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

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The concluding poem of the Earinus cycle is by far the most elevated and religious in its tone and is completely lacking in any kind of sexual innuendo. Its opening has the features of a hymn to Aesculapius, beginning with a vocative, clearly resembling and probably influenced by the first line of Horace's hymn to Mercury (Carm. 1. 10) Mercuri, facunde nepos Atlantis. There is no mention of the god's name; instead, Martial invokes Aesculapius pg 79by an allusion to his ancestry, followed by a relative clause relating the god's powers, corresponding to Horace's Carm. 1. 10. 2–4 qui feros cultus hominum recentum | voce formasti catus et decorae | more palaestrae.1 The following four lines, opening with a demonstrative pronoun and describing the gifts of Earinus, break off the traditional form of the hymn and suggest a dedicatory inscription; Martial uses the same device in 1. 31. 1–2 (on the hair-offering of Encolpos) hos tibi, Phoebe, vovet totos a vertice crines | Encolpos, domini centurionis amor; see Citroni ad loc. The hymnal character is taken up again in line 7, a concluding prayer, missing in Horace but occurring, for example, in the conclusion of Catullus' hymn to Diana (34. 21–4) sis quocumque tibi placet | sancta nomine, Romulique, | antique ut solita's, bona | sospites ope gentem. The prayer in this poem does not necessarily express a wish of Earinus, but is rather a stock prayer for continuing youth. The same theme is to be found also in 1. 31 and 5. 48, where the poet asks Apollo to retain Encolpos' youthful beauty, although his locks have been newly shorn, and in 7. 29, where Martial expresses the wish that Thestylus may remain positis formosus … capillis.2

The epigrams in AP 6 involving offerings of hair by youths, although usually less elaborated than the present epigram, generally display the same arrangement (invocation, dedication, prayer).3 Regarding the concluding prayer, though, there is usually an acceptance of the fact that the donor is growing older, and the prayer is not for eternal youth as much as for a long and happy life (cf. e.g. AP 6. 198, 278, and 279), even though wishes for youth occur, for example, in AP 6. 76 (Agathias Scholasticus).

1. Latonae … nepos: Aesculapius is called the 'descendant of Latona' as the son of the mortal Coronis and Apollo, son of Latona.4 The same reference is found in Stat. Theb. 1. 577 sidereum Latonae … nepotem, but is otherwise unusual; Bruchmann (1893, s.v. ʼΑσκληπιός‎: 52) gives only one instance from Greek (Hes. fr. 51 Λητοίδης‎), to which add App. Anth. 4. 29. 2 and 52. 2, where Aesculapius is invoked as Λητοίδου παῖ,‎ 'son of Leto's child'.

mitibus herbis: 'mild herbs' (cf. Ser. Samm. Med. 633 sanguine mite columbae, Pan. Lat. 4. 9. 2 mitior medicina; TLL, s.v. mitis 1158, 56 ff.). The pg 80discovery of the use of herbs in medicine was made by Apollo and Aesculapius (according to Pythagoras: Plin. Nat. 25. 13); cf. Ov. Pont. 1. 3. 21.

2. Parcarum exoras pensa: as the god of healing, Aesculapius is said to be able to avert death. Pensum is, strictly speaking, the quantity of wool which a slave was supposed to spin in one day,5 but it is often used with reference to the term of life allotted to each human by the Fates; cf. 4. 54. 9, 4. 73. 3, 7. 96. 4, 9. 76. 7; TLL, s.v. pendo 1048, 43 ff.

brevesque colos: colus, literally 'distaff', is used here de ipso fato; cf. Sen. Her. f. 559 Parcarumque colos non revocabiles; TLL, s.v. 1744, 63 ff. Martial also has the accusative plural of the 4th declination in 7. 47. 8 raptas … colus.

3. laudatos domino: cf. Stat. Silv. 3. 4. 6 Accipe laudatos, iuvenis Phoebeie, crines. The word domino connects to domino in the preceding poem, which occupies the same position in the same verse. But whereas the reference in that case was clearly to Domitian, it is ambiguous here; it may still refer to the emperor as a dative of agent with laudatos, 'praised by his master'. But it may also be taken as an attribute of tibi, referring to Aesculapius (in which case laudatos may simply mean that the locks are generally praised for their beauty, or perhaps imply that they have been praised in verse, i.e. versibus laudatos, as in 9. 19. 1 Laudas balnea versibus trecentis and 11. 80. 3–4; TLL, s.v. 1043, 53 ff.). This ambiguity is played down by the following line, where Earinus is described as ille tuus … puer, which suggests Aesculapius as his dominus. But this does not mean that it is not very much present in line 3; an uncertainty of this kind, which must have had the reader wondering if the reference is to the emperor or to a god, would obviously have been flattering to Domitian.

rata vota: 'due offerings', cf. Ov. Ib. 97 nulla mora est in me: peragam rata vota sacerdos. Friedländer (1. 31 introd.) suggested that these words imply that such boys often vowed their locks to a god.

