Martialis, Marcus Valerius

, an ancient Latin poet, and the model of epigrammatists, was born at Bilbilis, now called Bubiera, a town of the ancient Celtiberia in Spain, which is the kingdom of Arragon. He was born, as is supposed, in the reign of Claudius, and went to Rome when he was about twenty-one. He was sent thither with a view of prosecuting the law; but soon forsook that study, and applied himself to poetry. He excelled so much in the epigrammatic style, that he soon acquired reputation, and was courted by many of the first rank at Rome. Silius Italicus, Stella, and Pliny the younger, were his friends and patrons. Stertinius, a noble Roman, had so great an esteem for his compositions, that he placed > his statue in his library, while he was yet living; and the emperor Verus, who reigned with Antoninus the philosopher, used to call him his Virgil, which was as high an honour as could well be paid to him. We learn also from Pliny and Tacitus, as well as from several passages in his own writings, that he had honours and dignities bestowed upon him by some of the emperors. Domitian, whom it must be confessed he has flattered not a little, made him a Roman knight, and gave him likewise the “Jus trium liberorum,” the privileges of a citizen who had three children. He was also advanced to the tribunate. But though he was so particularly honoured, and had so many great and noble patrons, who admired him for his wit and poetry, it | does not appear that he made his fortune among them. There is reason to think that, after the death of Domitian, his credit and interest declined at Rome; and if he had still remaining among the nobles some patrpns, such as Pliny, Cornelius Priscus, &c. yet the emperor Nerva took but little notice of him, and the emperor Trajan none at all. Tired of Rome, therefore, after he had lived in that city about four and thirty years, and grown, as himself tells us, grey-headed, he returned to his own country Bilbilis, where he took a wife, and had the happiness to live with her several years. He admired her much, as one who alone was sufficient to supply the want of every thing he enjoyed at Rome. She appears to have brought him a very large fortune; for, in one of his epigrams he extols the magnificence of the house and gardens he had received from her, and says, “that she had made him a little kind of monarch.” About three years after he had retired into Spain, he inscribed his twelfth book of Epigrams to Priscus, who had been his friend and benefactor; and is supposed to have died about the year 100. As an epigrammatist, Martial is eminently distinguished, and has been followed as a model by all succeeding wits. All his efforts, however, are not equally successful, and many of his epigrams are perhaps unjustly so called, being merely thoughts or sentiments without applicable point. He offends often by gross indelicacy, which was the vice of the times; but his style is in general excellent, and his frequent allusion to persons and customs render his works very interesting to classical antiquaries.

His works were first printed at Venice, as is supposed in. 1470, then at Ferrara in 1471, Rome 1473, and Venice 1475. These are the most rare and valuable editions. The more modern and useful are: that of Aldus, 1501 by Raderus, 1627, fol. by Scriverius, 1619, 12mo; the Variorum of 1670; and the Bipont edition of 1784, 2 vols. 8vo. A strange absurdity occurs in the Delphin edition, 1680, 4to, where all the indelicate epigrams are omitted in the body of the work, but carefully collected at the end! This has, however, been followed and perhaps exceeded by Smids, in the Amsterdam edition of 1701, who, having ornamented his edition with engravings, places the more indelicate ones at the end of the volume. 1

1 Crusius’s Latin poets. Vnssiiis de Poet. Lat. Dibdin’s Classics and Bibl, Spenceriaua. —Saxii Onomasticon.