215 Cilix, an infamously greedy thief, wanted to pillage a garden, but in that massive garden, Fabullus, there was nothing but a marble Priapus. He didn’t want to return empty-handed, so Cilix stole Priapus himself. As with the Lucillian poem, here the god’s statue, ironically intended to protect the garden from thieves, has been stolen. Likewise, both Lucillius and Martial develop the character of their subject (to the extent that this is possible in a brief epigram) by articulating his thoughts –Aulus justifies his theft of Hermes by claiming that the student has surpassed the master, while Cilix’s decision is explained by the absence of anything else to steal and a desire not to leave empty-handed.470There is, however, an important distinction that should be pointed out: the identity of the god in question. Lucillius’thief steals a statue of Hermes, whose occasionally rapacious reputation, as explained above, sharpens the humor of the poem. Martial’s thief, on the other hand, steals a statue of Priapus, who, while certainly a frequent protector of gardens, also has a more wanton reputation.471The change of god is striking, and we might question the motivation behind Martial’s choice of an obscene (and comic) god over Lucillius’more traditional Olympian god. The decision, I would argue, once again reflects Martial’s desire to corrupt or debase his Lucillian model. As always, this is not necessarily malicious, but rather plays a game with the reader, who is expected first to recognize the allusion to Lucillius and then to realize that Martial has made a ridiculous substitution: the ithyphallic Priapus for the more dignified Hermes. The effect is simultaneously degrading and elevating, as Martial implicitly asserts his superiority to Lucillius, albeit in the dubious realm of obscenity. 470Cf. also Ep. 8.59.13-14. Watson and Watson (2003) ad loc. 471Watson and Watson (2003: ad loc.) argue that ingenti... hortois a surprise expression intended to allude to the aforementioned reputation. In poems about Priapus, ingenstypically refers to the god’s phallus.
216 The final poems to be discussed here address two of Martial’s least favorite qualities rolled into one: being a poor poet (some examples of which we saw at the beginning of this chapter) and being a poor host.472The Greek epigram in question is attributed to Lucillius (AP11.394): Ποιητὴς πανάριστος ἀληθῶς ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος,ὅστις δειπνίζει τοὺς ἀκροασαμένους.ἢν δ’ἀναγινώσκῃκαὶνήστιας οἴκαδε πέμπῃ, εἰς αὑτὸν τρεπέτω τὴν ἰδίαν μανίην.He is truly the best of all poets who feeds his listeners. But if he recites and sends them home hungry, let him turn his own lunacy upon himself.