Marcus Valerius Martialis I
Many citizens are waiting in the theater. Valerius Martialis,
a very well-known poet, recited while they listened. Everyone talked among themselves. Suddenly a sign was given to be quiet;
The poet went inside the auditorium. The audience applauded as Martial ascended to the stage so that he could read the verses.
Martial: Hello friends. (he opened the book.) First I want to recite a verse that I recently wrote about a certain
Several listeners turned to see Sabidius, sitting in the very last row, watching.
Martial: I don't
like you, Sabidius, and nor am I able to say why. I don't like you.
listener: (wispering with friends) I don't understand
his verses. Why is the poet not able to tell us why he doesn't like Sabidius.
second friend: He knows why he doesn't
like Sabidius, but the reason is so horrible he cannot say!
another listener: Hush! Hush!
Martial: Thais has
black teeth, Leacania has white teeth. Why?
Listener: This ones is bought, the others is hers.
Martial, very angry,
descended from the stage to curse at the listener.
Marial: I am a poet, you are only a listener. Ive been invited here,
so you can listen. (Suddenly he recognized the listener.) Ah ha! I know who you are. You are Pontilianus, who always asked
me to send you my books. And now, my Pontilianus, you see why I always refuse to send you my books. (He returned to the
stage, to resume his recital.)
"Why dont I send my books to you, Pontilianus? So you don't send me yours, Pontilianus."
Everyone laughs except Pontilianus. He was so angry that he got up and tried to throw himself on the stage to punch Martial,
but his friends held him back.
Martial, who had been reciting for an hour, finally got to the end of his book.
Martial: My friends
say a certain poet, named Fidentinus, recites my books as if his own. Therefore, now I want to say this to Fidentinus:
book which you are reciting is mine, oh Fidentinus. But when you recite it badly, it begins to be yours."
listeners, Fidentinus friends, hiss; the rest laugh.
Martial: Finally I want to say a few words about our Emperor, Domitian
Augustus. I recently composed some verses about his huge palace on the Palatine Hill:
The new palace of our Emperor touches
the sky; The sun sees nothing more splendid in the whole world. This, Augustus, however, which touches the top star, is equal
to a home in heaven but is smaller than its master.
Most of the listeners were applauding very loudly; They noticed that
Epaphroditus, Domitian's freedman, was present in the auditorium. One listener however, Manius Acilius Glabrio, offended
by such flattery, not only abstained his applause but also got up from his chair and went out of the auditorium. Astonished
by his boldness, Martial stood motionless for a short time. Then he proceeded to the edge of the stage expecting applause.
One listener exclaimed however:
Listener: But what about me, Martial? Now are you able to compose an epigram about me?
Martial: About you, pipsqueak? What kind of person are you?
Listener: My name is Diaulos. I recently practiced the
art of medicine...
Another listener: ...but now you are an undertaker!
(everyone laughed; especially Martial laughed.)
Martial: Good! Now I accept your epigram, my Dialos:
Recently he was a doctor, now Dialos is an undertaker. What
an undertaker does, was also what a doctor had done.
Many were laughing; Dialos blushed. Martial, in this way finished
his recital, went out of the auditorium, and all applauded except Dialos. Slaves entered the auditorium to offer food and