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Wordle: Martial VI 



That there may not be a Pylades or an Orestes, in this time,

    Do you wonder? Pylades, Marcus, used to drink the same

Nor was better bread or a thrush given to Orestes,

    But there was an equal and  same dinner  for both.

You devour Lucrine oysters, the  waterlogged shellfish feeds me:

    And  Marcus, my native  appetite is not less.

Cadmean Tyre dresses you,  greasy Gaul, dresses me.

    Do you wish that I coarsely clad love you clothed in purple, Marcus?

That I may distinguish myself as Pylades, let someone distinguish himself as Orestes for me.

  This is not made by words, Marcus:  so that you may be loved, love.

XI meter: Elegiac Couplet

Quōd nōn|sīt Py̆ lă|dēs hōc |tēmpŏrĕ, |nōn sĭt Ŏ|rēs tēs,

  Mī rā|rīs? Py̆ lă|dēs,||Mār cĕ, bĭ|bē bătĭ|dēm,

Nēc mĕ lĭ|ōr pā|nīs tūr|dūs vĕ dă|bā tŭrŎ|rēs tǣ,

  Sēd pār |āt que̸͜ĕ ă|dēm||cē nă dŭ|ō bŭs ĕ|rāt.

Tū Lū|crī nă vŏ|rās, mē|pās cĭt ă|quō să pĕ|lō rīs:

  Nōn mĭ nŭs|īn gĕ nŭ|a̸͜āst||ēt mĭ hĭ,|Mār cĕ, gŭ|lă.

Tē Cād|mē ă Ty̆|rōs, mē |pīn guīs |Gāl lĭ ă|vēs tīt:

  Vīs tē| pūr pŭ rĕ|ūm, ||Mār cĕ, să|gā tŭsă|mĕm?

Ūt prǣ|stēm Py̆ lă|dēn,ă lĭ|quīs mĭ hĭ|prǣ stĕtŎ|rēs tĕn.

  Hōc nōn |fīt vēr|bīs,||Mār cŭ tă|mē rĭs,ă|mā.



Poem eleven of Book Six concerns the friendship of two individuals, referenced as the mythological pair Orestes and Pylades. Martial begins the epigram by questioning the possibility of there being such a circumstance as an equal friendship, or if it is only an unattainable goal. He uses the character Marcus as a person in direct address, but the character could possibly be an extension of Martial himself, striving to climb his way up the social ladder. The theme of equality, especially in the case of friendship, runs through the entire poem. According to Ruggiero, everyone has certain obligations they must fulfill as part of their ethical basis. These include “a mutual respect and special interest in the other’s well-being, as well as rejoicing in the other’s good fortune and sharing the pain of their disappointment and failure” (Ruggiero, Vincent Ryan. Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2008, 97). From the way this poem ends, it seems that Martial does not rejoice when his friend is fortunate or partaking of the good things in life.

The poem begins with a frank question, asking if the friendship that Pylades and Orestes shared, possibly in a homosexual manner, is possible. He continues to state that Pylades shared everything and had nothing better to what Orestes partook of. He utilizes the example of food, since it is an essential substance for survival. However, in order that the friendship might pursue, every piece of food and every bit of drink should be the same. This is interesting because of the variety that results from the process of baking bread. The “harvesting, threshing, grinding, and cooking” (American Journal of Philology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press [etc.], 2001, 333), all contribute to producing a certain type of bread, and, according to Martial, if that bread is not the same, friends are not equals.

Next, he claims that “you devour Lucrine oysters, the  waterlogged shellfish feeds me” (6.11.5), hoping to conclude that his friend’s greed sets them apart from being equals, instead of different backgrounds or different social classes. This claims continues as Martial points out the kind of clothing Marcus is wearing. While the poet is dressed in bulky Gallic clothing, usually depicted as “a long-hooded version or a short shoulder cape” (Croom, Alexandra. Roman Clothing and Fashion. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus, 2002, 136), Marcus is dressed in a beautiful cloak dyed with purple from Tyre, “produced by the murex shellfish” (26, Croom).

He ends the poem wishing that someone would come along to be his equal, for he is Pylades, but Marcus can never be his Orestes, for he is too regal, belonging to a higher social status than Martial. Clearly, Martial has taken the circumstance of equality to an extreme. Mutual respect and joy for one’s fortunes seem a distant goal for he who wants equality.

American Journal of Philology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press [etc.], 2001

Croom, Alexandra. Roman Clothing and Fashion. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus, 2002.

Ruggiero, Vincent Ryan. Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2008.

K. Young