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EPIGRAMMATA VI
 
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Wordle: Martial VI 
 

 
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70

A Sixtieth harvest, Marcinus,

has been conducted and, I think, now a second for Cotta,

and he does not recall that he experienced the boredoms

of the sick bed for even a day.

He holds out a finger, but the unchaste one,

at Alcon and Dasius and Symmachus.

But may our years be summed up well

and let as much as gloomy fevers bore

or grave inactivity or hurtful pains,

be separated from a better life:

we are infants, and indeed we seem aged.

The lifetime of Priam and of Nestor

He who thinks them to be long, Marcinus,

is cheated and deceived much.

To be alive is not life, but to be healthy.

LXX meter: Hendecasyllabic

Sēxā|gēsǐmă,| Mārcĭ|ānĕ,| mēssīs

Ācta ēst | ēt pǔtŏ | iām sĕ|cūndă | Cōttāe,

Nēc sē| tāedǐă| lēctǔ|lī căl|ēntīs

Ēxpēr|tūm mĕmĭ|nīt dĭ|ē vĕ|l ūnō.

Ōstēnd|īt dĭgĭ|tūm sĕd | īnpǔ|dīcūm.

Ālcōn|tī Dăsĭ|ōquē | Symmă|chōquē.

Āt nōs|trī bĕnĕ | cōmpǔt|ēntǔr | ānnī

Ēt quān|tūm tětrǐ|cāe tǔ|lērĕ |fēbrēs

Aūt lān|guōr grăvĭs | aūt mă|lī dŏ|lōrēs,

Ā vī|tā mĕlĭ|ōrĕ | sēpă| rēntūr:

Īnfān|tēs sǔmǔs | ēt sĕn|ēs vĭ|dēmūr.

Aētā|tēm Prǐăm|ǐquĕ| Nēstŏr|īsquē

Lōn gām|quī pǔ tăt|ēs sĕ,|Mār cĭ|ā nē,

Mūl tūm|dē cǐ pǐ|tūr quĕ|fāl lĭ|tūr quē.

Nōn ēst|vī vě rě,|sēd vă|lē rĕ|vī tā͜ e̸st.


 
EPIGRAM VI.70

 

SUMMARY
Epigram 6.70 is addressed to Marcianus in which the life of Cotta is discussed. Cotta, apparently, has lived a long healthy life of 62 years without feeling any kind of serious illness. This was a great accomplishment in the Roman world since disease and illness were many times a certain death sentence. Life expectancy during ancient times was barely 65 years old. Out of every 100,000 people born, hardly a tenth reaches past 60 years. The highest mortality rates are from birth to the age of 1. According to the tables provided by Bruce Frier, almost 40,000 children die before their first birthday and another 20,000 do not see their fifth birthday. There could be many reasons for this low life expectancy, but the most likely have to do with disease. Medical treatments were primitive and often cruel. Martial’s poems include comparisons between doctors and gladiators, and the pain they inflicted upon their victims. Doctors were looked upon as a lowly occupation. And thus the doctors mentioned (Alcon, Dasius, and Symmachus) were wanted to be kept away. Martial suggests that if one’s age was to be counted by their healthy years then everybody would be infants. This suggests that it was not uncommon for Romans to become ill. He mentions two very old figures from myth, Priam and Nestor. Both lived very long lives into the Trojan War, but he says that they must not have lead very good lives towards the end because of their old age. He then ends with a stoic idea of death, “To be alive is not life, but to be healthy." Stoics believed that life was only good if one could contribute to society. This meant that after a certain age or if someone was ill that they should not be living, and was technically a waste of life. Stoics often planned their own deaths when they decided that were not longer useful or sick. Many starved or poisoned themselves, but it was in high Roman fashion to fall on one’s sword.

 
Bruce Frier. “Roman Life Expectancy: The Pannonian Evidence” Phoenix , Vol. 37, No. 4 (Winter, 1983), pp. 328-344: Classical Association of Canada <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1088154>

H. H. Huxley. “ Greek Doctor and Roman Patient” Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Oct., 1957), pp. 132-138: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association  <http://www.jstor.org/stable/642133>

S. Higgins


 
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