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Wordle: Martial VI 



I do not wonder, that your Bassa drinks water, Catullus:

            I do wonder, that the daughter of Bassus drinks water.

LXIX meter: Elegiac Couplet

Nōn mī|rōr, quōd|pō tăt ă|quām tŭ ă|Bās să, Că|tūl lĕ:

  Mī rōr,|quōd Bās|sī||fī lĭ ă|pō tăt ă|quăm.



Martial, in this epigram, is surprised that a woman, Bassa, “drinks water.” This is not just for hydration purposes, but has a double meaning. Cicero in his Pro Caelio 34 mentioned the unchaste use of water,“ideo aquam adduxi, ut ea tu inceste uterere…” Cicero means the illegal usage of water by brothels in Rome , but it can be taken another way. In the epigram, Martial wonders at the fact that both Bassa and her daughter drink water. It was common practice of fellatrix to drink water after oral sex in order to cleanse the mouth. Ovid refers to the usage of water to bathe after intercourse in his Ara Armatoria (3.96). Martial refers “drinking water” in another one of his epigrams, 2.50, where he says that the woman, Lesbia, uses water appropriately in order to cleanse herself after sex. This suggests that it was common use to bathe and drink water after one has sex or fellating. Martial implies here that both Bassa and her daughter are fellatrices, since “potant aquam."


James L. Butrica. “Using Water "Unchastely": Cicero "Pro Caelio" 34 Again” Phoenix , Vol. 53, No. 1/2 (Spring - Summer, 1999), pp. 136-139: Classical Association of Canada <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1088127>

Watson, Lindsay and Patricia, Martial: Selected Epigrams. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge , 2003.

S. Higgins