Martial, Epigrams. Book 13. Mainly from Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
That the tunny fish may not want a toga, or the olives a cloak, and that the humble worm may not fear pinching famine, waste, you Muses, this Egyptian papyrus, over which I lose so much time. Winter, the season for revelry, asks for a new collection of witticisms. My tessera does not vie with the magnanimous talus,1 nor do the sice and ace rattle in my ivory box. This paper is my plaything, this paper my dice-box, this game, if it brings me no gain, occasions me no loss.
You may be as keen-nosed as you please; in a word, you may be all nose, and so extensive that Atlas himself if asked, would be unwilling to carry it, and you may even excel Latinus 2 himself in scoffing, still you cannot say more against my trifles than I have said myself What good can it do you to gnash one tooth against another? If you wish to indulge in biting, let flesh be your food. Do not lose your labour, but direct your venom against those who are enamoured of themselves. As for me, I know that my effusions are as nothing; not, however, that they are absolutely nothing, if you come to their perusal with candid judgment, and not with an empty stomach.3
The whole multitude of mottos 1 contained in this thin little book will cost you, if you purchase it, four small coins. If four is too much, perhaps you may get it for two, and the bookseller, Trypho, will even then make a profit. These distichs you may send to your entertainers instead of a present, if money is as scarce with you as it is with me. The names of all the articles are given as headings; so that you may pass by those which are not to your taste.
That Germanicus2 may late begin to rule over the ethereal hall, and that he may long rule over the earth, offer pious incense to Jove.
When there falls to your lot a wax-coloured beccafico, which shines with fat back, you will, if you are wise, add pepper to it.
I send you barley-water: a rich man could send you honored wine. But if the rich man be unwilling to send it you, buy it.
If the pale bean boils for you in the red earthenware pot, you may often decline the suppers of rich patrons.
Season common jars with Clusine pulse, that, when they are cleansed, you may drink sweet wine from them to your satisfaction.
Receive these Egyptian lentils, a gift from Pelusium; if they are not so good as barley, they are better than beans.
You would never be able to enumerate all the different qualities of wheaten flour, or its uses, seeing that both baker and cook apply it in many different ways.
Receive herewith, muleteer, what you so often steal from your dumb mules. I give it as a present to the innkeeper,1 not to you.
Accept three hundred pecks from the harvest of the Libyan husbandman, that your suburban farm may not grow sterile 1.
That insipid beet, the food of artisans, may acquire some flavour, how often must the cook have recourse to wine and pepper!
Tell me why lettuce, which used to close the repasts of our forefathers, now commences our feasts?
If you cultivate fields in the neighbourhood of Nomentum,2 bring wood, I charge you, countrymen, to the farm-house.
These radishes which I present to you, and which are suited to the cold season of winter, Romulus still eats in heaven.3
That young cabbages may not excite your disgust by their paleness, make them green by boiling them in nitrated water.
Whenever you have eaten strong-smelling shreds of the Tarentine leek, give kisses with your mouth shut.
Aricia, celebrated for its grove, sends us its best leeks: look at these green blades and snow-white stalks.
The lands near Amiternum abound in productive gardens; you may now eat more sparingly of the turnips of Nursia.
The delicate stalks cultivated on the coast of Ravenna will not be more grateful to the palate than this wild asparagus.
I am a grape not suited to the cup or to Bacchus; but, if you do not attempt to drink me, I shall taste like nectar.
The Chian fig, like old wine from Setia, contains within it both wine and salt. 1
If quinces, well saturated with Attic honey, were placed before you, you would say, these honey-apples are delicious.
We are the apples of Cybele;2 keep at a distance, passerby, lest we fall and strike your unfortunate head.
We are service berries, good for astringing relaxed bowels; a fruit better suited to your little boy than yourself.
Gilded dates are offered on the Kalends of January;3 and yet this is the expected gift of a poor man.
These Syrian plums, which come to you enclosed in a wattled conical basket, had they been any larger, might have passed for figs.
Accept these foreign plums, wrinkled with age: they are good for relaxing constipated bowels.
This cheese, marked with the likeness of the Etruscan Luna,4 will serve your slaves a thousand times for breakfast.
In case you desire to break your fast economically, without meat, this mass of cheese comes to you from the flocks of the Vestini.1
It is not every hearth or every smoke that is suited to cheese; but the cheese that imbibes the smoke of the Velabrum2 is excellent.
Trebula gave us birth; a double merit recommends us, for whether toasted at a gentle fire or softened in water, we are equally good.
If your wife is old, and your members languid, bulbs can do no more for you than fill your belly.3
Daughter of a Picenian pig, I come from Lucania; by me a grateful garnish is given to snow-white pottage.
This olive, which comes to us rescued4 from the presses of Picenum, both begins and ends our repasts.
