A Saturnalian Poet as a Literary Critic

The Carnivalesque Poetics of Martial’s Apophoreta 183-196


  • Farouk F. Grewing Universität Leipzig




Martial, epigram, Saturnalia, poetics, Apophoreta


This paper analyzes a specific section of Martial’s Apophoreta (Book 14), the ‘list’ of fourteen literary works that the poet-persona suggests to the reader as potentially suitable presents to give to friends on the occasion of the Saturnalia. It focuses strictly on the literary aspects of the poems and their underlying carnivalesque poetics. This includes an assessment of the logic of the poems’ arrangement and alleged inconsistencies. It is suggested that the section be read as a complex statement of Martial’s on various works and genres of Greek and Roman literature. The last couplet of the section (14.196), a certain Calvus’ work ‘On the use of cold water’ (De aquae frigidae usu), which is unidentifiable, receives particular attention, for previous scholarship has wasted a lot of ink on guessing what kind of work this may have been, thereby losing touch with the rich (meta-)poetics the couplet actually conveys.