Martial's Epigrams: A Selection
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Martial's Epigrams: A Selection

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  51 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Despite his enduring popularity, Martial has recently suffered from serious critical neglect. The present work is the first edition of selections from Martial to be published for decades, and the first ever to include a fully representative selection of the oeuvre of the poet, who has often been criticised, unfairly, the authors argue, for obscenity and flattery of the Emp...more
Hardcover, 206 pages
Published October 30th 2008 by Viking Adult
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Don't read this. Just don't.

Okay, I will freely admit that (a) I am not a classicist, (b) I am not a translator, and (c) I have not read much Martial. However, of the poems I have read, the translations are pretty much entirely failing to capture the meaning of the poem. They do rhyme -- sort of, most of the time -- which I guess is more or less the English equivalent to the Latin meter. (He could have done meter in English, too.) But they don't even sound nice! Some of them randomly substitute...more
I've thought for a long time that I've got a lot in common with Garry Wills, except that he's smarter, better-educated, and more diligent. But I tend to agree with him, or be persuaded by him, in practically everything he's written. Here he's done a translation of many of Martial's epigrams (short Latin poems from about the reign of Nero and after), completely unexpurgated (which is unusual), and in fact reveling in their frequent obscenity. He even has a helpful subject index in the back, listi...more
An interesting edition of Martial - only "selections," which limits my interest, and admittedly free verse adaptations (I cannot call them "translations") in rhyme, but still - Wills has captured something of the spirit of Martial, and I can admire that. Worth reading for the nonspecialist who is interested in Roman poetry (especially if said nonspecialist has no Latin - which was, incidentally, a factor against this book for me - the lack of any reference to the Latin originals).
Jeffrey Greggs
It's exceedingly difficult to make the couplet stand in for Latin's inflection-bending, and Mr. Wills is no Dryden. That said, he has an eye for the gut-punch required by English aphorism and does a credible job making the case that Martial is more than a rude schoolboy with a silver tongue.
. . . . The breadth of poetic tones Humphries confronts in his translations and the apparent effortlessness of his execution is nothing short of breath-taking. From the high dignity of Virgil, through the hilarious vulgarity of Martial and back to the Wordsworthian philosophizing (without the Wordsworthian pomposity) of Lucretius. From Ovid’s serious and finally tragic playfulness to all the well-placed grumpiness of that curmudgeon Juvenal. Humphries achieved a feat of poetic translation I woul...more
An interesting and often entertaining glimpse at the life of the ancient Romans through the eyes of an acerbic and funny critic. GW's introduction is informative and offers a helpful context for these short thrusts. The language of the translations was very suggestive of what the originals must be, but I found the scansion and rhyming flat. Perhaps that , too, reflected the originals, but then they were not effective (or affective) to my modern,English ears.
Martial's epigrams are pretty entertaining. I particularly liked the invective poems. Martial follows in Catullus' footsteps, both stylistically and temporally, hence if you like Catullus' poetry you'll enjoy Martial's as well.

The Cambridge edition provides good introductory material and commentary on the text. The commentary also includes summary translations which was a nice surprise. I would have liked more notes on meter though.
Proof that genius is timeless.
I guess I will never know what it might have bee to have read this book in my 20s, but I surely will read it again and again in the years to come and pack it with me when I cross onto some other quantum dimension. (And who knows, maybe by then the other 2/3 will have been brilliantly translated by Gary Wills.)
The introduction was good, but i get tired of the Roman life and its prurience. Who knew they were so against cunnilingus, to the point where it was the worst insult imaginable? Also, the translation was clunky and at times anachronistic as far as I could tell(breath mints?). Horace, I'm sorry I strayed.
My review is supposed to appear in the summer issue of the British poetry journal .
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Born: March 1, 40 AD, in Augusta Bilbilis (now Calatayud, Spain); Died: ca. 102 AD--Marcus Valerius Martialis, known in English as Martial, was a Latin poet from Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. In these short, witty poems he cheerfully satirises city...more
More about Marcus Valerius Martialis...
Epigrams Epigrams, I, Spectacles, Books 1-5 (Loeb Classical Library) Epigrams, Volume III, Books 11-14. (Loeb Classical Library No. 480) Epigrams, Volume II: Books 6-10 I cento epigrammi proibiti

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