BMCR 2007.07.31

Marco Valerio Marcial. Epigramas. Volumen II (Libros 8-14)

, , , Marco Valerio Marcial. Epigramas. Volumen II (Libros 8-14). Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2005. 330. €32.69.

Volumen II, published through the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas belongs to the growing Alma Mater Colección de Autores Griegos y Latinos. These volumes have a functional and structural similarity to the Loeb Classical Library and the Collection Budé, with a closer affinity to the latter. Volumen II comprises the Latin text of Books 8-14 of Martial’s epigram poems, a detailed apparatus criticus, and mention of relevant ancient testimonia, all prepared by Juan Fernández Valverde (JFV), on the left hand pages, with a Spanish translation by Enrique Montero Cartelle (EMC) along with explanatory notes on the right. Volume II also contains a brief list of editions, commentaries,1 sigla used in the app. crit., and a complete index nominum. (Volumen I, non vidi, appeared a year prior and contains an introduction to the collection by Rosario Moreno Soldevila.) This edition is very unlikely to supplant other more readily available critical editions of Martial (e.g. the OCT and the Teubner editions), although a translation of Martial’s entire oeuvre into Spanish by such an accomplished translator as EMC is significant.

In general, the book is well produced, with very few typographical errors (mostly spacing problems), all in the explanatory notes and none of any significance. The app. crit. is responsibly full, with one exception (see below), and the explanatory notes are quite complete, aimed at readers at least moderately informed about the ancient world and Roman culture. Cross-reference to other poems is especially noticeable and laudable.

The Latin text of Volumen II is generally well-supported by the app. crit. and the rationale behind the choice of many readings is often quite clear. But the absence of the introduction from Volumen I (and I’m sure the manuscripts and families are discussed there), was keenly felt: the overwhelming impression in the choices at important cruces or points of deviance among the reliable manuscripts is that JFV is trying to manage the difficult task of presenting a complete edition of Martial after the superlative work (although in very different ways) of two excellent editors, Lindsay and Shackleton Bailey (SB). This tension manifests itself in JFV’s general preference (where there is debate) for the readings from his Β (Lindsay C A, SB Β), the archetype for one of the three manuscript families that survive, often following SB over Lindsay. For instance: 8.6.1 Eucti, 3 fumosa; 8.21.4 igne; 8.28.12 albet; 8.46.4 te Cybele totum mallet habere Phryga; 8.25.3 ego ero Vergilius; 9.73.3 Praenestina tenes decepti regna patroni; 10.48.24 facient; 10.51.5 qualem tibi Roma Ravennam (but here against all good sense without crux marked); 11.70.6 inspicitur; 11.98.12 saepibus (following Kay and SB).

At other times, JFV seems to follow SB and earlier continental editions (such as Heraeus’ 1925 Teubner edition and Izaac’s 1930-33 Budé) against Β. For instance, at 9.67.1-2 he prints Lascivam tota possedi nocte puellam, cuius nequitias vincere nemo potest where Β (and Lindsay) read nulla potest. In the context of the poem (and it is an old chestnut2), which deals with certain types of sexual favors requested and given, either reading (or maybe both!) would seem fair, but with nemo the wit of the poem seems to fall limp at the critical moment: the culminating attack against the target Aeschylus makes it clear that he is more wanton and tainted than both Martial and the girl, and so quite suited to do for the debauched girl in the poem what Martial would not, and in doing so polluting her with his own os impurum. Although much of the controversy around this poem has centered on the last lines and what exactly who is doing to whom and (in some cases) how and when, the epigram simply is more damaging against Aeschylus if he surpasses the girl’s debauchery. Since Aeschylus obviously can and must be worse than the girl for the insult to work best (and that seems a fair assumption with Martial in general and with the specific suggestion in 9.67.7 sed mihi pura fuit; tibi non erit, Aeschyle) it is much more effective and logical to read nulla; Aeschylus then surpasses the most corrupt woman and Martial at the same time.3

At 9.101.4 JFV chooses aurea poma from Γ, again perhaps following SB. Admittedly, in context of Hercules’ labors this seems appropriate, but Β has the lectio difficilor ( raraque), which also construes well and the presence of which in the MS tradition seems otherwise hard to explain ( aurea on the other hand is an easy interpolation). At 10.10.5, with SB and the later Italian mss, JFV reads qui respiciat for qui respiciet against Β and other MSS. The subjunctive certainly does make better sense and perhaps better Latin, but there is nothing inherently wrong with respiciet. At 11.99.5, sic constringuntur gemina Symplegade culi in Γ for magni Symplegade culi in Β seems a redundancy almost too awful to contemplate and again more likely interpolated; Plin. HN 6.32 doesn’t, for example, feel the need to define the Symplegades as twinned rocks, nor do the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius and later lexicographers, and Symplegades does not elsewhere (in Greek or Latin texts) have epithets of that kind attached to it. Perhaps the wit lies in the mythical reference to Jason and the Argonauts. The task of releasing the clothing from the “Clashing Rocks” speaks of a heroic effort , and the final admonition to stay standing ( nec surgas censeo nec sedeas, Mart. 11.99.8) may be a sly reference to the fate of the Symplegades (see Ap.Rhod. 2.605-606) to cease moving once a ship had passed through ( pedicant miserae, Lesbia, te tunicae, Mart. 11.99.2).4

These are rather minor, if interesting and challenging, points of interest. More troubling is the numbering followed for the troubled initial sequence of epigrams in Book 12. JFV, again following SB among modern editors, prints the epigrams as they are found in Γ without explanation and without any note as to the different divisions and arrangements of the lines represented in the manuscript traditions. It is not the ordering of the epigrams itself which is at issue but rather that the question of the epigrams’ ordering and arrangement (an important one for readers not necessarily acquainted with Martial’s MS tradition but for whom an app.crit. is still a useful enough tool to be included with the text) is completely ignored.

Of course with critical editions it is easy to get caught up in the minutiae and the literally thousands of editorial decisions, and it is always the points of contention that find their way into reviews. In all, Volumen II is a carefully presented, well supported text, that takes into account the advances in our understanding of the text of Martial’s Epigrammata up to Shackleton Bailey’s important Teubner edition, and that is accompanied by appropriate, accurate, and annotated Spanish translations.


1. The list is complete up to 2004, the publication date of the first volume, but now is out of date with the publication of Damschen, G. and A. Heil, Marcus Valerius Martialis. Epigrammaton liber decimus, Frankfurt am Main, 2004; Schöffel, C., Martial, Buch 8: Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung, Kommentar, Stuttgart, 2002; Watson, L. and P. Watson, Martial: Select Epigrams, Cambridge, 2003; Williams, C.A. Martial: Epigrams Book Two, Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, New York, 2004.

2. The interpretations are admirably if briefly discussed with references in Henriksén, C., Martial Book IX: A Commentary, Uppsala, 1999, ad loc. and Watson, L. and P. Watson, Martial: Select Epigrams, Cambridge, 2003, 242-244, to both of which should be added Obermayer, H.P., Martial und der Diskurs über männliche ‘Homosexualität’ in der Literatur der frühen Kaiserzeit. Classica Monacensia 18, Tübingen, 1998, pp. 223-4.

3. Housman’s suggestion that with nemo vincere must mean “exhaust” (A.E. Housman, Classical Papers, p. 725) is predictably brilliant. Perhaps we simply have two authentic versions of the epigram preserved in the MS tradition, rather than one right and one wrong reading.

4. See Seaton, R.C., “The Symplegades and the Planctae”, AJP 8 (1887) 433-440.