12-13-0038 BCE

Marcus Valerius Martial

MARCUS VALERIUS MARTIALIS, known in English as Martial, born, (d. ); a Latin poet from Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between CE 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. Martial was an urbane and witty man who is certainly the best known writer, if not the inventor of the epigram. He displayed a great skill in adapting the form to a variety of uses.

His epigrams have the precision and economy of inscriptions on monuments and tombstones, the earliest examples of the form. In a single couplet of stinging with, Martial can expose a pretentious or foolish person.

A good number of the poet’s epigrams suggest not only that he was sexually promiscuous, but that he spent a fair share of his time with the boys, including Galaesus, Hyllus, Lygdus, Telesphorus, Dindymus, and Cestus. Martial, who was not married, got around. In one of his most famous epigrams, he is berated by a woman (his fictitious “wife”) for sleeping with boys when, after all, he has her. Martial responds: “You use your parts, and let the boys use theirs.”