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image of Mnemosyne

Martial's epigrams 9.43 and 44 on a statuette of Hercules owned by the patron Novius Vindex (also mentioned in Statius Silv. 4.6) have usually been read as historical documents which tell us something about Martial's relationship with Statius and about patronage in the age of Domitian. In the Epigrammaton liber nonus, however, there are two more pairs of epigrams and three single poems which, like 9.43 and 44, talk of statues or statuettes (9. ep. ; 23/24; 50; 64/65; 101). These poems on contemporary and ancient works of art play an important role in the arrangement of the book in that they divide the liber into sections which thematically differ from each other. In these sections Martial presents and contrasts different qualities of his epigrammatic oeuvre and shows how even the lowest genre of poetry can serve as panegyric literature for the sublime emperor Domitian. It has become common practice to dissect the Epigrammaton libri into individual pieces and to use them as mines of information about life in antiquity in general and about Martial's life in particular. We should not, however, neglect the context of Martial's epigrams: the Epigrammaton libri.


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