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Wordle: Martial VI 



Give firmly planted kisses to us, Diadumenus. “How many?” you say.
You command me to count the waves of the ocean
and the shells scattered all over the shores of the Aegean Sea
and the bees which roam on the Cecropian hill
and the voices and claps which resound throughout the whole theater,
when the people see the face of an unexpected Caesar.
I do not want as many as Lesbia gave, she having been won over by the witty Catullus:
he desires few kisses who is able to count.

XXXIV Meter: Elegiac Couplet

Bā sĭ ă|dā nō|bīs, Dĭ ă|dū mĕ nĕ,|prēs să. "Quŏt?"|īn quĭs.
      Ō cĕ ă|nī flūc|tūs||mē nŭ mĕ|rā rĕ iŭb|ēs
ēt mă rĭs|Āe gǣ|ī spār|sās pēr|lī tŏ ră|cōn chās
      ēt quāe|Cēc rŏ pĭ|ō||mōn tĕ vă|gān tŭr ă|pēs,
quāe quĕ sŏ|nānt plē|nō vō|cēs quĕ mă|nūs quĕ thĕ|ā trō,
      cūm pŏ pŭ|lūs sŭ bĭ|tī||Cāe să rĭs|ō ră vĭ|dēt.
Nō lŏ quŏt|ār gū|tō dĕ dĭt|ē xō|rā tă Că|tūl lō
      Lēs bĭ ă:|paū că cŭ|pīt ||quī nŭ mĕ|rā rĕ pŏt|ēst.



In this epigram, M. suggests his Diadumenus plant on him some kisses (Basia da nobis). But when Diadumenus asks him how many (quot?), M. rifles out various hyperboles, ultimately charging that counting kisses is inappropriate (Howell (1995) 130). This is one of only three epigrams in which M.’s boy-toy slave Diadumenus appears, the others being III.65 and V.46 (Shackleton Bailey (1993) 352). Judging by the manner in which he tends to treat Diadumenus, it is evident that M.’s sexual desire for Diadumenus is strong. In III.65, M. even goes so far as to claim to beat Diadumenus to anger him so that M. has to beg him to please him (Howell (1995) 131).

This epigram is one of many in which M. alludes to his epigrammatic predecessor, Catullus (Watson and Watson (2003) 224). The dialogue between M. and Diadumenus is quite reminiscent of Catullus’eighth carmina, in which the loose dialogue is between two voices, "the rational poet and irrational lover" (Rowland (1966) 16).  However, the epigram is more closely linked with Catullus’ forty-eighth carmina, in which Catullus expresses his desire to kiss his Juventius (Howell (1995) 131). Catullus writes:

Mellitos oculos tuos, Iuventi,
siquis me sinat usque basiare,
usque ad milia basiem trecenta,
nec mi umquam videar satur futurus,
non si densior Africis aristis
sit nostrae seges osculationis.

"Juventius, if anyone allows me to kiss your honey-sweet eyes,
Let me kiss 300,000 times continuously,
Neither may I seem to be full at any time,
Not even if all of our kissing may be denser than a field of African grains."

Catullus' direct influence on M. cannot be any more obvious, especially considering the subject matters (basia and basiare) and the blatent hyperboles.

Further reading: Howell (1995), Shackleton Bailey (1993), Watson and Watson (2003), Rowland (1966)

Howell (1995) Martial: The Epigrams, Book V. Warminster, UK

Shackleton Bailey, D.R. (1993) Martial Epigrams. Loeb Classical Library

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

Rowland (1966) "Miser Catulle: An Interpretation of the Eighth Poem of Catullus," Greece & Rome, Second Series. Cambridge

S. Campbell