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Wordle: Martial VI 



If you had given six thousand sesterces instantly,

When you said to me, “Take them, carry them away, I am giving them,”

I would owe you as if for two hundred thousand, Paetus.

Yet now when you have given them, having delayed for a long time,

After seven, I reckon, or nine Kalends,

Do you want me to say things truer than truths to you?

You squandered six thousand sesterces, Paetus.

XXX        meter: Hendecasyllabic

Sēx sēs|tēr tĭ ă|sī stăt|īm dĕ|dīs sēs,

Cūm dīx|tī mĭ hĭ|'Sū mĕ,|tōl lĕ,|dō nō',

Dē bē|rēm tĭ bĭ,|Pǣ tĕ,|prō dŭ|cēn tīs.

āt nūnc|cūm dĕ dĕ|rīs dĭ|ū mŏ|rā tūs,

Pōst sēp|tēm, pŭ tŏ,|vēl nŏ|vēm Kă|lēn dās,

Vīs dī|cām tĭ bĭ|vē rĭ|ō ră|vē rīs?

Sēx sēs|tēr tĭ ă,|Pǣ tĕ,|pēr dĭ|dīs tī.



Poem 6.30 focuses on a loan Martial is trying to obtain from his friend Paetus. Yet due to Paetus’s long delay, Martial’s financial situation has changed and the initial value of the loan no longer is enough. Sex sestertia si statim dedisses … Deberem tibi, Paete, pro ducentis, Martial complains. The initial need for the money was apparently tied to some sort of deadline, possibly a loan or a purchase. Paetus promised the delivery of the funds, but then delayed for several months, marked out by the number of kalendas. When the Sex sestertia finally arrive, Martial no longer needs them and Paetus has essentially wasted his money.

The option for the purchase could have come from the devaluation of the item over time. For instance, “Martial’s slender volume of Xenia was sold … for ten asses.” ( Salmon 88). “Moreover, a single as was probably an accurate price for a discarded end-of-the-line publication,” (Salmon 88). Perhaps something similar could have happened if Martial was making a purchase. He wanted something new and trendy, but seven to nine months later, the price had dropped along with its popularity and the six thousand sesterces were no longer necessary.

Another issue may have come with the purchase idea due to the problem of inflation in the Roman empire due to the devaluation of coinage. During the time that Martial was writing his poetry, there was a sharp spike in the number of active civic mints in the empire. ( Salmon 32). This signals that more coins were being produced. The easiest was to produce more coins was to debase the silver with filler metals and thus making the coins stretch further. Since the value of the coinage “resided essentially in the value of its metal content,” ( Salmon 83), debased sesterces would not be worth as much as earlier coins. If such a matter occurred during those seven months, the cost of whatever Martial needed the money for would have increased, and six thousand sesterces would no longer have covered it. The fact that Martial alludes to owing Paetus for two hundred thousand sesterces, if the original loan of six thousand had been made on time, would support this. Martial could have been indicating a massive rate of inflation that occurred during those months.

  The only other issue in this poem lies in the matter of who is Paetus? There are records of several men bearing that name during Martial’s lifetime. One was a consul of Galatia during the reign of Nero. (Syme 39). A Caesennius Paetus was consul in 61 CE. He was also the governor of Syria in 72 CE. (Syme 41). His son, Lucius Junius Caesenniue Paetus, was a military tribune and then consul in 79 CE. (Syme 44). But which of these Paeti, if any, are Martial’s? We know Martial’s Paetus has the consolation of an inheritance of 2,000,000 sesterces,” (Pomeroy 56). Considering that Martial started writing his books in 85 CE, the youngest Paetus would be closest to being his contemporary. Also, being the son of a consul and governor, a large inheritance would be expected.

Pomeroy, Arthur J. “Heavy Petting in Catullus.” Arethusa. Volume 36 Number 1. John Hopkins University Press. Winter 2003. pages 49-60.

Salmon, E. Togo . Roman Coins and Public Life Under the Empire. Ann Arbor ; The University of Michigan Press. 2002.

Syme, Robert. “The Eginamatic Sopses.” The Journal for Roman Studies. Volume 67. Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. 1977. pages 38-49

A. Galica-Cohen