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Laugh if you are wise.

Marcus Valerius Martialis (March, between 38 and 41 CE–between 102 and 104 CE) was born at Bilbilis, a small town in the north-east of Spain (Hispania). He is commonly known in the English speaking world as Martial. He was a scathing satirist, often writing highly derogatory poems of his acquaintances — including his patrons — which he published under the title of Epigrammata. Though not the first Roman poet to write in an epigrammatic style he is widely considered to have brought the epigram to its acme as a literary genre; thus he is rightly considered the 'Father of the Epigram.'


Tomorrow's life is too late. Live today.

Epigrams (c. 80 – 104 AD)[edit]

Epigrammata, twelve books of short poems.
  • Lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba.
    • My poems are naughty, but my life is pure.
    • I, 4.
  • Non est, crede mihi, sapientis dicere ‘Vivam’:
    Sera nimis vita est crastina: vive hodie.
    • Believe me, wise men don’t say ‘I shall live to do that’, tomorrow's life is too late; live today.
    • I, 15.
    • Variant translations:
      • 'I'll live to-morrow', 'tis not wise to say:
        'Twill be too late to-morrow—live to-day.
      • Tomorrow will I live, the fool does say;
        Today itself's too late; the wise lived yesterday.
  • Cineri gloria sera venit
    • Glory paid to ashes comes too late
      •  I.25.8
  • Stop abusing my verses, or publish some of your own.
    • I, 91.
  • You complain, friend Swift, of the length of my epigrams, but you yourself write nothing. Yours are shorter.
    • I, 110.
  • Invitas nullum nisi cum quo, Cotta, lavaris
    et dant convivam balnea sola tibi
    mirabar quare numquam me, Cotta, vocasses:
    iam scio me nudum displicuisse tibi.
    • You invite no one except (someone) with whom you are bathed, Cotta
      And only baths provide guest(s) for you.
      I was wondering why you had never called me, Cotta:
      Now I know that nude me was displeasing to you.
    • I, 23.
  • I do not love thee, Sabidius, nor can I say why; this only I can say, I do not love thee.
    • I, 32, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare "I do not love thee, Doctor Fell, The reason why I cannot tell; But this alone I know full well, I do not love thee, Doctor Fell", Tom Brown, Laconics.
  • Ride, si sapis.
    • Laugh if you are wise.
    • II, 41.
  • Turpe est difficiles habere nugas,
    Et stultus labor est ineptiarum.
    • Disgraceful 'tis to treat small things as difficult;
      'Tis silly to waste time on foolish trifles.
    • II, 86, reported in Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), p. 289.
  • Sit mihi verna satur: sit non doctissima conjux:
    Sit nox cum somno: sit sine lite dies.
    • Give me a well-fed slave: a wife that's not too clever:
      Sound sleep at night, and days from quarrels free.
    • II, 90, reported in Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), p. 275.
  • Simpliciter pateat vitium fortasse pusillum:
    Quod tegitur, magnum creditur esse malum
    • Let a defect, which is possibly but small, appear undisguised.
      A fault concealed is presumed to be great.
    • Variant translation: Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.
    • III, 42.
  • Semper eris pauper, si pauper es, Aemiliane;
    Dantur opes nulli nunc, nisi divitibus.
    • If poor you are, poor you will always be,
      For wealth's now given to none but to the rich.
    • V, 81, reported in Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), p. 263.
  • Nullos esse deos, inane caelum
    Adfirmat Segius: probatque, quod se
    Factum, dum negat haec, videt beatum.
    • Selius affirms, in heav'n no gods there are:
      And while he thrives, and they their thunder spare,
      His daring tenet to the world seems fair.  Anon. 1695.
    • IV, 21.
  • The bee enclosed and through the amber shown
    Seems buried in the juice which was his own.
    • IV, 32, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare "Whence we see spiders, flies, or ants entombed and preserved forever in amber, a more than royal tomb", Francis Bacon, Historia Vitæ et Mortis; Sylva Sylvarum, Cent. i. experiment 100.
  • Laudant illa sed ista legunt.
