Martial [Marcus Valerius Martialis]

Gideon Nisbet (ed.), Oxford World's Classics: Martial: Epigrams

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pg 24109

  • Issa est passere nequior Catulli,
  • Issa est purior osculo columbae,
  • Issa est blandior omnibus puellis,
  • Issa est carior Indicis lapillis,
  • Issa est deliciae catella Publi.
  • hanc tu, si queritur, loqui putabis;
  • sentit tristitiamque gaudiumque.
  • collo nixa cubat capitque somnos,
  • ut suspiria nulla sentiantur;
  • et desiderio coacta uentris
  • gutta pallia non fefellit ulla,
  • sed blando pede suscitat toroque
  • deponi monet et rogat leuari.
  • castae tantus inest pudor catellae,
  • ignorat Venerem; nec inuenimus
  • dignum tam tenera uirum puella.
  • hanc ne lux rapiat suprema totam,
  • picta Publius exprimit tabella,
  • in qua tam similem uidebis Issam,
  • ut sit tam similis sibi nec ipsa.
  • Issam denique pone cum tabella:
  • aut utramque putabis esse ueram,
  • aut utramque putabis esse pictam.


pg 25109

  • Issa is saucier than Catullus's Sparrow,
  • Issa is purer than a Dove's kiss,
  • Issa is smoother-tongued than all the girls,
  • Issa is dearer than pearls from India,
  • Issa is Publius' darling … puppy.

If she whimpers, you'd think she was talking; she can tell when people are sad or happy. She stretches with her head on his neck and has her nap, and you can't feel her sighing little breaths; and when she needs to give in to her tummy's demands not a single dribble dismays the bedsheets—instead she pokes him awake with a winsome paw, lets him know to set her down, and asks to be picked up when she's done. This chaste puppy is so naturally modest, she knows not the Goddess of Love, and we can find no husband worthy of such a tender maid. That the end of her days may not rob him of her completely, Publius is painting her portrait in miniature;* in it you will see a likeness of Issa more like to her than she is herself. Indeed, put Issa next to the picture and either:

1. you'll think them both real, or

2. you'll think them both paintings.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1.109 her portrait in miniature: as at 7.84, the small-scale portrait is painted on a piece of board (tabella). Numerous examples of such portraits survive from the Fayum in Egypt, where Graeco-Roman portraiture was combined with Egyptian mummification.
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