BMCR 2008.09.43

Marco Valerio Marcial: Actualización científica y bibliográfica. Tres décadas de estudios sobre Marcial (1971-2000). Monografías de Filología Latina, 13

José A. (José Antonio) Beltrán, Marco Valerio Marcial : actualización científica y bibliográfica : tres décadas de estudios sobre Marcial, 1971-2000. Monografías de filología latina ; 13. Zaragoza: Área de Filología Latina, Departamento de Ciencias de la Antigüedad, Universidad de Zaragoza, 2005. 363 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 8496214605 €20.00.

This three-decade survey of scholarship constitutes a notable contribution to the current reappraisal of Martial’s epigrams: it provides researchers with a useful guide, since it aptly summarizes and evaluates numerous articles and monographs from 1971 to 2000. The fact that the book overlaps with Sven Lorenz’s contemporary Forschungsbericht 1 shows that there is a pressing need for guidance in the growing bibliography on Martial. Although Lorenz’s account proves to be more comprehensive, it is undeniable that Beltrán and his colleagues’ work also makes a practical tool for Martial’s scholars, serving additionally as a good introduction for the neophyte.

The introductory chapter (G. Fontana, “Marcial y su tiempo”, pp. 17-54) combines several aspects related to Martial’s life and times, including sections on his relation to power, as well as prosopography, topography, the social environment, and the sexual element in his epigrams. This last issue is rather unconnected with the rest and could have been dealt with more appropriately in the third chapter (“Los temas del epigrama”). Despite being an acceptable introduction to Martial, this is probably not the strongest chapter in the collection. It lacks a full discussion on the issue of Martial’s poetic persona and an evaluation of the recent research on Domitian. Some important articles are omitted, especially those dealing with literary patronage,2 -which will be given a more in-depth treatment by A. Encuentra in chapter 7-, and the topography of Rome.3 Recent works on the toponymy of Martial’s homeland could also have been added.4

Beltrán’s article “Fuentes y modelos” (pp. 55-114) is a well-balanced and thoroughly documented survey on Martial’s place within the literary tradition, especially focusing on his relation to the epigrammatic genre, but also on his links with Catullus, Vergil, Horace, Ovid, the elegiac poets, Phaedrus, Persius, Lucan, as well as prose writers such as Seneca or Petronius. Beltrán also approaches Martial’s connections with the Carmina Priapea and his borrowing of literary motifs and formulae from the Carmina Latina Epigraphica. The author not only evaluates the state of current research, but also suggests new paths for further studies (pp. 62-63).

A. Encuentra reviews the thematic variety of Martial’s epigrams (“Los temas del epigrama”, pp. 115-159), classifying them into several categories: votive (mainly the Xenia and Apophoreta); funerary; laudatory or commemorative;5 phallic;6 the satiric epigram-with an excursus on satire and humor in Martial-; epigrams on extraordinary events or mirabilia; and the intimate or personal epigram. Sections 5 and 6 make a comprehensive discussion on humor and satire in the epigrams. This issue is also examined by Beltrán in the following chapter (“Claves de la poética de Marcial”, pp. 151-219), a valuable assessment of Martial’s poetics. After some introductory remarks, Beltrán reads the studies on different aspects of Martial’s literary ideas and practice under six main rubrics: Martial and contemporary poetry (his rejection of major literary genres, Martial and Statius, Martial and Callimachean poetics); realism (including his relation to Satire and his use of sexual material as a generic feature7); length; structure; arrangement of the books; and his relation to the reading public. Beltrán gives the reader a wide-ranging insight into the subtlety of Martial’s epigrams, offering both an unprejudiced review of previous scholarship (he even goes back to works prior to 1970 when necessary) and inspiring suggestions for further research.

The next two chapters further examine the form of Martial’s epigrams: A. I. Magallón (“Lengua y estilo”, pp. 221-249) offers a detailed and comprehensive review of recent research on the language and the style of the epigrams;8 and A. Encuentra (“Marcial en los estudios de métrica latina”, pp. 251-267) details the studies on Martial’s metrical usage within the context of Latin poetry.

In the following chapter, “Público y recepción de la obra de Marcial” (pp. 269-299), A. Encuentra discusses the state of current research on the publication, reception and readership of the epigrams, spanning until 2002, when R. Nauta published his important work on literary patronage in the age of Domitian.9 He examines the various readers of the epigrams (patrons and friends, the anonymous lector, the emperor) and Martial’s relation to power, encompassing the differing interpretations given to his poems on Domitian: they range from sheer adulation or propaganda to veiled criticism. He also explores the manifold contexts for the epigram and ends f with a bibliographical update on the publishing process and the chronology of the different books. Marina (“Pervivencia”, pp. 301-345) writes an exhaustive update on the reception of Martial, from his influence on Juvenal and Late Antiquity to present-day literature, with special attention to Spanish literature.

