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Wordle: Martial VI 



Not long ago, when I was asking Jupiter, by chance, for a few thousand sesterces,

   He said, “He will give who has given temples to me.”

Indeed, he has given temples to Jupiter, but has given

  No thousands to us: I am ashamed, alas, to have asked Jupiter with little.

But how unforbidding, how cloudy with no anger,

  with a placid mouth, he had read our requests

Of such a nature did he bestow diadems to the humble Dacians

And he both goes and returns to the Capitoline streets.

Speak, I beg you, speak o virgin condfidant of our Jupiter,

  If he refuses with this expression, with what is he accustomed, consequently, therefore to give?

So I: Thus Pallas with her Gorgon having been put aside, said to me:

  “Do you think, foolish man, what has not yet been given, has been  denied?"

X meter: Elegiac Couplet

Paū că Iŏ|vēm nū|pēr cūm|mī lĭ ă|fōr tĕ rŏ|gā rĕm,
 'Īl lĕ dă|bīt' dī|xīt||'quī mĭ hĭ |tēm plă dĕ|dīt.'
Tēm plă quĭ|dēm dĕ dĭt|īl lĕ Iŏ|vī, sēd|mī lĭ ă|nō bīs
  Nūl lă dĕ|dīt: pŭdĕt,|ā,||paū că rŏ|gās sĕ Iŏ|vĕm  
Āt quām|nōn tĕ trĭ|cūs, quām|nūl lā|nū bĭ lŭs|ī rā,
  Quām plă cĭ|dō nō|strās||lē gĕ răt|ō rĕ prĕ|cēs!
Tā līs|sūp plĭ cĭ|būs trĭ bŭ|īt dĭ ă|dē mă tă|Dā cīs
  Ēt Că pĭ|tō lī|nās||īt quĕ rĕ|dīt quĕ vĭ|ās.
Dīc, prĕ cŏr,|ō nō|strī dīc|cōn scĭ ă|vīr gŏ Tŏ|nān tīs,
  Sī nĕ găt|hōc vūl|tū,||quō sŏ lĕt|ērgŏ dă|rĕ?

Sīcĕ gŏ:|sīc brĕ vĭ|tēr pŏ sĭ|tā mĭhĭ|Gōr gŏ nĕ|Pāl lās:
  'Quǣ nōn|dūm dă tă|sūnt,||stūl tĕ, nĕ|gā tă pŭ|tās?'



This poem concerns the emperor at the time, Domitian, and his policy dealing with financial matters. The overall setting of the poem seems to be that Martial is asking for money, possibly a cash advance, for his poems, and Domitian, although showing no extreme emotion, refuses by simply showing that he has the power to do so.

The emperor was often referred to as Caesar, despite the individual’s name, or Jupiter, the supreme over all people. Domitian’s reply to Martial’s request seems to be a minor issue to deal with but a necessary response for the emperor who is referred as the king of the gods. Martial is determined to get his money, so he builds the temple, or writes his poetry, holding up his part of the agreement. He uses the reference of Jupiter despite not receiving so much as one coin for his work, because “anyone who desired favors from the emperor was obliged to flatter him” (Watson, Lindsay and Patricia. Martial: Select Epigrams. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, 10.). Thus, whether or not the emperor came through with his promise was beside the point because flattery was necessary.        The portrayal of the emperor as a god continues as Martial describes the calm expression that comes over Domitian’s face as he ponders over the request for “a few thousand sesterces” (6.10.1) This fa├žade is employed to depict the emperor as regal and knowing in all decisions, great and small.
Martial refers to the Dacians as an example of how the powerful subdue the weaker groups. After several long battles and much bloodshed on the part of both sides, Tettius Julianus led the Romans to victory over the Dacians. The diadems given to the Dacians after the battle ceased was a sign of “Domitian’s generosity” (Sullivan, J. P. Martial, the Unexpected Classic: A Literary and Historical Study. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 36), which is granted to those who ask for favors, regardless of whether the individual receives his reward or not. The image of a great and generous ruler is portrayed, but his power allows him to differentiate within individual cases concerning favors.

Martial looks to Pallas Athena for guidance as to how to influence the outcome of his request. Athena was known to be Domitian’s patron goddess, although the reason for this relationship is somewhat unknown. A few possible conclusions are “his interest in poetry or the origin of the Sabines” (40 Sullivan), for he “
especially of an interest in poetry, an art which had previously been as unfamiliar to him as it was later despised and rejected, and he even gave readings in public” (Suetonius, Dom. ??). The emperor used the goddess as a political tool to “further his own ambitions” (38 Sullivan), and praised her at any time possible. By using the patron goddess in his poetry, Martial hopes to cause the emperor to look upon it favorably. She puts aside her shield, one of primary items she identifies with, to tell Martial the possible outcome he has not yet recognized. Her phrasing is the equivalent of saying, “Listen buddy, if you haven’t figured this out by now, you really are an idiot,” Also, portraying himself as a fool and Domitian as the clever figure in the poem, he establishes a high level of flattery within his relationship with the emperor.

Suetonius: The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Ed. Bill Thayer. 2006. U of Chicago. 1 Apr. 2009. <http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/home.html>.

Sullivan, J. P. Martial, the Unexpected Classic: A Literary and Historical Study. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1991

Watson, Lindsay and Patricia. Martial: Select Epigrams. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

K. Young