Christer Henriksen (ed.), A Commentary on Martial, Epigrams Book 9
- Editor’s Note Link 1 Alcide, Latio nunc agnoscende Tonanti,
- Editor’s Note2 postquam pulchra dei Caesaris ora geris,
- Editor’s Note3 si tibi tunc isti vultus habitusque fuissent,
- 4 cesserunt manibus cum fera monstra tuis:
- Editor’s Note5 Argolico famulum non te servire tyranno
- Editor’s Note6 vidissent gentes saevaque regna pati,
- Editor’s Note Link 7 sed tu iussisses Eurysthea; nec tibi fallax
- Link 8 portasset Nessi perfida dona Lichas,
- Editor’s Note Link 9 Oetaei sine lege rogi securus adisses
- Editor’s Note10 astra patris summi, quae tibi poena dedit;
- Editor’s Note Link 11 Lydia nec dominae traxisses pensa superbae,
- Editor’s Note12 nec Styga vidisses Tartareumque canem.
- Editor’s Note13 Nunc tibi Iuno favet, nunc te tua diligit Hebe;
- Editor’s Note14 nunc te si videat nympha, remittet Hylan.
This poem is attached to the preceding one in the manner observed earlier in this book (cf. 9. 44 and 55 and see Introduction, 4.2), giving a freer treatment of the new statue of Hercules bearing the features of Domitian (see 9. 64 introd.). Here, Martial turns directly to Hercules, praising him as lucky in his newly won likeness to Domitian: had such a divinely beautiful face been his in his lifetime, he would not have attracted the anger of Juno, nor would he have had to perform the Labours that it brought in its train and to suffer the fire of Oeta to gain immortality; he would have gained his place among the gods without having to earn it.
In a way, Domitian's effect on Hercules is presented as that of a god on a human. Compare the section about Berenice, the king's mother, in Theocritus' Idyll 17, the Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus; here, it is said of Berenice that 'no woman has ever yet so pleased her husband as Ptolemy loved his wife' (referring to Ptolemy I Soter, father of Philadelphus), because Aphrodite 'pressed her delicate hands upon Berenice's fragrant breast' (36–9). The poet then continues with an apostrophe to Aphrodite: 'through you fair Berenice did not cross Acheron, the cause of so much lamentation, but before she descended to the black boat and the ever-hateful ferryman of those who have passed on, you snatched her up, set her in your temple, and gave her a share in your own honor. In her kindliness to all mortals she inspires gentle loves, and easy to bear are the cares she bestows upon the yearning lover' (46–52).1 The actual details of Berenice's deifidation are not known, but Richard Hunter observes that verse 50 (ἐς ναὸν κατέθηκας, ἑᾶς δʼ ἀπεδάσσαο τιμᾶς) 'suggests that Berenice became a σύνναος θεός with Aphrodite, that is, an image of her was placed in Aphrodite's temple'.2 Thus, through her association with the goddess, Berenice escaped the fate that would have awaited her as a mere mortal.
Here, the situation is reversed: through his present association with Domitian, Hercules would have escaped the sufferings which myth had in store for him, had it not come too late to prevent them. Now, the poem is more of a prophecy of what is in store for the Roman Hercules: Domitian will be taken up among the gods, welcomed by all, without labours and without pain. There is a similar, while not equally realized comparison in 5. 65: the Labours of Hercules are compared to the games given by Domitian in the arena, the concluding lines foreseeing the emperor's reception among the gods on his death: Pro meritis caelum tantis, Auguste, dederunt | Alcidae cito di, sed tibi sero dabunt (5. 65. 15–16). For the comparison between Hercules and Domitian, see further, Introduction, 3.3.2.
1 Richard Hunter's translation (Theocritus, Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Text and Translation with Introduction and Commentary by Richard Hunter, Berkely etc., 2003).
2 Ibid. 136.
1. Latio … agnoscende Tonanti: 'whom Jupiter now can acknowledge as his own'; for this sense of the gerundive, see note on 9. 49. 7 anus et … vix accipienda.
