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Wordle: Martial VI 



When Enyo was still doubtful as to the civil war
and perhaps gentle Otho might be able to conquer,
He condemned Mars, who would persist with intense bloodshed,
And stabbed his entire chest with his resolute fist.
While he lives, Cato may truly be even greater than Caesar:
While he is dying, is it the case that he was greater than Otho?

XXXII Meter: Elegiac Couplet

Cūm dŭ bĭ|tār ĕt ăd|hūc bēl|lī cī|vī lĭs Ĕn|ȳ ō
      fōr sĭ tăn|ēt pōs|sēt||vīn cĕ rĕ|mōl lĭs Ŏ|thō,
dām nā|vīt mūl|tō stā|tū rūm|sān guĭ nĕ|Mār tĕm
      ēt fō|dīt cēr|tā||pēc tŏ ră|tō tă mă|nū.
Sīt Că tŏ,|dūm vī| vīt, sā|nē vēl|Cāe să rĕ|mā iōr:
      dūm mŏ rĭ|tūr, nūm|quīd||mā iŏr Ŏ|thō nĕ fŭ it?



This is an obituary, expressing M.’s admiration for his fellow Spaniard, Otho (Sullivan (1991) 175). M. recalls the suicide of Otho, who opted to stab “his entire chest with a resolute fist” upon hearing his army had been defeated. He then compares this case with the suicide of Cato. As one of few of M.’s epigrams to take an historical event for a theme, this epigram is indeed a rarity (Watson and Watson (2003) 328). Not surprisingly, there are commonalities in the themes of M.’s history epigrams. Epigram II.80 recalls the suicide of Fannius, who, having been found out in a conspiracy against Augustus, opted to kill himself rather than be killed almost a century prior to M.’s second book (Watson and Watson (2003) 328).
One who acquaints him or herself too much with M.’s satire may find difficulty in deciphering the point of the epigram. Is M. satiricizing Otho’s suicide, or is he honoring the deceased emperor? B.F. Harris holds that M. is expressing admiration for Otho’s suicide as an embodiment of stoicism (Harris (1962) 73). However, this admiration would seem inconsistent with his words in epigram II.80: “hic, rogo, non furor est, ne moriare, mori?”; ‘I ask, is this not madness, to kill oneself that oneself not be killed?’ This makes the treatment of the punchline all the more important:
Sit Cato, dum vivit, sane vel Caesare maior:
dum moritur, numquid maior Othone fuit?

"While he lived, Cato may truly have been greater than Caesar:
    While he was dying, is it the case that he was greater than Otho?"

It is important to consider the relationship between Cato and Otho, insofar as they are both suicidal stoics. To someone who fails to see the admirability of choosing suicide over submission, both Cato and Otho might seem to be historical failures.

Further reading: Sullivan (1991), Watson and Watson (2003), Harris (1962)

Harris, B.F. (1962) "Tacitus on the Death of Otho." The Classical Journal

Sullivan, J.P. (1991) Martial: The Unexpected Classic. Cambridge

Watson, Lindsay and Watson, Patricia (2003) Martial: Select Epigrams. Cambridge

S. Campbell