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Wordle: Martial VI 



You bathe as if angry at the people, Charidemus:

Thus you wash your private parts in the whole tub.

Thus I do not want you to wash your head here, Charidemus

And look, you wash your head: I prefer you wash your groin.

LXXXI meter: Elegiac Couplet

Ī rā|tūs tām|quām pŏp ŭ|lō, Chă rĭ|dē mĕ, lă|vār īs:

  Īn guĭn ă|sīc tō|to||sūb lŭ ĭs| īn sŏl ĭ|ō.

Nēc că pŭt| hīc vēl|lēm sīc| tē, Chă rĭ|dē mĕ, lă|vā rĕ.

  Ēt că pŭt|, ēc cĕ, lă|vās:|| īn guĭn ă| māl ŏ lă|vēs.



Here Martial is accusing Charidemus of being iratus with the people. He is so angry with the people, he is washing his private parts in the whole tub. At first it seems as though he is being accused of being a filthy man, so no one wants him in the baths with them. Of course though, Martial’s kicker is at the end. Martial draws his readers in, letting them assume certain things, which prove to be incorrect (Watson). Here, Martial quickly makes his point by saying he does not wish Charidemus to wash his face in the tub. The reader is drawn in further, knowing there is much more to the story. There is a good reason Martial would rather have him wash his private parts in the bath than his face. Wittily, Martial is implying Charidemus’ mouth is so dirty that washing his private parts in the tub would be cleaner.

Martial frequently mentions oral sex in his poems and this is no exception. Oral sex was not high up on the sexual totem pole in Rome. A man performing oral sex on a woman was the worst because they believed they got diseases that way. (Watson) A man performing oral sex on another man is not as looked down upon, but it not seen as clean. Martial clearly agrees, saying his private parts are cleaner. This could be another jab at Charidemus. If his mouth is dirtier, it implies overuse of his mouth and private parts that do not see much action. Not only is he the one performing one of the lower forms of sexual acts, but he is also not on the receiving end either.

Martial uses the setting of the baths to describe many sexual indecencies. When in the baths, most were nude. (Fagan) This is a good setting for Martial’s sexual poems. Chione is one who he insists should move her subligar to her face to cover what is the real source of her sexual use, her mouth (Watson 188). Martial describes and ridicules oral sex in many poems. It was looked down upon in Roman society and Martial makes more than one reference to how dirty one can be from performing these acts in his poems.

Fagan, Garrett. Bathing in Public in the Roman World. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1999

Sullivan, J. P. Martial’s Sexual Attitudes. Santa Barbra: University of California.

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

S. Elliott-Traficante