As a Greek national hero, Heracles was naturally the son of the Greek Zeus rather than of the specifically Roman Iuppiter Capitolinus (here mentioned as Latius Tonans, as in Luc. 8. 219 [foedera] per Latium iurata Tonantem). But now, when a genuinely Roman Hercules has appeared in the shape of Domitian, Jupiter can freely acknowledge him as his son.
2. pulchra … ora: Domitian was in fact said to have been good-looking; cf. Suet. Dom. 18. 1 Statura fuit procera, vultu modesto ruborisque pleno, grandibus oculis, verum acie hebetiore; praeterea pulcher ac decens, maxime in iuventa, et quidem toto corpore exceptis pedibus, quorum digitos restrictiores habebat.
dei Caesaris: the only instance mentioning Domitian as 'Caesar the god'; see Introduction, 3.3.3.
3. isti vultus habitusque: 'this face and this bearing', but here perhaps rather 'this face and this outfit', alluding to the face of Domitian combined with the usual attributes of Hercules, which surely would have been present in the statue; the same distinction is made in Verg. A. 1. 315 virginis os habitumque gerens.
For the phrase, cf. Hor. S. 2. 4. 92 voltum habitumque hominis, Calp. Ecl. 7. 76–7 (alluding to Nero) tibi si propius venerandum cernere numen | fors dedit et praesens vultumque habitumque notasti; also Stat. Theb. 2. 230, 4. 546, 6. 263. Similar expressions with the same metrical position are Verg. G. 1. 52 cultusque habitusque (cf. Sil. 15. 171), Man. 1. 342 cursumque habitumque, Stat. Theb. 7. 222 mentemque habitumque, 10. 678 gressumque habitumque, Silv. 2. 6. 104 moresque habitusque.
5. Argolico … tyranno: sc. Eurystheus of Argos, referred to as Argolicus tyrannus also in Luc. 9. 367, in whose service Hercules performed the Twelve Labours.
According to the tradition of the Iliad (19. 103–33), Heracles' service under Eurystheus was the result of Hera's cunning; bitter about Zeus having got Alcmene pregnant with Heracles, she made her husband promise that any descendant of Perseus who was born on a certain day should rule Mycenae. As the goddess of birth, Hera delayed the delivery of Alcmene and accelerated the birth of Eurystheus (cf. Sen. Her. f. 830 Natus Eurystheus properante partu). Although there are alternative traditions (for example, Eur. HF 13–25), the Homeric story has exerted the greater influence, and in Latin poetry Juno is generally blamed for the Labours of Hercules; cf. Verg. A. 8. 288–93, Ov. Ep. 9. 5–8, 9. 45, Met. 9. 15 (cf. Bömer 1969–86 iv. 360 ff.), Stat. Silv. 3. 1. 22; see Preller–Robert ii. 615 ff.
6. saevaque regna: because of the Labours he imposed upon Hercules, the poets presented Eurystheus as the hero's brutal enemy and supplied him with epithets such as Stheneleius hostis (Ov. Ep. 9. 25) and Eurysthea durum (Verg. G. 3. 4); see Bömer on Ov. Met. 9. 203.
7. iussisses: with ellipsis of an infinitive like tua regna pati (so Friedländer) or servire; cf. TLL, s.v. iubeo 582, 58 ff.
7–8. fallax … Nessi perfida dona Lichas: the fatal garment, smeared with the blood of Nessus the centaur. It was given to Hercules by his herald Lichas on behalf of Deianeira, the hero's wife, whom Nessus was trying to abduct when he was shot by Hercules with an arrow steeped in the poison of the Hydra. As the hero fell in love with Iole, daughter of Eurytus of Oechalia (see below on line 11), Deianeira, believing that the centaur's blood would work as a love-potion (as she had been told by the dying Nessus), prepared the garment to regain her husband. But the blood of the centaur was infected with the poison, and the garment stuck to the body of Hercules, who then sought his death in the fire on Mt. Oeta; see Kroll in RE xiii. s.v. Lichas 260–1; Escher, ibid. 4, s.v. Deϊaneira 2378 ff.; Eitrem, ibid. 9, s.v. Iole 1, 1847–8; Bömer 1969–86 iv. 310 ff.