    • They praise those works, but read these.
    • Variant translation: They praise those works, but they’re not the ones they read.
    • IV, 49.
  • You ask what a nice girl will do? She won't give an inch, but she won't say no.
    • IV, 71.
  • Divisum sic breve fiet opus.
    • Divide the work and thus you'll shorten it.
    • IV, 83, reported in Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), p. 49.
  • Si post fata venit gloria, non propero.
    • If glory comes after death, I hurry not.
    • V, 10. (Trans. Zachariah Rush).
  • Nobis pereunt et imputantur.
    • They [the hours] pass by, and are put to our account.
    • V, 20, line 13
    • This phrase is often found as an inscription on sundials.
  • A man who lives everywhere lives nowhere.
    • V, 73.
  • Vita non est vivere, sed valera vita est.
    • Life is not living, but living in health.
    • VI, 70.
    • Variant translations:
      • It is not life to live, but to be well.
      • Life's not just being alive, but being well.
  • Barbarian hordes on mass you fuck,
    Odd types into your bed you tuck.
    You take on blacks and Asian forces,
    And Jews, and soldiers, and their horses.
    Yet you, voracious Roman chick,
    Have never known a Roman dick.
    • VII, 30.
  • Quisquis ubique habitat, Maxime, nusquam habitat.
    • He has no home whose home is all the world.
    • VII, 73.
  • Accipe quam primum; brevis est occasio lucri.
    • Take while you can; brief is the moment of profit.
    • VIII, 9.
  • Laudas balnea versibus trecentis
    Cenantis bene Pontici, Sabelle.
    Vis cenare, Sabelle, non lavari.
    • You praise, in three hundred verses, Sabellus, the baths of Ponticus, who gives such excellent dinners. You wish to dine, Sabellus, not to bathe.
    • IX, 19.
  • Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus. Hoc est
    Vivere bis vita posse priore frui.
    • Virtue extends our days: he lives two lives who relives his past with pleasure.
    • X, 23. Alternatively translated as "The good man prolongs his life; to be able to enjoy one’s past life is to live twice", in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare "For he lives twice who can at once employ / The present well, and e'en the past enjoy", Alexander Pope, Imitation of Martial.
  • Neither fear your death's day nor long for it.
    • X, 47. Alternatively translated as "Neither fear, nor wish for, your last day", in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), and as "Nor fear nor yet desire thy last day", in Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), p. 280. Compare "Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou liv'st / Live well: how long or short permit to heaven", John Milton, Paradise Lost, book xi, line 553.
  • Ardua res haec est opibus non tradere mores.
    • 'Tis a hard task not to surrender morality for riches.
    • XI, 5, reported in Harbottle's Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1958), p. 15.
  • Non est paupertas, Nestor, habere nihil.
    • To have nothing, Nestor, is not poverty.
      • XI, 32
  • The mode of death is sadder than death itself.
    • XI, 91.
  • Fortuna multis dat nimis, satis nulli.
    • Fortune to many gives too much, enough to none.
    • XII, 10.
  • Difficilis facilis iucundus acerbus es idem:
    Nec possum tecum vivere nec sine te.
    • Captious, yet complaisant, sweet and bitter too,
      I cannot with thee live, nor yet without thee.
    • Variant translation: Difficult or easy, pleasant or bitter, you are the same you: I cannot live with you—or without you.
    • Variant translation: Difficult easy-going, likewise you are sweet [and] sour: I am able to live neither with you nor without you.
      • XII, 46
      • Compare: "Thus I can neither live with you nor without you", Ovidius, Amores, Book III, xib, 39
  • He who refuses nothing... will soon have nothing to refuse.
    • XII, 79.
  • Currant verba licet, manus est velocior illis; Nondum lingua suum, dextra peregit opus.
    • Although the words run speedily, the hand is swifter than them; the tongue has not yet, the hand has already completed its work.
    • Epigrammaton liber XIV: Martialis Epigrammata (CCVIII Notarius).

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