Sit Nequior Omnibus Libellis: text, poet, and reader in the epigrams of Martial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With particular reference to epigrams 1.3,1.35,1.52 (which is compared to Catull. 15), 3.68, and 11.15, this paper discusses Martial's version of a metapoetic technique found in some earlier Latin texts (above all Catullus 16 and Horace, Epistles 1.20): the direct or indirect personification of the poetic text or book-scroll as a male, in terms drawn from the Roman language of sexuality. The implications for the processes of writing, publishing, and reading are considered: for example, the writer or reader may be figured as taking possession of and "penetrating" the desirable text, or the text may be imagined as phallically potent, able to have its way with readers. The paper also considers some other epigrams (10.102, 11.6, 11.16) which variously exploit figurative overlaps between the poetic and the sexual. Common to nearly all of these texts is the concept of control, for which Roman discourses of masculine sexuality offer particularly vivid imagery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-171
Number of pages22
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Sit Nequior Omnibus Libellis: text, poet, and reader in the epigrams of Martial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this