Christer Henriksen (ed.), A Commentary on Martial, Epigrams Book 9
pg 291Editor’s Note70
- Editor’s Note1 Dixerat 'o mores! o tempora!' Tullius olim,
- Editor’s Note2 sacrilegum strueret cum Catilina nefas,
- Editor’s Note Link 3 cum gener atque socer diris concurreret armis
- Editor’s Note Link 4 maestaque civili caede maderet humus.
- Editor’s Note5 Cur nunc 'o mores!', cur nunc 'o tempora!' dicis?
- Editor’s Note6 Quod tibi non placeat, Caeciliane, quid est?
- Editor’s Note7 Nulla ducum feritas, nulla est insania ferri;
- 8 pace frui certa laetitiaque licet.
- 9 Non nostri faciunt, tibi quod tua tempora sordent,
- 10 sed faciunt mores, Caeciliane, tui.
A certain Caecilianus lets fly at contemporary society (or, one may ask, at the rudeness of the preceding poem?), using Cicero's famous O tempora! O mores! In the reign of Domitian, this is nothing other than straining after effect, and to illustrate this, the poem compares the times of Cicero with its own, devoting to distich to each, emphatically repeating Cicero's exclamation in a paraphrase in line 5, and ending with a concluding distich in which the tempora and mores (hitherto quoted in reverse order) get one verse each.
The epigram is akin to those in which a rebuker of other men's morals is found himself to be morally depraved, but in this case, the scene is changed from moral philosophy to oratory. The character Caecilianus is an orator who, in his eagerness to imitate Cicero, takes over words and phrases not applicable to the times of Domitian, attacking fictitious public viciousness, intrigues, and a nefas that does not exist. The society that paved the way for Catiline's conspiracy is described by Sallust as tanta tamque corrupta civitas (Sal. Cat. 14. 1), the culmination of his long digression about the moral decline of Rome (5. 8–13. 5). It was, he says, the corrupti civitatis mores (5. 8) that affected Catiline himself and made his already depraved character even worse. But Rome under Domitian is a morally unassailable and politically stable society that should not really breed monsters such as Catiline. In the case of Caecilianus, though, it has obviously failed: for in using Cicero's famous phrase, Caecilianus actually seems to criticize the current, peaceful state of things and wish for its opposite, like Cicero wished for order in times of political unrest. It would seem that their alliterative names are not really coincidential—Caecilianus actually is a Catiline in the guise of Cicero.
Martial's description of the late Republic strongly reminds us of Ovid's Age of Iron. In fact, Martial's wording seems meant to recall the description of Ovid; according to the Metamorphoses, the Iron Age was subject to omne nefas (Met. 1. 129); it was an age of war and blood (ibid., 142–3); there is even the reference to hostilities between father-in-law and son-in-law (non socer a genero [sc. tutus], ibid. 145, itself naturally an allusion to Caesar and Pompey). Consequently, the reign of Domitian with nulla ducum feritas and nulla insania ferri (see below on line 7) would be the new Golden Age, although this is not explicitly stated; note also that, in describing the new age, Martial begins by telling what it is not; in the same way, Ovid's description of the Golden Age is crowded with negations (see Bömer 1969–86: i. 48–9). Although there was a tradition in Rome, after Vergil's fourth Eclogue, of presenting the emperor as the founder of a new Golden Age (Sauter 1934: 19 ff.), there are few references to Domitian's reign as an aetas aurea in Martial: 5. 19. 1–6 and 8. 55. 1–2 may point in that direction, and 9. 31 and 71 apparently depicts Domitian as the Prince of Peace, albeit in a somewhat enigmatic way. Explicit references are, however, to be found in Statius; thus Silv. 1. 6. 39–50 (see Sauter 1934: 21 ff.).
1. o mores! o tempora!: Martial frequently mentions Cicero as the prime model of Roman rhetoric and prose (as Vergil is that of poetry),1 and this explicit reference to the first speech against Catiline (Catil. 1. 2) shows the fame enjoyed by the speech in antiquity. But it was not the first, nor was it the only one in which Cicero exclaimed O tempora! O mores! He had done so in Ver. 4. 56, and afterwards in Dom. 137 and Deiot. 31. The phrase is cited also in Sen. Suas. 6. 3, and Quintilian mentions it as an instance of affected exclamation (Inst. 9. 2. 26).
The inverted order of the quotation is due to the desirability of strong caesurae particularly in the first three feet of the hexameter. Since the phrase ō tēmpŏră can only be followed by a diaeresis, it has been fitted into the fourth foot, while the metrically much more convenient ō mōrēs (which can be put anywhere but in the fifth foot) has been used to create both trithemimeresis and penthemimeresis.
1 Cf. 3. 38. 3, 4. 16. 5, 5. 51. 5, 5. 56. 5, 5. 69, 7. 63. 6, 11. 48. 2, 14. 188. However, he was not a divinely gifted poet (2. 89. 4).
