Provocative Poetry Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 in Latin Language

Some people have this perception that all Latin poetry is boring, proper and stiff, but that’s not true. For example the Latin poet Marcus Valerius Martialis, also known as Martial, was known to write a few choice poems towards certain individuals:

Utere lactucis et mollibus utere malvis: 

Nam faciem durum, Phoebe, cacantis habes 

Eat lettuce and soft apples, eat:

For you, Phoebus, have the harsh face of a defecating man.

Gaius Valerius Catullus, also known as Catallus, was not above insulting people he disliked:

Othionis caput oppido est pusillum,

et eri rustice semilauta crura,

subtile et leve peditum Libonis,

 si non omnia, displicere vellem

tibi et Sufficio seni recocto…

irascere iterum meis iambis

inmerentibus, unice imperator.


Otho’s head is quite small,

and its owner’s legs oafishly impure,

soft and dainty is Libo’s farting,

if not with all that, then let me displease you

with Sufficio, old age restored…

again let my worthless iambics

rile you, our one and only general.

So if anyone purports to tell you how rigid and serious Latin poetry is, you can just refute that assumption by reciting a few lines from Martial and Catallus. Oh and by the way, trust me when I say that the two poems that I chose were pretty tame, especially in comparison to the erotic poetry of Martial and Catallus.

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