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Wordle: Martial VI 



A homeborn slave not of the household’s common type nor from the greedy auction runway,

But a boy worthy of the pure love of his master,

When he was not yet able to perceive the gifts of his patron,

Glaucias was already a freedman of Melior

And this was given for his character and appearance: who was more charming than that one?

Or who was more beautiful than that Apollonian face?

life is short for those beyond measure and old age rare

Whatever you may love, you should desire that they have not been too pleasing.

XXIX        Meter: Elegiac Couplet

  Nōn dē|plē bĕ dŏ|mūs nĕc ă|vā rǣ|vēr nă că|tās tǣ,

  Sēd dŏ mĭn|ī sānc|tō||dīg nŭs ă|mō rĕ pŭ|ēr,  

Mū nĕ ră|cūm pōs|sēt nōn|dūm sēn|tī rĕ pă|trō nī,

  Glaū cĭ ă|lī bēr|tūs||iām Mĕ lĭ|ō rĭs ĕ|rāt.

Mō rĭ bŭs|hōc fōr|maē quĕ dă|tūm: quīs|blān dĭ ŏr| īl lō?

  Aūt quĭs ă|pōl lĭ nĕ|ō||pūl chrĭ ŏr|ō rĕ fŭ|ĭt?

Īn mŏ dĭ|cīs brĕ vĭs|ēst aē|tās ēt|rā ră sĕ|nēc tūs.

  Quīd quĭd ă|mēs, cŭ pĭ|ās||nōn plă cŭ|īs sĕ nĭ|mĭs.



This poem is a funerary poem to honor the recently freed and now deceased rather attractive boy Glaucias, who was once owned by Melior. There are two poems that Martial wrote about the death of this individual, the only other is 6.28. 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).

In this poem, Martial provides his own viewpoint on the relationship between Glaucias and Melior, but not as one between a master and freed slave, but that between a lover and a beloved. Martial calls Glaucias a domini sancto dignus amore puer. Certainly this is a high complement to pay a lowly slave boy, but then Martial’s sexual preferences for them are well documented.

Of more importance is the final line of this poem: Quidquid ames , cupias non placuisse nimis. This line, while a tragic warning to those who may soon lose a loved one, has inspired numerous authors since its composition. A. E. Housman, for instance, finds himself fascinated that this line is addressed to an unnamed persona. This is the only line in the entire piece with second person verbs ames and cupias. (Housman 73). The addressee could initially be interpreted to be Melior himself, but on closer inspection, it appears otherwise. Melior has already loved too much and suffered the loss, and this line is clearly a warning. Far more likely is that Martial is warning his readers by conveying Melior’s pain. Another author, Joshua Scodel, thinks that these lines reflect Martial’s own views on love: that is, desire in moderation is fine, far better than loving to excess. (Scodel 108).

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.

Housman, A.E. “Notes on Martial.” The Classical Quarterly. Volume 13 Number 2. Cambridge University Press. April 1919. pages 68-80.

Scodel, Joshua. The English Poetic Epitaph: Commemoration and Conflict from Jonson to Wordsworth. Ithaca ; Cornell University Press.1991. page 108

A. Galica-Cohen