Martial readings:

a. from book 1 of the Epigrams:

TO CATO.

Since you knew the lascivious nature of the rites of sportive Flora, as well as the dissoluteness of the games, and the license of the populace, why, stern Cato, did you enter the theatre? Did you come in only that you might go out again?

 

I. TO THE READER.

The man whom you are reading is the very man that you want,----Martial, known over the whole world for his humorous books of epigrams; to whom, studious reader, you have afforded such honours, while he is alive and has a sense of them, as few poets receive after their death.

 

II. TO THE READER; SHOWING WHERE THE AUTHOR'S BOOKS MAY BE PURCHASED.

You who are anxious that my books should be with you everywhere, and desire to have them as companions on a long journey, buy a copy of which the parchment leaves are compressed into a small compass. Bestow book-cases upon large volumes; one hand will hold me. But that you may not be ignorant where I am to be bought, and wander in uncertainty over the whole town, you shall, under my guidance, be sure of obtaining me. Seek Secundus, the freedman of the learned Lucensis, behind the Temple of Peace and the Forum of Pallas.

 

VIII. TO DECIANUS

In that you so far only follow the opinions of the great Thrasea and Cato of consummate virtue, that you still wish to preserve your life, and do not with bared breast rush upon drawn swords, you do, Decianus, what I should wish you to do. I do not approve of a man who purchases fame with life-blood, easy to be shed: I like him who can be praised without dying to obtain it.

 

IX. TO COTTA.

You wish to appear, Cotta, a pretty man and a great man at one and the same time: but he who is a pretty man, Cotta, is a very small man.

 

X. ON GEMELLUS AND MARONILLA.

Gemellus is seeking the hand of Maronilla, and is earnest, and lays siege to her, and beseeches her, and makes presents to her. Is she then so pretty? Nay; nothing can be more ugly. What then is the great object and attraction in her? ----Her cough.

 

XII. ON REGULUS.

Where the road runs to the towers of the cool Tivoli, sacred to Hercules, and the hoary Albula smokes with sulphureous waters, a milestone, the fourth from the neighbouring city, points out a country retreat, and a hallowed grove, and a domain well beloved of the Muses. Here a rude portico used to afford cool shade in summer; a portico, ah! how nearly the desperate cause of an unheard-of calamity: for suddenly it fell in ruins, after Regulus had just been conveyed in a carriage and pair from under its high fabric. Truly Dame Fortune feared our complaints, as she would have been unable to withstand so great odium. Now even our loss delights us; so beneficial is the impression which the very danger produces; since, while standing, the edifice could not have proved to us the existence of the gods.

 

XIII. ON ARRIA AND PAETUS.

When the chaste Arria handed to her Paetus the sword which she had with her own hand drawn forth from her heart, "If you believe me," said she, "the wound which I have made gives me no pain; but it is that which you will make, Paetus, that pains me."

 

XIV. TO DOMITIAN.

The pastimes, Caesar, the sports and the play of the lions, we have seen: your arena affords you the additional sight of the captured hare returning often in safety from the kindly tooth, and running at large through the open jaws. Whence is it that the greedy lion can spare his captured prey? He is said to be yours: thence it is that he can show mercy.

 

XV. TO JULIUS.

Oh! you who are regarded by me, Julius, as second to none of my companions, if well-tried friendship and longstanding ties are worth anything, already nearly a sixtieth consul is pressing upon you, and your life numbers but a few more uncertain days. Not wisely would you defer the enjoyment which you see may be denied you, or consider the past alone as your own. Cares and linked chains of disaster are in store; joys abide not, but take flight with winged speed. Seize them with either hand, and with your full grasp; even thus they will oft-times pass away and glide from your closest embrace. 'Tis not, believe me, a wise man's part to say, "I will live." To-morrow's life is too late: live to-day.

 

XVIII. TO TUCCA, ON HIS PARSIMONY.

What pleasure can it give you, Tucca, to mix with old Falernian wine new wine stored up in Vatican casks? What vast amount of good has the most worthless of wine done you? or what amount of evil has the best wine done you? As for us, it is a small matter; but to murder Falernian, and to put poisonous wine in a Campanian cask, is an atrocity. Your guests may possibly have deserved to perish: a wine-jar of such value has not deserved to die.

 

XIX. TO AELIA.

If I remember right, Aelia, you had four teeth; a cough displaced two, another two more. You can now cough without anxiety all the day long. A third cough can find nothing to do in your mouth.

 

XX. TO CAECILIANUS.

Tell me, what madness is this? While a whole crowd of invited guests is looking on, you alone, Caecilianus, devour the truffles. What shall I imprecate on you worthy of so large a stomach and throat? That you may eat a truffle such as Claudius ate.

 

XXI. ON PORSENA AND MUCIUS SCAEVOLA.

When the hand that aimed at the king mistook for him his secretary, it thrust itself to perish into the sacred fire but the generous foe could not endure so cruel a sight, and bade the hero, snatched from the flame, to be set free. The hand which, despising the fire, Mucius dared to burn, Porsena could not bear to look on Greater was the fame and glory of that right hand from being deceived; had it not missed its aim, it had accomplished less.

