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Martial [Marcus Valerius Martialis]

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

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  • Quod tibi Decembri mense, quo uolant mappae
  • gracilesque ligulae cereique chartaeque
  • et acuta senibus testa cum Damascenis,
  • praeter libellos uernulas nihil misi,
  • fortasse auarus uidear aut inhumanus.
  • odi dolosas munerum et malas artes;
  • imitantur hamos dona: namque quis nescit
  • auidum uorata decipi scarum musca?
  • quotiens amico diuiti nihil donat,
  • o Quintiane, liberalis est pauper.



It's December, when gifts speed to and fro—napkins, slender spoons, wax tapers, writing-paper, a tapering jar of wrinkly damsons;* and I've sent nothing but my little home-grown books. So perhaps I seem mean; devoid of human feeling. I hate the sly and wicked ploys of present-giving. Gifts are like hooks: everyone knows the greedy parrot-wrasse* is duped by the fly he's swallowed. Any time a poor man doesn't give a present to his rich friend, Quintianus, he's being generous.

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Editor’s Note
5.18 damsons: Latin Damascenos. They came from, and were named after, Damascus; cf. Xenia 29.
Editor’s Note
the greedy parrot-wrasse: on the scarus (parrot-wrasse), a delicacy of a fish, see SB's note on 13.84.
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