These fruits are either from the boughs of the garden of Corcyra, or were guarded by the dragon of Massylia.5
We give you, from the first milk of the mothers, sucklings of which the shepherd has deprived the dams while yet unable to stand.
Let the wanton creature, noxious to the green vine, pay the penalty of its crime; though so young, it has already injured the god of wine.
If white fluid surround the saffron-coloured yolk, let pickle from the Spanish mackerel season the egg.
Let the rich man place before me the nursling of a sluggish mother, fattened upon milk alone, and he may feed off an Aetolian boar himself.
We present to you pomegranates with soft and hard stones, not from Libyan, but Nomentan trees.
Pomegranates with soft stones, gathered from suburban trees, and early pomegranates with hard stones, are sent to you. What do you want with those from Libya?
You would hardly imagine that you were eating cooked sows' teats, so abundantly do they flow and swell with living milk.
If we possessed Libyan fowl2 and pheasants, you should receive them; as it is, receive birds from the hen-coop.
Though early ripe, we should, on our natural branches, have been little esteemed; but now, grafted on branches ot Persian origin, we are highly valued.
Picentine flour teems with white nectar,1 just as the light sponge swells with the water it imbibes.
To send silver or gold, a cloak or a toga, is easy enough, but to send mushrooms is difficult.2
Since I feed not only on figs, but on sweet grapes, why did not the grape rather give me a name?
We who with tender head burst through the earth that nourishes us, are truffles, second only to mushrooms.
A crown made of roses, perhaps, or rich spikenard,4 may please you, but a crown of thrushes delights me.
Let a duck be brought to table whole: but only the breast and neck are worth eating; return the rest to the cook.
As long as I have fat turtle-doves, a fig for your lettuce, my friend, and you may keep your shell-fish to yourself. I have no wish to waste my appetite.
Let me have it from the territory of the Cerretans,1 or it may be sent from the Menapians;2 let epicures devour ham.
The ham is quite fresh; make haste, and delay not to invite your best friends; I will have nothing to do with a stale ham.
You perhaps will give the preference to the chitterlings of a virgin pig; I prefer them from a pregnant sow.
You will deride this Egyptian vegetable, with its wool that sticks so closely, when obliged to tear its obstinate filaments with teeth and hands.
See, how the liver is swollen larger than a fat goose. In amazement you will exclaim: where could this possibly grow?
I sleep through the whole winter, and have become fatter during the time, with nothing but sleep to nourish me.
The rabbit delights to dwell in caves dug in the earth. It was he who taught enemies the art of making secret ways.
Among winged fowl, the best-flavoured is held to be the Ionian heathcock.
The hen fattens readily on sweet flour and darkness.1 How ingenious is gluttony!2
Lest the cock, by excess of conjugal enjoyment, should grow thin, it is put out of his power to do so. I shall call him a priest of Cybele.3
In vain does the hen caress her sterile mate; she ought to have been the bird of Cybele, the mother of the gods.
This bird is placed as a great rarity upon Roman tables. It is only at those of the rich that you taste it frequently.
If you have been initiated in the sacred mysteries of the Cnidian goddess, violate not tender doves with sacrilegious tooth.4
Wood-pigeons make sluggish and blunt the manly powers He who wishes to be a lover should not eat of this bird.
The witwal is trapped by reeds and nets, while the grape, yet immature, swells with green juice.
Umbria never gave us Pannonian Martens. Pudens prefers to send these as presents to our Sovereign Lord.1
Yon are lost in admiration whenever he spreads his feathers that glow as it were with jewels, and can you consign him, cruel man, to the unfeeling cook?
My red wing gives me my name; but it is my tongue that is considered savoury by epicures. What, if my tongue had been able to sing?2
I was first brought to these climes in the ship Argo; till then I knew only the river Phasis.
However well Hannibal was fed with Roman geese, the barbarian himself never ate the birds of his own country.3
This bird saved the temple of Tarpeian Jove. Do you wonder at this? A god has not then built that temple.4
You will disturb the lines, and the letter1 will not fly entire, if you destroy one single bird of Palamedes.2
Whether woodcock or partridge, what does it signify, if the taste is the same? But the partridge is dearer, and therefore thought preferable.
The swan murmurs sweet strains with a faltering tongue, itself the singer of its own dirge.
Has so small a bird the name of a great giant? It has also the name of the charioteer Porphyrion of the Green Faction.
The mullet yet breathes in the sea-water which is brought in for him; but with difficulty. Is he not beginning to droop? Give him the natural sea, and he will recover his strength.
The large lamprey, which swims in the Sicilian deep, cannot again submerge its body, if once scorched by the sun.4
However great the dish that holds the turbot, the turbot is still greater than the dish.
