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Wordle: Martial VI 



  A girl of not too good a reputation,
  such as those who sit in the middle of the Subura,
  the auctioneer Gellianus was recently selling.
  When she was for a long time going for a low price,
  now he desires to prove her clean to everyone,
  he pulled her, protesting, close to himself by hand
  and he kissed her two, three, and four times.
  What did he profit from this kiss, you ask?
  The guy who was recently offering 600 sesterces, withdrew his bid.

  LXVI meter: Hendecasyllabic

  Fă māe|nōn nĭ mĭ|ūm bŏ|nāe pŭ|ēl lām,

  Quā lēs|īn mĕ dĭ|ā sĕ|dēnt Sŭ|bū rā,

  Vēn dē|bāt mŏ dŏ|prǣ cŏ|Gēl lĭ|ā nūs.

  Pār vō|cūm prĕ tĭ|ō dĭ|ū lĭ|cē rēt,

  Dūm pū|rām cŭ pĭt|ād prŏ|bā rĕ|cūn ctīs,

  Ād trā|xīt prŏ pĕ|sē mă|nū nĕ|gān tĕm

  Ēt bīs|tēr quĕ quă|tēr quĕ|bā sĭ|ā vīt.

  Quīd prō|fē cĕ rĭt|ōs cŭ|lō, rĕ|quī rēs?

  Sēs cēn|tōs mŏ dŏ|quī dă|bāt, nĕ|gā vĭt.



The first two lines of this poem make one believe that the poem is making a jab at the prostitues that made their rounds on the Subura, but we quickly realize that there are dirtier things in the city than those arch-dwellers. Gellianus, the greasy used car salesman-esque auctioneer  makes the prostitute/slave untouchable when he kisses her. One would think that the lowliest sort of prostitute would not go for much, but after being in contact with Gellianus it is shown that even she can be dirtied. Being a slave auctioneer was one of the most despised professions in Rome. It carried some money, but absolutely no respect with it, and for upper-class Romans auctioneers were held in contempt because they were profiting off of the land and property sales of their impoverished peers (Rauh 460).

Whenever Martial uses hendecasyllabics, he is usually giving homage to his predecessor, Catullus, as well as writing lighter invective (Watson 27). This poem has a direct connection to poem 5 from Catullus' Carmina, which will be further explored in the commentary (Page 6).

Page, T. E., Capps, Rouse, Post, Warmington, eds. Catullus, Tibullus, and Pervigilium Veneris. Loeb Classical Library. London: Harvard University Press, 1956.

Poe, Joe Park. "The Septimontium and the Subura." Transactions of the American Philological Association 108 (1978): 147-154.

Rauh, Nicholas K. "Auctioneers and the Roman Economy." Historiae: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschichte 38 no.4 (1989): 451-471.

Spaeth, Jr., John W. "Martial and the Roman Crowd." The Classical Journal 27 no.4 (1932): 244-254.

N. Jurek