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Wordle: Martial VI 



You have seen nothing more worthy of pity, Matho, than the pederast Sabellus,
Than whom before nothing was more pleasing.
Deceptions, flights, the deaths of slaves, fires, sorrows
afflict this fellow, now the miserable man even has sex with women.

XXXIII Meter: Elegiac Couplet

Nīl mĭ sĕr|ā bĭ lĭ|ūs, Mă thŏ,|pē dī|cō nĕ Să|bēl lō
      vī dī|stī, quō|nīl||lǣ tĭ ŭs|ān tĕ fŭ|īt.
Fūr tă, fŭ|gǣ, mōr|tēs sēr|vō ru̸m̸͜ īn|cēn dĭ ă,|lūc tūs
      ād flī|gūnt hŏ mĭ|nēm,||iām mĭ sĕr|ēt fŭ tŭ|īt.



In this epigram, M. addresses Matho (who is often portrayed by M. as a leech), regarding the pederast Sabellus’ sexual appetite. M. lists terrible things that have happened to Sabellus, ultimately leading to his heterosexuality. A distinction must be made between homosexuality and pederasty: traditionally, pederasts desire for their young male lovers to grow up independent of their relationships and marry (Rossman (1973) 308). So it is peculiar that in the final line M. accuses Sabellus of being so miserable that he has sex with women (iam miser et futuit). With conservative Romans, pederasty was particularly frowned upon during the due to its Republican association with the Greeks (Williams (1995) 517). The same could be said of homosexuality, but it is made clear by the writings of moralists such as Cicero that there was a distinction in the hierarchy that put pederasty below homosexuality (Williams (1995) 518). It is entirely possible that M.’s sentiment is rooted in his personal opinion rather than on cultural norms regarding pederasty. M.’s own sexual appetite is peculiar in that there is little evidence for him ever having married. Additionally, his views towards women are patriarchal and hierarchical (Sullivan (1991) 191). It is likely, then, that M. was himself fond of males, particularly in the form of pederasty (Sullivan (1991) 15). The two views of M. as patriarchal and pederastic seem to be consistent with his view of women.

Further reading: Rossman (1973), Williams (1995), Sullivan (1991)

Rossman, G. Parker (1973) "Literature on Pederasty," The Journal of Sex Research.

Williams, Craig A. (1995) "Greek Love at Rome," The Classical Quarterly
. Cambridge

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

S. Campbell