I am a shell-fish just come from being saturated with the waters of the Lucrine lake, near Baiae; but now I luxuriously thirst for noble pickle.1
The cerulean river Liris loves us, Liris sheltered by the wood of Marica,2 thence we prawns come in large shoals.
Of this char, which comes well fattened from the billowy sea, the liver is good; but the other parts are ill-flavoured.
Coracinus,4 glory of the Egyptian markets, where you are eagerly sought, no fish is more highly esteemed than you among the gourmands of Alexandria.
That sea-hedgehog, though it pricks your fingers with its bristly armour, will be soft enough when its shell is laid aside.
You wear, ungrateful man, cloaks dyed in our blood; and as if that were not enough, you also eat us.
Whatever the magnificence of the feasts in the region of Venice, the gudgeon usually forms the beginning of the repast.
The woolly1 pike swims at the mouth of the Euganean Timavus, fattening on sweet water mixed with salt.
It is not every Dory that deserves praise and a high price, but only that which feeds on the shell-fish of the Lucrine lake.
Send the sturgeon to the Palatine table;2 such rarities should adorn divine feasts.
If my opinion is of any worth, the thrush is the greatest delicacy among birds, the hare among quadrupeds.
The bristly animal which fell by an Aetolian spear4 on the lands of Diomede, a dire object of terror, was just such as this.
Wild boars are feared for their tusks; horns are the defence of stags; what are we, unwarlike does, but an easy prey to all?
The savage ounce, not the best victim of the morning sports, costs me the lives of oh! how many dogs!
Was this the stag which was tamed by your halter, Cyparissus?5 or was it rather yours, Silvia?6
While the wild ass is young, and led by its mother alone, the nursling has, but only for a short time, the name of lalisio.
Give your little son the gazelle for a plaything; which the crowd in the amphitheatre like to scare by waving their togas.
See how the mountain goat hangs from the summit of the cliff; you would expect it to fall: it is merely showing its contempt for the dogs.
Behold this beautiful wild ass; away with the hunting of Indian elephants. Lay aside the hunting nets!
This unguent has been exuded by the berry of Venafrum in Campania. Every time you use it, it emits fragrance.1
Accept this exquisite sauce made from the first blood of the expiring mackerel;2 an expensive present.
I am, I confess it, the offspring of the tunny-fish of Antipolis;3 had I been that of a mackerel, I should not have been sent to you.
The bee that throngs Thesean Hymettus has sent you this noble nectar from the forest of Minerva.
When you make a present of Sicilian honeycombs from amid the hills of Hybla, you may call them Attic.
The vineyard of Gnossus, in that Crete where Minos reigned, produced this for you; this is the honeyed wine of the poor man.
Doubt not that this pitch-flavoured wine came from the wine-bearing Vienne: Romulus1 himself sent it to me.
Attic honey thickens the nectar-like Falernian. Such drink deserves to be mixed by Ganymede.
This wine is sent from the Cesarean hills,2 from the sweet vineyard that flourishes on Mount Iulus.
Do you drink Surrentine? Choose for it neither painted myrrhine jars, nor vessels of gold; the wine will furnish you with cups from its own locality.
This Massic3 wine comes from the presses of Sinuessa. Do you ask in whose Consulate it was bottled? It was before consuls existed.
The little city of Setia, which, suspended on high, overlooks the Pontine marshes, has sent us these old tuns.
This wine of Fundi4 was produced in the splendid autumn of Opimius.5 The consul who saw it made drank of it when matured.
I, Trifoline wine,6 am not, I confess, of the first order but I hold, at least, the seventh place.
Generous Caecuban wine is matured at Amyclae, near Fundi; the vine is born and flourishes in the midst of a morass.
You may drink Signine wine, which astringes the relaxed bowels; but, that it may not affect you too much, let your draughts be moderate.
If a jar of Mamertine,1 as old as Nestor, be given you, you may call it by what name you please.2
Tarragon, which yields the palm to the vineyards of Campania alone, produced this wine, rivalling the Tuscan.
My Nomentan vineyard3 yields this wine. If Quintus4 is your friend, you will drink better.
Better drink old wine from Spoletine jars, than new Falernian.
The Pelignian vine-dressers send turbid Marsic wine. Touch it not yourself but let your freed-man drink it.
Disdain not this amphora of Egyptian vinegar. It was much worse when it was wine.
Since your sportula attracts to you hundreds of citizens, you may set before them the smoky wines of Marseilles.
Let Nepos2 place Caeretan wine on table, and you will deem it Setine. But he does not give it to all the world; he drinks it only with a trio of friends.
Aulon3 is renowned for its wool, and happy in its vines. You may take its precious fleeces, give me its wines.
Never think of leaving perfumes or wine to your heir. Administer these yourself and let him have your money.
Winter, O Caesar, offers you a forced chaplet; formerly the rose was a flower of spring, now it comes at your bidding.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
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