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Wordle: Martial VI 



That well known freedman of Melior,

Who died with all Rome suffering,

The brief delight of a dear patron,

Glaucias lies buried under this marble

in a tomb next to the Flaminia:

He was unspoiled of character, unstained of modesty,

Swift in cleverness, fortunate in charm.

Recently with twelve harvests completed,

The boy scarcely added one year.

You who weep for such things, traveler, may you weep for nothing else.

XXVIII        Meter: Hendecasyllabic

  Lī bēr|tūs Mĕ lĭ|ōr ĭs|īl lĕ|nō tūs,

Tō tā|quī cĕ cĭ|dīt dŏ|lēn tĕ|Rō mā,

Cā rī|dē lĭ cĭ|ǣ brĕ|vēs pă|trō nī,

Hōc sūb|mār mŏ rĕ|Glaū cĭ|ās hŭ|mā tūs

Iūn ctō|Flā mĭ nĭ|ǣ iă|cēt sĕ|pūl chrō:

Cās tūs|mō rĭ bŭs,|īn tĕ|gēr pŭ|dō rĕ,

Vē lōx|īn gĕ nĭ|ō, dĕc|ō rĕ| fē līx.

Bīs sē|nīs mŏ dŏ| mēs sĭ|būs pĕ|rā ctīs

Vīx ŭn|ūm pŭ ĕr|ād plĭ|cā băt|ān nūm.

Quī flēs|tā lĭ ă,|nīl flĕ|ās, vĭ|ā tŏr.



This poem is a funerary poem to honor the recently freed and now deceased rather attractive boy Glaucias, who was once owned by Melior. By counting the twelve harvests and once year, it can be determined that Glaucias died just short of thirteen years of age. There are two poems that Martial wrote about the death of this individual, the only other is 6.29. This suggests that they were both written about the same time. This was one of the few kindly poems towards the death of an until recent slave, suggesting an unusually close bond between the boy and his master Melior. (Bradley 257).

  Melior was an acquaintance of not only Martial, but Martial’s contemporary, Statius. Statius wrote a rather long poem bemoaning the death of Glaucias, whereas Martial wrote two short ones. “In Silvae 2.1, Statius laments the premature death of the libertus Glaucias, the alumnus of Atedius Melior.” (Bernstein 257). Martial never refers to Melior by anything other than his cognomen. Also Statius’ poem focuses on “and praises a wealthy master’s choice to manumit one of his own slaves, to make him his alumnus (foster-child), and to regard him emotionally as his own” (Bernstein 257). This poem of Martial focuses much more on Glaucias himself and his virtues: Castus moribus, integer pudore, Velox ingenio, decore felix. In short, Martial shows how Glaucias lived up to his name meaning “bright” by displaying all of Glaucias' sparkling attributes.

Another author, Jessica S. Dietrich, offers a completely different perspective on this poem. She focuses on a juxtaposed poem of Statius on the death of Melior’s pet parrot. She calls these funerary poems “strikingly similar in form and content” (Dietrich 95). The parrot poem is located between the poem about Glaucias’ death and one about the death of another slave boy. By this positioning, Dietrich claims that “Statius seems to be drawing an uncomfortable parallel between the pet parrot and the human slave children. [And that] perhaps in antiquity the equation of pets and slaves would not have been so striking” (Dietrich 95). Again, this casts Martial outside of the norm of focusing on what Glaucias’ relationship to Melior was like. Martial wants to express who Glaucias was, rather than what he was to Melior.

As for who Melior was, much of that will remain a mystery as “the poems of Statius and Martial provide the only evidence for Melior and Glaucias” (Bernstein 258). From the fact that Martial wrote two funerary poems about Glaucias, and his contemporary wrote another, Melior was certainly an acquaintance to those who practice the poetic arts and very likely a patron himself.

Bradley, Keith. “'The Bitter Chain of Slavery': Reflections on Slavery in Ancient Rome .” Frank M. Snowden, Jr. Lectures, Howard University . Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington , DC . November, 2005. http://manybooks.net/support/b/bradleyk/bradleykother07bitter_chain_of_slavery.exp.html

Bernstein, Neil W. “Mourning the Puer Delicatus: Status Inconsistency and the Ethical Value of Fostering in Statius.” American Journal of Philology. Volume 126 Number 2. John Hopkins University Press. Summer 2005. pages 257-280.

Dietrich, Jessica S. “Dead Parrots Society.” American Journal of Philology. Volume 123 Number 1. John Hopkins University Press. Spring 2002. pages 95-110.


A. Galica-Cohen