 

XXXII. TO SABIDIUS.

I do not love you, Sabidius, nor can I say why; I can only say this, I do not love you.

 

XXXIII. ON GELLIA.

Gellia does not mourn for her deceased father, when she is alone; but if any one is present, obedient tears spring forth. He mourns not, Gellia, who seeks to be praised; he is the true mourner, who mourns without a witness.

 

XXXIV. TO LESBIA.

You always take your pleasure, Lesbia, with doors unguarded and open, nor are you at any pains to conceal your amusements. It is more the spectator, than the accomplice in your doings, that pleases you, nor are any pleasures grateful to your taste if they be secret. Yet the common courtesan excludes every witness by curtain and by bolt, and few are the chinks in a suburban brothel. Learn something at least of modesty from Chione, or from Alis: even the monumental edifices of the dead afford hiding-places for abandoned harlots. Does my censure seem too harsh? I do not exhort you to be chaste, Lesbia, but not to be caught.

 

b. from the Little Book on the Public Shows of Domitian:

I. ON THE COLLOSEUM.

Let barbarian Memphis keep silence concerning the wonders of her pyramids, and let not Assyrian toil vaunt its Babylon. Let not the effeminate Ionians claim praise for their temple of the Trivian goddess; and let the altar, bristling with horns, speak modestly of the name of Delos. Their mausoleum too, hanging in empty air, let not the Carians with immoderate praise extol to the skies. Every work of toil yields to Caesar's amphitheatre; fame shall tell of one work for all.

 

V. ON THE SPECTACLE OF PASIPHAE.

Believe that Pasiphae was enamoured of a Cretan bull: we have seen it. The old story has been confirmed. Let not venerable antiquity boast itself, Caesar; whatever fame celebrates, thy arena reproduces for thee.

 

VI. TO CAESAR, ON A WOMAN'S FIGHTING WITH A LION.

That the warrior Mars serves thee in arms, suffices not, Caesar; Venus, too, herself serves thee.

 

VIB. ON THE SAME SUBJECT.

A lion laid low in the vast vale of Nemea fame trumpeted abroad as a noble exploit, and worthy of Hercules. Let ancient tales be silent; for since thy shows have been exhibited, Caesar, we have seen this accomplished by a woman's hand.

 

VII. ON LAUREOLUS.

As first, bound down upon the Scythian rock, Prometheus with ever-renewed vitals feasted the untiring vulture, so has Laureolus, suspended on no feigned cross, offered his defenceless entrails to a Caledonian bear. His mangled limbs quivered, every part dripping with gore, and in his whole body no shape was to be round. In short, he suffered such punishment as one who had been guilty of parricide, or who had cut his master's throat, or had insanely despoiled the temples of their hidden gold, or had applied the incendiary torch to thee, O Rome. This criminal had surpassed the crimes of ancient story, and what had been fabulous, was in his case a real punishment.

 

VIII. ON DAEDALUS.

Daedalus, while you were being thus torn by a Lucanian bear, how must you have desired to have those wings of yours.

 

IX. ON THE RHINOCEROS.

The rhinoceros, exhibited for thee, Caesar, in the whole space of the arena, fought battles of which he gave no promise. Oh, into what terrible wrath did he with lowered head, blaze forth! How powerful was that tusk to whom a bull was a mere ball!

 

XVII. ON AN ELEPHANT'S KNEELING TO CAESAR.

Whereas piously and in suppliant guise the elephant kneels to thee, Caesar, - that elephant which erewhile was so formidable to the bull his antagonist, - this he does without command, and with no keeper to teach him: believe me, he too feels our present deity.

 

XVIII. ON A TIGRESS MATCHED WITH A LION.

A tigress that had been accustomed to lick the hand of her unsuspecting keeper, an animal of rare beauty from the Hyrcanian mountains, being enraged, lacerated with maddened tooth a fierce lion; a strange occurrence, such as had never been known in any age. She attempted nothing of the sort while she lived in the depth of the forests; but since she has been amongst us, she has acquired greater ferocity.

 

XX. OF MYRINUS AND TRIUMPHUS, TWO GLADIATORS.

When one faction was calling for Myrinus, the other for Triumphus, Caesar promised them both with either hand. He could not have terminated the amusing contention in a better way. Oh, the charming wit of our unrivalled prince.

 

XXIX. ON PRISCUS AND VERUS.

While Verus and Priscus were prolonging the combat, and the valour of each had been for a long time equal, quarter for the combatants was demanded with great clamour. But Caesar obeyed his own law. The law was to fight with a stated reward in view, till by his thumb one of the pair proclaimed himself vanquished: but, as was allowed, he frequently gave them dishes and gifts. An end, however, was found for the well-matched contest: equal they fought, equal they resigned. Caesar sent wooden swords to each,1 to each the meed of victory. Such was the reward that adroit valour received. Under no other prince save thee, Caesar, has this ever happened, that, when two fought with each other, both were victors.

1Wooden swords were awarded to gladiators upon their retirement.

 

adapted from http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/#Martial