The sublime muse, who inspires enthusiasm and devotion, only reaches out to the heavens to the gods or to the past, where legendary heroes grow, on whom no dust of the everyday and trivial reality falls. Whoever wants to know the ideals of a people, listen to their sublime poetry; those who ignore their natural impulses and instincts seek out his jesting and satirical poetry. She too has her muse, has art and grace; but this muse looks down. When a fellow countryman attacks another with jokes or taunts, we get to know his victims almost personally, we also get to know him himself who is speaking, and humanity itself stands alive before us.
Ancient Roman literature is rich in invective; the Roman was strong and mighty in everything, including insults; but he also knew how to use the short speech, the sharp polish of the word.
It is important to note which attack objects to choose and which to avoid. Let’s think about today’s joke sheets. The “Simplizissimus”, whose artistic achievements are so high, knew no consideration and caution and, far-reaching, poured his caustic scorn on officers, high ranks and dignitaries, even clergy. The “Flying Leaves”, also known as “Meggendorf”, are kind-heartedly reserved. Our Wilhelm Busch must have occasionally misused St. Antonius, he spared the military class. Peasants in their clumsy naivety show us the “Flying Leaves”, crooks in court, money slobs who would like to be aristocrats or otherwise make themselves fat, extravagant poets, housewives who can’t cook, or such beauties who, in order to shine,[p. 204]lure the bag to indulge in fashion; as well as young lieutenants with monocles and palm-like slender waists. One laughs at all the silliness, but one nevertheless learns to love the people, especially the southern German race; you have to be good to him.
So now the Roman satirists introduce us to the city people, but unfortunately only to the Roman city people. Rome too had its flying leaves; but they no longer fly, for much of it has been lost and flown away; the rest is stuck in the book of rigorous literary history, and we must first pluck them out and get them flying again so that they live and laugh.
Even if we completely disregard the great comedy of Plautus and Terence here, there are still enough poets that we can turn to: the remains of the Togate poetry, Lucilius and Atellane, then Catullus, Horace, the other satirists, above all Martial. The worst insult, harmless jokes sound mixed up. Let’s see what they can bring us and tell us.
The smut. Tendency to be funny. The invective.
Of course, a considerable part falls away for us right away: the area of indecency. Back then, dirty jokes were a matter of course for the Greeks and Romans, a sign of primitiveness, and they were almost the most productive source for satire. The most convenient weapon for beating someone to death socially was to accuse them of sexual meanness. Whether true or false, something always stuck. Julius Caesar did not escape this either.
But this was not only the case in antiquity. Christianity has not created any change in this. The obscene was part of the joke throughout the Middle Ages (just think of the carnival games); it also spread terribly in the 16th century, indeed it extends even further to our immediate vicinity. It was not until the 19th century that things were cleaned up more thoroughly. These things form an area of subject unto themselves which we do not overlook[p. 205]allowed to. We note its presence, but we want to avoid entering it as much as possible.
Three types of poetry that do not adopt a purely serious tone can be distinguished, even if the boundary lines are often not sharp. Often it only has the purpose of unbiased amusement, which the Greeks e.g. called Hilarodia (ἱλαρῳδία). One should only laugh carefree. That’s where Jobiad-style stuff like the Greek Margites or the story of Odysseus duping the Cyclops; but then also the whole area of travesty, which easily becomes slippery; one thinks of Offenbach’s Schöne Helena; and this jest and prank finally becomes crassly realistic in the garden poetry of the Priapeen.
The matter is different in the case of a personal attack, where malice stirs. The laughter that arises is gloating, moral annihilation is the purpose. Here the insult stirs and resorts to all means of exaggeration and the grotesque. Nevius attacked the great Scipio, Catullus and Calvus attacked Caesar, Cicero attacked Antonius, and Claudian attacked Eutrop, the all-powerful eunuch at the Christian imperial court. It is brave when the poets openly call each other by name, and Nävius earned imprisonment for his attacks, Antonius had Cicero beheaded. On the other hand, the most common were anonymous pasquilles, which were pinned to the doors and which the people shouted through the streets, such as the verses about Emperor Tiberius:
You are fiendish and hard. To tell you briefly what I mean:
I’ll be beheaded right away if a mother loves you  .