2. sacrilegum … Catilina nefas: cf. 5. 69. 4 hoc admisisset nec Catilina nefas. Because of his attempted overthrow of the state during the consulship of Cicero, Catiline became the model of sinful traitors, a kind of Roman Judas, a fact of which there is ample literary evidence (see TLL, s.v. Catilina 259, 70–261, 21); Vergil puts him in Tartarus (A. 8. 668), and Courtney (on Juv. 10. 288) remarks that 'Catiline to Juvenal … is the chief of sinners, as to Vergil … ; both authors regard the attempted overthrow of the state with true conservative Roman horror'; the same may well be said about Martial. See also Juv. 2. 27, 8. 231, and 14. 41.
3. gener atque socer: Caesar and Pompey, often referred to in this way after Catul. 29. 24 socer generque, perdidistis omnia; cf. Verg. Cat. 6. 6, A. 6. 830, the innuendo in Ov. Met. 1. 145 (with Bömer), Luc. 1. 289, 4. 802, and 10. 417.
diris … armis: Martial might have picked up this phrase from Prop. 2. 9b. 49, where it is used about the war between the sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices (with similar reference to internecine slaughter); and it is surely also influenced by the dirae ferro et compagibus artis | … Belli portae (Verg. A. 1. 293–4), which Jupiter predicts will be closed in the reign of Augustus, when the civil war has ended and Remo cum fratre Quirinus | iura dabunt (1. 292–3).
4. maestaque civili caede maderet humus: obviously an echo of Ov. Fast. 1. 312 sparsaque caelesti rore madebit humus (as observed by Siedschlag 1972: 159), which, however, is simply an indication of time in high epic manner; it seems that also Met. 1. 149–50 virgo caede madentis | ultima caelestum terras Astraea reliquit must have crossed Martial's mind here.
5. cur nunc … cur nunc: Martial adds an anaphora with asyndeton to emphasize Caecilianus' rhetorical zeal.
6. Caeciliane: thus Tγ, M(a)eciliane β. In five of the 15 epigrams containing the name Caecilianus, there are alternative readings. The same variant as here is found in 1. 73. 2, where T, again, offers Meciliane for the C(a)eciliane of β and γ, and in 4. 15. 2, in which γ has meciciliane, which is obviously wrong for M(a)eciliane.
It has been argued that Maeciliane may well be the correct reading in these instances, being the more uncommon name and thus the lectio difficilior, whereas Caeciliane, a very common name, would be the result of interpolation. In this particular case, Caecilianus (printed by all editors with the exception of Schneidewin's first edition and Shackleton Bailey) may perhaps be supported by the alliteration with Catilina. But for want of conclusive proof in either direction, there is no means of making a definitive judgement, and therefore a fortasse recte should be added, with Heraeus and Citroni, to Maecilianus. See further Citroni's introductions to 1. 65 (213) and 1. 73 (236).
7. ducum feritas: Martial is perhaps thinking primarily of the Sullan proscriptions and the second triumvirate, whose cruelty was notorious;2 cf. note on 9. 43. 10.
Note the position of feritas immediately before the penthemimeresis and of ferri at the verse-ending, by which Martial perhaps means to indicate an etymological connection between the two nouns;3 see Grewing 1998b: 335.
2 Sulla's proscriptions were largely made for the benefit of his veterans, who play a considerable role in Sallust as suitable material for Catiline's mob.
3 Martial would be wrong to assume a common etymology in this case; see Ernout–Meillet, s.v. ferus and ferrum respectively.
7–8. nulla … insania ferri; | pace … certa: after Domitian's return in early 93 from the Second Pannonian War, Rome had enjoyed a time of peace, even though this was not the pax certa extolled by Martial. Domitian seems to have had plans for and had perhaps also begun a third war in the north; however, the present lines show that, when this epigram was written, and in all likelihood at the time of publication of Book 9, a third campaign on the Danube could not yet have begun; see further Introduction, 3.2.2.
This distich may be seen as the first in a series of hints in this book at Domitian's reign as a Golden Age; the next comes already in the following poem. This notion, and Martial's efforts to present the emperor as a Prince of Peace, has as its model the Hellenistic Εἰρηνοποιός, adopted by the Romans and applied by Vergil to Augustus and by Calpurnius Siculus to Nero etc. (cf. Sauter 1934: 17–18). In Martial's case, it is almost exclusively connected with the ending of the Second Pannonian War, presumably rather as a result of wishful thinking than of fact; see 7. 80. 1–2 and 8. 15, poems that may be considered as having sprung from the poet's premature desire to celebrate his emperor as a bringer of peace. In the present epigram, though, the emphasis on peace is better established in reality; when it was written, there had in fact been a couple of years of peace since the emperor's return from the north; the same goes for 9. 31. 9–10 and 101. 21. Before the Second Pannonian War, Martial had produced a celebration of peace only in 14. 34, written after the war against the Chatti in the early 80s, in which, as in the present case, he talks of a pax certa, although the peace then was as fragile as the one mentioned here (see Introduction, 3.2.1).
The word ferri may have been chosen here to emphasize the idea of the late Republic as an aetas ferrea, widening the expression from 'the insanity of war' to 'the insanity of the Iron Age'. For insania as a quality of war and sedition, see TLL, s.v., 1828, 35–43.