Hidden in Plain Sight_ Martial and the Greek Epigrammatic Tradition (Part 8) - 165 festinat Polytimus ad puellas invitus puerum fatetur Hypnus

Hidden in Plain Sight_ Martial and the Greek Epigrammatic Tradition (Part 8)

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165 festinat Polytimus ad puellas; invitus puerum fatetur Hypnus; pastas glande natis habet Secundus; mollis Dindymus est, sed esse non vult; Amphion potuit puella nasci. horum delicias superbiamque et fastus querulos, Avite, malo, quam dotis mihi quinquies ducena. Polytimus hurries to the girls; Hypnus unwillingly admits that he s a boy; Secundus has a rump nourished on acorns; Dindymus is delicate, although he wishes otherwise; Amphion could have been born a girl. Their charms, their pride, their scornful complaints Avitus, I d choose these over a million-sesterce dowry any day. Martial, like Meleager, identifies five boys by name. But whereas Meleager focuses on the appealing physical characteristics of these boys (τερπνὸς, ἐν ὄμμασι, ἡδυεπὴς, etc.), Martial instead devotes his attention to the wide variety of troublesome mental qualities that they possess, in particular their unwillingness to submit to a pederastic relationship ( festinat... ad puellas , invitus puerum fatetur , mollis... esse non vult ). Martial s ironic twist at the end of the epigram is sharpened in light of Meleager s ending: Meleager willingly gives up the first four boys, provided that the fifth, Myiscus, be his alone; Martial, on the other hand, does not, as we might expect based on his model, eschew the other boys in favor of the last one, the puella -like Amphion, but rather he explains that he would gladly take all five over any female, even one from a wealthy family. The misogynistic joke is apparent, but Martial s allusion to the Meleagrean epigram adds some intertextual humor as well: Martial s taste in boys is far less selective than his predecessor s, and he would rather take all five boys than limit himself to just one, much less a woman. The effect of this observation is comparable to what we have seen with Callimachus, in that Martial seems to be taking an amusing jab at erotic exclusivity. In fact, he may well have had Callimachus in mind here, given that Meleager s poem itself alludes to Call. 29 Pf. (discussed above): Meleager ’s concluding curse, μηκέτ’ ἴδοις τὸ
166 καλόν , clearly recalls Callimachus prayer, ἐπισταίμην μοῦνος ἐγὼ τὰ καλά . Martial, then, has once more playfully undermined Callimachean erotics, this time as filtered through his anthologist Meleager. Martial engages with this anthologistic facet of Meleager s work on a few occasions throughout the Epigrams . This should come as no surprise given that Martial and Meleager are on a basic level performing the same poetic task: compiling books of epigrams. 385 The difference, of course, is that Meleager collects poems from various sources, whereas Martial s poems are all his own. Even so, the extent of Martial s thematic allusion to Meleager and earlier Greek epigrammatists, in combination with his protean, often self-contradictory, poetic personae, suggests that he might style himself as

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