Athenagoras is in fact the name of the person mocked. Martial denies this, in accordance with his manifesto as formulated in the preface to Book 1.2 But suppose that Athenagoras is the real name of the target: it would still not be Martial but Athenagoras who is at fault; but Martial does not reveal why this is so.
Of relevance to the understanding of both 9. 95 and 95b is the word vester, effectively placed in the concluding line, as it reveals a connection between Callistratus (itself, of course, a pseudonym) and the Athenagoras he has in mind; probably, this Athenagoras is of the same kind as or perhaps even the 'friend' of Callistratus, who, with reference to the occurrences of the name in Book 12 (see below), may be understood as being a homosexual. Now, this is essential to the point, for the fault of Athenagoras cannot be simply that he has the same name as one of Martial's characters (as Friedländer wanted), as many of the pseudonyms used by Martial are quite ordinary names. The point would rather be that Athenagoras, while having the same name, also has a behaviour similar enough for him to be confused with the Athenagoras of 9. 95, and peccat in line 4 would refer to this behaviour. Martial, on the other hand, cannot have committed a fault, since he knows no Athenagoras; instead, the one who has exposed the 'real' Athenagoras is the complaining Callistratus.3 The epigram may be paraphrased as follows: Callistratus (still a pseudonym) knows of a 'real' Athenagoras, who, he thinks, is the target of 9. 95; if that were the case, Martial would have made himself guilty of a personal attack of the kind which he has always claimed to abstain from. However, Martial cannot have committed such a fault, as he knows no Athenagoras. But suppose that the poet has unintentionally used the name of a real person: he would still not be to blame, as he did not act on purpose, but the 'real' Athenagoras is obviously at fault, being so easily identified as the Athenagoras of 9. 95.
Editor’s Note
1 Cf. here the similarly arranged 2. 21–3: in the two former poems, Martial mocks a certain Postumus, while, in the last one, he replied to a person asking for Postumus' identity: Non dicam, licet usque me rogetis, | qui sit Postumus in meo libello, | non dicam: quid enim mihi necesse est | has offendere basiationes, | quae se tam bene vindicare possunt?
Editor’s Note
2 In the preface to Book 1, Martial states that the jokes in his books are made salva infirmarum quoque personarum reverentia and continues: quae adeo antiquis auctoribus defuit, ut nominibus non tantum veris abusi sint, sed et magnis; cf. 5. 15. 1–2, 7. 12, 10. 33. 9–10 Hunc servare modum nostri novere libelli, | parcere personis, dicere de vitiis; see also the note on 9. 40. 1 Diodorus.
Editor’s Note
3 A similar explanation is given by Eden 1994.
Editor’s Note
1. credis: this is the reading of the manuscripts of both the β‎- and the γ‎-group, accepted by all editors except Duff and Izaac, who printed the reading of αquaeris. But this is obviously erroneous, as it does not fit with line 3 Sed puta
Editor’s Note
Callistrate: the same name appears in four other epigrams (5. 13, 12. 35, 42, and 80), always with a derogatory notion. Most important to the present epigram are 12. 35 and 42, which depict Callistratus as a passive homosexual, a suggestion which is conveniently applied also to the present one.4 Dornseiff and Eden (see the introduction to 9. 95 for the titles) also identified Callistratus as a homosexual, but the conclusions drawn from this by Dornseiff are preposterous. Eden takes the interest shown by the homosexual Callistratus in the marriage of Athenagoras as an indication that this was in fact a homosexual union, and that this would be Athenagoras' peccatum.
Editor’s Note
4 Admittedly, the chief difficulty about the identification of Callistratus as a homosexual in this case is that this name is only used for a homosexual in Book 12, and that it is not clear how the readers of Book 9 could identify him as such. It is quite possible, though, that the name suggested a homosexual to Martial's readers, even if we, lacking much of the frames of reference of a late 1st-century Roman, are unable to see the reason.
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