Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Martial was the foremost satirical poet of his day in Rome; he also remains one of the greatest satirists in the history of literature. He was born in modestly comfortable circumstances in the province of Spain, possibly on a farm near Tarraco, and also received his education there. He moved to Rome around 64 c.e. and, most likely, was sponsored by his countrymen, including Seneca the Younger and Lucan. Martial then spent most of his writing career under the patronage of other writers, patrician sponsors, and eventually emperors such as Titus, Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan. A friend of major Roman authors, including Quintilian, Martial was elevated to the equestrian order by Emperor Domitian, although he was not reluctant to satirize even some of his own imperial patrons after their deaths.
Widely considered the master of the short epigram as a literary form, he wrote approximately fifteen books and about fifteen hundred epigrams that were published in annual volumes beginning in 86 c.e. More than twelve hundred of his epigrams were written as couplets, the other three hundred extending to twice as many or more lines. His lively wit and flair for irony are noted in acerbic cheerful observations that marked him as obviously gifted for satire, making him popular in his day and into modern times for lampooning individuals and highlighting notable scandals in Rome in his biting commentary. Martial...
(The entire section is 1358 words.)
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