Martial's poetics of plagiarism

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Recent scholarship on the Latin epigrammatist Martial recognises the complex intratextuality that weaves his twelve numbered books into an authored whole, notably through "cycles" of poems that develop particular characters and themes within individual books and across the corpus as a whole. The present article analyses one such thematic cycle: Martial's poems on plagiarism, previously studied by (inter alia) McGill (2012), Rimell (2008), Seo (2009), and Spahlinger (2004), who already find self-aggrandisement in Martial's uniquely unpoetic fixation on alleged plagiarists. Further investigation finds reflexive intertextuality with the Greek satirical epigrammatist Lucillius. In Book 6, Martial "plagiarises" Lucillian originals that concern theft and disguise, the standard figures for plagiarism in ancient literary criticism. Across the corpus, Martial develops the plagiarism theme to craft a fallible and self-contradictory persona that aligns epigram with Roman satire, as subsequently practised by his literary heir, Juvenal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-81
Number of pages27
JournalThe American Journal of Philology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2020


  • Plagiarism
  • epigram
  • intratextuality
  • martial


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