140 purpureis... villosa tapetis) makes no difference, if your lover is uncooperative or else unsatisfying (quid prodest, si te congelat uxor anus?). With this poem, Martial takes Asclepiades’idealized depiction of sex and drags it down to a rather bleak (if amusing) reality. The point of this analysis has been to show how Martial has transformed the three elements of Asclepiades’priamel, whether intentionally or not, into three objects for consumption, and in so doing he has undermined all three of them; according to Martial, an Asclepiadean priamel just doesn’t work in a world of fine wines, frigid wives, and emperors. Readers should turn instead to Martial himself, a modern-day Asclepiades, if they wish to see a more realistic kind of erotic poetry, one that is relevant to life in (Martial’s) Rome. Asclepiades’application of erotic themes to the distinct form of epigram made him an innovator, and so it should come as no surprise that echoes of his work appear throughout Martial’s corpus. The Latin poet transforms his predecessor’s innovation into something over which he himself has full control, whether by asserting his mastery over Asclepiades’love lessons, as we saw in the first reading, or by boiling down Asclepiadean imagery to physical items intended for distribution to his dinner guests, as shown by the second reading (and as I discussed in my first chapter with the more obviously literary poems on Homer from the Apophoreta). In short, then, Martial playfully undermines Asclepiades’literary authority, and in the process assumes a position of superiority for himself.
141 II. Martial’s Posidippus I will next consider one of Asclepiades’contemporaries and friends/rivals, Posidippus, best known for his prominence on the recently-discovered Milan papyrus (the “New”Posidippus), but also the author of a number of erotic epigrams preserved in the Greek Anthology (the “Old”Posidippus).348It is in light of these earlier Posidippan poems that I will consider how Martial is heir to a Greek epigrammatic tradition wherein erotic poetry is closely linked with the symposium, and how he recontextualizes and problematizes this tradition with reference to the Roman cena.349Gutzwiller suggests that Posidippus’erotic epigrams (16 in total from the Greek Anthology, none of which are included on the Milan papyrus) were collected into a book in order to complement Asclepiades’earlier collection. The narrator of Posidippus’poems, according to Gutzwiller, is on the whole much more resistant to the woes of love than the tormented lover of Asclepiades –he “manages erotic experience through objective resistance to emotional torment.”350In truth, this resistance is only sometimes successful, usually in the absence of wine, and when it fails, the frustrated lover’s apparent objectivity seems to waver; but in general the narrator’s canny analysis of his erotic situation is indeed striking, especially given the inherently personal (and thus emotional) nature of these kinds of epigrams.