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Marcus Valerius Martialis, Epigrammata Liber V Carmen 34

Portrait Bust

This is one of three poems that Martial (born in Bilbilis, Spain, about 40 CE; died there c.104 CE) wrote on the occasion of the death of his little slave girl Erotion (see also Epigrammata 5.37 and 10.61, all written after 87 CE), a departure into mournful elegy for the often biting and scurrilous satiric poet. Scholarship has rejected for lack of corroboration the interpretation that the parents addressed in the first line of the poem are his own. The poem is written in elegiac couplet, which consists of two lines of poetry in dactylic meter: the first hexameter, the second pentameter (see scansion of elegiac couplet; comment on word order).

1   Hanc tibi, Fronto pater, genetrix Flaccilla, puellam

oscula commendo deliciasque meas,

  parvola ne nigras horrescat Erotion umbras

oraque Tartarei prodigiosa canis.

5   Impletura fuit sextae modo frigora brumae,

vixisset totidem ni minus illa dies.

  Inter tam veteres ludat lasciva patronos

et nomen blaeso garriat ore meum.

  Mollia non rigidus caespes tegat ossa nec illi,

terra, gravis fueris: non fuit illa tibi.

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Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of Childhood
February 2006