Monday, 3 September 2012

Martial IX 97. How to think of jealous fellow poets.

After a holiday and a deceased pc, here is a new post!

When you are a famous poet, other poets can be very jealous. This happened to Martial (40-102/104 AD), Martialis in Latin – for reasons unknown to me the English speaking world often cuts off the nominative case-ending from Latin names, whereas we Dutch politely pronounce it.  He was financially dependent on rich friends and was even favoured by the emperors Titus (79-81) and Domitian (81-96). With his books of epigrams he was widely popular, undoubtedly because of their often sarcastic content  (see the blog on Martial XI.21). Martial however did not care about jealous fellow poets and wrote a poem addressed to his friend Julius, making a laughing-stock of them. In this epigram the jealous poet is not identified, but probably Martial meant every jealous poet. Very effective is the recurring phrase rumpitur invidia and by rumpatur invidia Martial gives his opinion about such poets!

Martial IX. 97

Rumpitur invidia quidam, carissime Iuli,
       quod me Roma legit, rumpitur invidia.
rumpitur invidia quod turba semper in omni
       monstramur digito, rumpitur invidia.
rumpitur invidia tribuit quod Caesar uterque              5
       ius mihi natorum, rumpitur invidia.
rumpitur invidia quod rus mihi dulce sub urbe est
       parvaque in urbe domus, rumpitur invidia.
rumpitur invidia quod sum iucundus amicis,
       quod conviva frequens, rumpitur invidia.              10
rumpitur invidia quod amamur quodque probamur:
       rumpatur quisquis rumpitur invidia.

rumpo, rupi, ruptus:    to break
invidia                         envy, jealousy (ablative, as is shown by scansion: the a is long)
quidam                        a certain person
turba                            mob,  crowd
turba semper in omni = semper in omni turba
monstro                        to point out, indicate (Note that monstramur has no agent: turba belongs the adverbal phrase answering the question where?, though the crowd is of course implied as the agent.)
digitus                          finger
tribuo, tribui, tributus    bestow
tribuit quod = quod tribuit
Ceasar uterque:  both emperors (Titus and Domitian). In Latin uterque is considered as singular.
ius natorum: when one had 3 children or more, one could get certain advantages. Under exceptional circumstances these advantages could also be given to men without or less than 3 children.
rus, ruris, n.                country, country-seat, small estate
dulcis                          pleasant
sub                              near by
parvus                        small
iucundus                    funny, pleasant
conviva, m.               table companion, guest
frequens, -entis          regular
probo                        to approve, esteem good
rumpatur…rumpitur: a nice illustration of the use of the subjunctive.


  1. Martial is written for practical reasons of prosody: it suits English pronunciation. It is also the form often used in German. Why is it necessary to adopt a position that characterizes Dutch-speakers as polite and, by implication, the English(-speakers) as impolite ?

  2. Hi Louishai, politely is of couse used ironically!