The Full-Bottomed Indelicacy of the Ancients


When I was younger, I used to snigger endlessly over the Epigrams of Martial. That was many years ago. Just now, though, I was checking a reference, and I came across this in Bk XI:

XLIII

Deprensum in puero tetricis me vocibus, uxor,
corripis et culum te quoque habere refers.
Dixit idem quotiens lascivo Juno Tonanti?
Ille tamen grandi cum Ganymede jacet.
Incurvabat Hylan posito Tirynthius arcu:
tu Megaran credis non habuisse natis?
Torquebat Phoebum Daphne fugitiva: sed illas
Oebalius flammas jussit abire puer.
Briseis multum quamvis aversa jaceret,
Aeacidae propior levis amicus erat.
Parce tuis igitur dare mascula nomina rebus
teque puta cunnos, uxor, habere duos.

This wasn’t what I was looking for. But the final couplet has brightened my morning. Note also the innocent, rising tone of “Dixit idem quotiens lascivo Juno Tonanti….”

If I taught Martial in any of my occasional Latin courses, I’d almost certainly have the Plod on my back (er!)

O Saeclum insapiens et infacetum!

About these ads

5 responses to “The Full-Bottomed Indelicacy of the Ancients

  1. A spirited translation, let down only by the loss of shock value in the final line. “Cunnus” is as obscene in Latin as “cunt” is in English.

  2. I once had a go at translating several dozen of the less decorous epigrams. Because I tried using the same quantitative metres as the original, I didn’t get very far. I had more luck, though, with rhymed iambic tetrameter. I put the final line of

    Ad cenam invitant omnes te Phoebe cinaedi.
    Mentula quem pascit non puto purus homo est.

    into

    But take it, Phoebus, how you can,
    Who’d whom a cock feeds call a man?

  3. That translation is loose enough to be considered your own work. It’s too late to feel Martial’s collar, but the plod knows where you live.