In the last chapter, “El texto de los epigramas” (pp. 347-357), J.J. Iso summarizes Martial text criticism (modern editions, manuscripts, conjectures and emendations), providing a succinct introduction to the main textual issues,10 without going into details.11

The volume could have benefited from more careful editorial planning and revision: for instance, on page 194 Beltrán announces that the publishing of Martial’s epigrams will be dealt with in the chapter on Martial’s text, when it is actually analyzed in the section on Martial’s audience and reception; typos are frequent, especially in the quotations. Beltrán’s lists of bibliographical references are particularly useful, since he highlights the most relevant works: in my opinion, his example could have been followed in the rest of contributions. Overlapping is inevitable -and even desirable- in a work like this; however, since some studies are discussed in different places and catalogued after their corresponding section, an index of modern authors would have helped the reader find their way through the book. Nevertheless, this volume must be rated as a functional and valuable update on Martial.


1. S. Lorenz, “Martial 1970-2003”, Lustrum 45 (2003): 167-284; 48 (2006): 109-223; 233-247.

2. E. g. On literary patronage: P. White, Aspects of Non-imperial Patronage in the Works of Martial and Statius, Harvard University, 1972. On Martial’s relation to Domitian: J. Garthwaite, Domitian and the Court Poets Martial and Statius, Cornell, 1978. These are quoted, however, by Beltrán (p. 166) and Encuentra (pp. 278-284).

3. Some of E. Rodríguez-Almeida’s papers are omitted: e.g. “Note di topografia romana: Cosmus myropola, il vicus unguentarius e i ‘penetralia Pallados nostrae’ (Mart. IV 53)”, RIA n. s. 8-9 (1985-1986): 111-117; “Due note marzialiane: I ‘Balnea Quattuor in Campo’ e le ‘Sella Paterclianae Subcapitoline'”, MEFRA 101 (1989): 243-254; “Luces y sombras (especialmente topográficas) en las ediciones críticas de Marcial”, Italica 18 (1990): 16-30. On Rome’s urban landscape see also: A. Alvar, “El paisaje urbano de Roma visto por M. Valerio Marcial”, Aspectos didácticos de Latín 5, Zaragoza (Universidad de Zaragoza), 1997: 99-140.

4. M. Mayer, ” Kardvae un testimonio de Marcial comprobado por la epigrafía”, Zephyrus 53-54 (2000-2001): 532-534; J. Melendo Pomareta, “Sobre la ubicación de Platea y otros topónimos de Marcial”, Encuentro de Estudios Bilbilitanos 2 (1997): 75-80.

5. Encuentra focuses on Martial’s celebration of the emperor and on the use of myth, but omits some other important issues such as the laudatory element in ekphrastic epigrams.

6. In this section, Encuentra explores the phallic element in Martial’s epigrams, somehow overlapping with Fontana’s last subchapter and with the third section of Beltrán’s chapter (“Claves de la poética de Marcial”).

7. Nonetheless, some of his statements on sexual matters on page 179 should be qualified.

8. There are few omissions worthy of note: F. Fortuny Previ, “Consideraciones sobre algunos hapax de Marcial”, AUM 40 (1981-1982): 111-126; E. M. W. Kuppe, Sachwitz bei Martial, Bonn, 1972. The most recent study on Martial’s language was published in 2004: P. Watson, “The Originality of Martial’s Language”, Glotta 78 (2002): 222-257.

9. R. Nauta Poetry for Patrons: Literary Communication in the Age of Domitian, Leiden-Boston-Köln, 2002. He also assesses C. A. Williams, ” Sit nequior omnibus libellis : Text, Poet, and Reader in the Epigrams of Martial”, Philologus 146 (2002): 150-171.

10. The author leaves out some Spanish contributions to the manuscript tradition and the text of the epigrams, e. g. M. J. Muñoz Jiménez, El Ms. 10098 de la Biblioteca Nacional (Marcial), Madrid (Univ. Complutense), 1982; M. J. Muñoz and J. Pizarro Sánchez, “La selección de epigramas de Marcial en tres florilegios medievales conservados en España”, Actas del II Congreso Hispánico de Latín Medieval, León, 1997: 687-695; ” Excerpta de Marcial en los manuscritos del Escorial G.III.7 y O.III.23, y Madrid B.N. 6510″, Latinitas biblica et christiana. Studia philologica varia in honorem Olegario García de la Fuente, Madrid, 1994: 445-453; J. Velaza, “Tradition indirecte et variants d’auteur (a propos de Mart. Epigr. V 29 et Vita Alex Sev. 38,1-2)”, RPh 67 (1993): 295-303; “Notas al texto de Marcial (II 87.2; III 13,1 y III 44.13)”, Actas del IX Congreso Español de Estudios Clásicos, vol. V, Madrid, 1998: 193-196. In a brief note on the dating of the epigrams, he also omits M. Citroni, “Marziale e la letteratura per i Saturnali (poetica dell’intrattenimento e cronologia della pubblicazione dei libri)”, ICS 14 (1989): 201-226. However, this question is discussed in detail by A. Encuentra (pp. 288-293).

11. For textual criticism of particular epigrams, one must definitely resort to S. Lorenz’s (note 1) meticulous account.