(Marcus Valerius Martialis)


Valerius Martialis was part of a literary circle in Rome that thrived near the turn of the first century, sometimes called the Silver Age  of Latin literature. He was born in Spain, into fairly modest circumstances, but as a young man, moved to Rome. His first patrons were Seneca and Lucan, whose families were also from Spain. Both however, were put to death as a result of a conspiracy against Nero. His later patrons included the Flavian emperors, Pliny the Younger, Juvenal, and Quintilian. Martial was primarily known for his epigrams, which were very witty, short sayings. Epigrams were sometimes written on monuments or tombstones, and in an age when writing was difficult, were highly valued. He was also known as a wit, and was a frequent guest at fashionable homes in Rome. Martial first became known for a collection of poems entitled Liber Spectaculorum, that was published 81 A.D. in honor of the Flavian Colosseum. This was followed by two collections of short mottos, entitled Xenia  and Apophoreta. His most famous works however, were the twelve books of Epigrams  that he published, at approximately one per year, from 86 to 98 A.D.

Key events during the life of Martial:

  Raised in Bilbilis, Spain
  Early patrons in Rome were Seneca and Lucan.
Seneca and Lucan are put to death in one of Nero's purges.
  Befriended Pliny the Younger, Juvenal, Quintilan.
Published Liber Spectaculorum.
Published Xenia  and Apophoreta.
Published first two books of Epigrams.
Published twelfth book of Epigrams.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Fashionable Poet  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church

Short Biography
Seneca Tutor and minister to Nero. Forced to commit suicide after falling from grace.
Juvenal Satirical poet; ridiculed the vices of imperial Roman society.
Quintilian Teacher of Rhetoric. Wrote Institutio Oratoria. Pliny and Tacitus were students.
Domitian Third Flavian emperor. Known for purges and persecutions near end of reign.
Titus Second Flavian emperor. Conquered Jerusalem. Reigned with father Vespasian.
Pliny the Younger Roman statesman and and orator. His letters are important historical sources.