Lichas was not really fallax, because he did not know of the powers of the garment (Ov. Met. 9. 155 ignaroque Lichae, quid tradat), even though he appeared so from Hercules' point of view ('Tune, Licha,' dixit 'feralia dona dedisti? | Tune meae necis auctor eris?' Ov. Met. 9. 213–14), who threw his herald against a rock in the ocean when he became aware of the effect of the garment (see Bömer 1969–86 iv. 341 ff.).
9. Oetaei sine lege rogi: 'without the necessity of [= having to be burnt in] the fire at Oeta', cf. TLL, s.v. lex 1250, 61 ff.; the fire at Oeta, whence Hercules was taken up among the gods, was a condition for his divinization, as it purified him of his mortal human elements (Preller–Robert ii. 597 ff.).
The phrase sĭnĕ lēgĕ may warrant a short metrical digression. A modern reader will probably be reminded particularly about Ovid's words of the Golden Age in Metamorphoses 1, but its first occurrence in poetry is a sententious pentameter by Propertius, aurum lex sequitur, mox sine lege pudor (3. 13. 50). It was soon picked up by Ovid, though, who was to reserve it for use in the hexameter, first in a kind of set phrase about dishevelled locks that he set aside for the clausula: ecce, iacent collo sparsi sine lege capilli (Ep. 15. 73, recurring also in Ars 3. 133 munditiis capimur: non sint sine lege capilli and Met. 1. 477 vitta coercebat positos sine lege capillos), later with the same position but without a fixed context (Met. 11. 489 hic rapit antemnas; quae dum sine lege geruntur); this position recurs only once outside Ovid, in Sil. 16. 202 militiae, qui dispersas sine lege catervas.
Once, Ovid uses the phrase to create a weak caesura before the penthemimeresis (Met. 2. 204 hac sine lege ruunt altoque sub aethere fixis), and only once, too, to achieve a weak caesura between trithemimeresis and hephthemimeresis; this is the famous line about the Golden Age, which sponte sua, sine lege fidem rectumque colebat (Met. 1. 90). It is probably to be seen as an indication of the fame of this passage that subsequent poets (with the exception of Silius just quoted) only use sine lege in this particular position; this is the case in V. Fl. 6. 445 (datque alias sine lege colus. hanc maxima Circe), in Stat. Theb. 6. 768 (consumit sine lege manus atque inrita frendit) and Silv. 3. 3. 49 (parendi sine lege manet? vice cuncta reguntur), as well as in the present line.3
3 It is not surprising to find that three of the remaining four verses have exactly the same sequence of long and short syllables in the final three feet as does Met. 1. 90, and that the difference is only a matter of whether the first foot is a dactyl (as in Ovid and Valerius Flaccus) or a spondee (as in the present case and in the Thebaid). This is due to the fact that the sequence only can occur in this position (i.e. between the trithemimeresis and the caesura κατὰ τρίτον τροκαῖον) in four metrical schemata (1, 2, 9, and 10; see Introduction, 2), of which Ovid and Valerius are instances of no. 9, Martial and the Thebaid of no. 10. The remaining line, Stat. 3. 3. 49 is an instance of schema no. 2. When it comes to the division of caesurae and diaereses (which is of greater importance to the 'feel' of the verse than the sequence of quantities), each of the verses are different (the closest similarity being between Martial and the instance from the Silvae, in spite of the difference in schema).
10. astra … poena dedit: on poena = 'your suffering', i.e. the Labours, cf. 5. 65. 1–2 Astra polumque dedit … | Alcidae Nemees terror et Arcas aper, 5. 65. 15, 9. 101. 22, and 14. 124. 2 magno qui [sc. Domitian] dedit astra patri. Heracles was promised immortality because of his Labours by Athena and Hermes (D.S 4. 10) or by the oracle at Delphi (Apollod. 2. 73); cf. Gruppe 1918: 1020 and see Stat. Silv. 3. 1. 25–6 virtute parata | astra, Sen. Ag. 813–14, and Her. O. 31–2.