4. Latia … urbe: the circumlocution of Latia urbs for Rome is not found in the poets of the late Republic or the Augustan era but appears to be a Silver Latin phenomenon, occurring in Martial (6. 58. 9, 10. 96. 2, 12. 60. 4, and 12. 62. 8) Statius (Silv. 1. 4. 95), and Valerius Flaccus (1. 21). Cf. Ausonia urbs first used by Ovid (Pont. 3. 2. 101, 4. 8. 86), then Lucan (7. 33), Martial (Sp. 4. 5), and Statius (Silv. 4. 8. 20). The same two epithets are also used alternatively of the Appian Way (see 9. 64. 2 and 9. 101. 2 with notes).

5. nitidum … orbem: Earinus' mirror; cf. 9. 16. 1. For orbis as a metonymy of a mirror (perhaps a Graecism),6 see also Sen. Nat. 1. 17. 6, Ep. 86. 6; cf. TLL, s.v. 907, 75 ff.

Nitidum may perhaps suggest that the mirror was of high quality, plain and highly polished, so as to avoid distortion and give as accurate a reflection as pg 81possible of the viewer (cf. note on tuta below). That mirrors in antiquity were often deficient in this respect appears from the famous passage in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians (Vulg. Cor. 1. 13. 12) βλἐπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι‎ʼ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι‎, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον‎ (videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate: tunc autem facie ad faciem), which seems to imply that antique mirrors often gave an unclear and distorted view of the objects reflected in them; cf. AP 6. 210 (Philetas of Samos), where a certain Nicias is said to have offered to Cypris, among other things, her bronze mirror, which 'did not lack accuracy' (τὸν δὲ διαυγῆ‎ | χαλκόν‎, ἀκριβείης οὐκ ἀπολειπόμενον‎, 6. 210. 3–4).

6. quo … iudice: the only instance of a mirror being called the 'judge' of someone's beauty. Concrete objects are, on the whole, rarely referred to as iudices; for abstract things, cf. e.g. Cic. Phil. 5. 50 res publica, Liv. 21. 10. 9 eventus belli, Sen. Dial. 6. 4. 4 fama; see TLL, s.v. 603, 11 ff. Note, however, that the mirror is referred to as consilium formae in 9. 16. 1.

felix facies: for felix in the sense of 'beautiful' of things which are a delight to the eye, the ear, etc., cf. 9. 44. 2, Hor. Carm. 4. 13. 21–2 felix post Cinaram notaque et artium | gratarum facies, Stat. Silv. 5. 1. 54 et felix species multumque optanda maritis. I find it difficult to join Garthwaite (1978: 79–80) in his assumption that the word felix includes an ironical notion of fertility, alluding to the contrast between the significance of his name and his actual physical state.

tuta: 'safe from adverse judgement'; cf. Prop. 2. 13. 14 nam domina iudice tutus ero, Ov. Tr. 5. 11. 22 tuta suo iudice causa mea est. Earinus' safety depends on the high quality of his mirror (see note on nitidum … orbem above).

7. iuvenale decus: 'juvenile beauty', which largely consisted in his intonsi capilli; cf. Ov. Met. 1. 564 meum intonsis caput est iuvenale capillis with Bömer's note. The juncture is found only here, but cf. Stat. Silv. 2. 1. 155 puerile decus, 2. 6. 38 femineum.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 As in Horace, such references to ancestry usually stand in apposition to the god's name (cf., e.g. Catul. 34. 5 O Latonia maximi magna progenies Iovis). For the relative clause, cf. e.g. Lucr. 1. 2–4 alma Venus, caeli subter labentia signa | quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferentis | concelebras. See E. Norden, Agnostos theos (Leipzig and Berlin, 1913), 148 and 168–76 respectively.
Editor’s Note
2 Note that in Statius' poem, the prayer at the end (Silv. 3. 4. 99–106) is for eternal, youthful beauty and a long life for Domitian.
Editor’s Note
3 See Schmoock 1911: 33 ff.
Editor’s Note
4 Nisbet–Hubbard (on Hor. Carm. 1. 10. 1) point out that 'nepos has none of the prosaic note of English "grandson" ' and give Ov. Fast. 5. 663 Clare nepos Atlantis and Claud. Rapt. Pros. 1. 89 Atlantis Tegeaee nepos as comparable instances.
Editor’s Note
5 Blümner 1912: 122.
Editor’s Note
6 So Schmoock 1911: 35, with reference to AP 6. 18. 6 (Iulianus), where there is a similar use of δίσκος‎.
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