Thursday, 16 March 2006

Martial's blog

I recently came across a rather interesting blog, written by Mark Keith, a high school Latin teacher in America. The day I discovered his blog, Mark was describing his classroom. But in an earlier post, he quoted a snippet of the Roman poet Martial (in the original Latin, of course).

Feeling lazy, I launched an internet search for a translation, ... and found nothing. First port of call was the Perseus Project, but in its list of 489 ancient texts, Cornelius Nepos follows straight after Lysias, omitting Marcus Valerius Martialis entirely. The Latin text is certainly available in The Latin Library, but why are there no on-line translations? Surely not because of Martial's reputation for scurrilous (not to say disgusting) verse?

Well ... maybe so. The Artful Dodge magazine presents, on its web site, three of Martial's Epigrams, with an introduction by translator Joseph Salemi, where he reveals that not one of the 54 magazines he approached would publish his translations. This, he attributes to "our neurotic fear of offending anyone or any group".

But today, serendipity brought the Martialis blog to my browser. Beginning in June 2004, the author ("Nick") intended to translate one of Martial's poems every day. Although he ran out of steam last year, having managed 287 poems from Books I-III, there, in all its tiny glory, was Epigram I.61, the snippet quoted by Mark Keith: "Verona loves the syllables of the learned poet, Mantua is fortunate in Maro, ... as for you, Licinianus, our Bilbilis will boast of you, and will not be silent about me".

Postscript: If there are any Latin teachers looking for Advanced Higher tasks to set, how about continuing the on-line translation of Martial? I'm sure the pupils would enjoy it!

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