The apotheosis of Hercules is frequently considered as a migration in astra; cf., for example, Ov. Met. 9. 271–2, Fast. 2. 478, 3. 186, Sen. Her. f. 437, Her. O. 1433, 1942–3, 1972, 1977–8, V. Fl. 4. 35–6, Stat. Theb. 11. 46–7, Silv. 3. 1. 25–6, 4. 6. 53. There is, naturally, no question of catasterism (cf. note on 9. 101. 22), but of astra as metonymy for the dwelling of the gods, see TLL, s.v. astrum 972, 75 ff.
11. Lydia … dominae … pensa superbae: without the knowledge of Deianeira, Heracles had asked king Eurytus of Oechalia for the hand of his daughter Iole and been denied. In revenge, he killed Eurytus' son Iphitus. Because of this crime, Zeus sentenced him to pay a sum of money to Eurytus and, in order to earn this sum, he was sold as a slave to Omphale, queen of Lydia, and remained in her service for a year, performing various deeds.
The theme of the hero serving under a woman was much favoured in literature and art. Old Attic comedy seized upon its comic potential, comparing Pericles and Aspasia to Heracles and Omphale, and the theme was further developed by Hellenistic writers. In Latin poetry, Hercules' enslavement to Omphale is generally presented as a servitium amoris, and the hero as wearing women's clothes and spinning, the queen as wearing the lion skin and wielding the club; cf. Prop. 3. 11. 17–20, 4. 9. 45–50, Ov. Ep. 9. 55–118, Ars 2. 217–18, Fast. 2. 303–58; see Preller–Robert ii. 567–8 and Herzog-Hauser in RE xviii. s.v. Omphale 389 ff.
12. Styga … Tartareumque canem: a pentameter echoing Ov. Ars 3. 322 Tartareosque lacus tergeminumque canem (Siedschlag 1972: 159), which refers to Orpheus' fetching of Cerberus from Hades with the aid of his song and his lyre (demonstrating the power of music, which would be reason enough for Ovid's audience of puellae to learn the instrument); Hercules' accomplishment of the same feat was, naturally, much more laborious: see note on 9. 101. 8 cum cane. Tartareus canis of Cerberus also in 5. 34. 4.
13. Nunc … Iuno … nunc … Hebe: nunc, i.e. 'after your deification' (which was gained, then, after considerable hardships); cf. [Sen.] Oct. 210–11 deus Alcides possidet Heben | nec Iunonis iam timet iras. On his ascension into the heavens, Heracles was reconciled to Hera and married to Hebe, goddess of youth and, according to the Homeric tradition (e.g. Hom. Od. 11. 603–4), her daughter with Zeus. Later tradition considered her the daughter of Hera alone (see Bömer on Ov. Met. 9. 400) and the marriage a sign of the reconciliation (Preller–Robert ii. 601).
14. nunc te si videat nympha: the previous line, which is a statement of 'mythological fact', paves the way, as it were, for the concluding witticism which brings together myth and reality. The repetition of nunc, here in the sense of 'now, when you have got the features of Domitian', makes the previous line lose something of its colour to this line and vice versa: the fact stated in line 13 lends a notion of actual possibility to line 14, while the latter, with its notion of contemporaneousness, seemingly suggests that also the love of Juno and Hebe is in fact due to Hercules' new likeness to Domitian. In this case, though, his new looks would not have done him any good: should the nymph who pulled down fair Hylas into her spring set eyes on the new Hercules, she would let go of the boy and take Hercules instead. A very similar point—although without the humour—is made in 6. 68, a poem about Eutychos, the puer of Castricus, who had died by drowning at Baiae: numquid te vitreis nudum lasciva sub undis | vidit et Alcidae nympha remisit Hylan? (6. 68. 7). For the story of Hylas, see note on 9. 25. 7 Hylan, and compare the similar mythological twist in the concluding distich of 9. 103.