Octavian, the triumvir, was a bad general. The military in Rome amused himself at how miserably he fared in the naval war with Sextus Pompey near Sicily. Then the verse went:
Both naval battles lost!
Both fleets! As if out of his mind
Now he rolls the dice every day: “I learned
But when it comes to riddles, winning!”
Such accusations are also known to us from the small life of the buried Pompeii. They were chalked on the walls to annoy fellow citizens, and there they are, e.g. T. today. For example “Samius wishes his colleague to hang himself!” or “The Restitutus has often cheated many girls,” or in the tavern on the wall:
Barkeeper, want such lies
Cheat on yourself too.
You drink pure wine yourself,
You pour water for others  .
Satire. togat comedy.
While these things are mostly short, the shorter, the more effective, like sharp, slender arrows, the third form of poetry I am talking about prefers the broad structure; she strides along in broad folds. It’s Roman satire. Ridicule is not enough for Roman satire; she wants to educate. Greek humorists, who took life bitterly seriously, but considered vice to be only a folly of the soul and virtue only to be prudence, invented the satirical sermon. It suited the Roman perfectly; he poured his whole unique being into it and lived it out in it from the great Lucilius to Juvenal and beyond. The satirical poems of Martial are just little laughing goblins; the satire strides tall, matronly as a wise woman and governess by profession with a stern gaze and a shrill voice through the centuries of Rome, tirelessly and with a sharp tongue, scolding, blustering and admonishing; for she wants to teach righteousness, a decent attitude, a sense of truth, sometimes also kindness of heart and the small-minded, Reproach crafty practitioners of life with the nobler values, accustom them to morality. Then she grabs this and that from the audience, puts him over his knee and swings the rod so that he feels it and the audience laughs, but becomes wise through the example set. Then she rests, clasps her hands and shakes with laughter. Roman satire and Capuchin sermons: there is hardly any difference.[p. 207]We know how the Capuchins speak to the Wallensteins. Abraham a Santa Clara is Juvenal’s closest relative.
Satire has indeed fulfilled a high profession and wants to be taken seriously. The tiny satirical epigrams, on the other hand, in distich, iambus, or phalaceus, are jests of the moment, and the reader darts swiftly from one to the other. Why keep them? It’s not worth it.
For the late-born, however, it is worth staying; I mean for those who seek to rediscover the momentary man of the present in the past. Life is alive in the epigram: natural life; momentary life; Roman folk life! That is what should concern us now for a moment.
The old folk comedy, the so-called Togatkomödie, gives a foretaste of what we are looking for. Nevius, Titinius, Atta and Afranius were their representatives. Unfortunately, only short jokes have survived from it; but they sometimes seem like epigrams and throw a brief spotlight on the people who appeared there and who are otherwise completely in the dark for us. “Wretched are the husbands who play handmaidens to their wives! Only the big dowry makes it  .” And these women are not averse to wine: “Give her something to drink,” it says; “Because she’s just in a rage  .” A fad comes up and he is snapped at: “You’re wearing twisted forehead curls like a hermaphrodite .” “Your wife is too showy,” advises one friend to the other; “get rid of wagons and mules and let them troll on foot  .” Street life opens up and we hear the reproach: “You shout like that in the open street? Aren’t you ashamed in front of the public  ?” Finally the wise sentence: “It is not worthwhile for the child that his parents live if they would rather arouse fear than awe  .”
pasquille. Catullus against Caesar.
The pieces from which this is taken were still ancient Roman; they fall even earlier than Cicero’s time. In the time of Cicero, when the Pasquill was already flourishing in Rome ,[p. 208]and we hear names too. The bold word prevails. There is no hide and seek. A certain Caninius had become consul in Rome; but the very next day he had to leave office again; so he has found only too little sleep in his high dignity. It was Cicero himself who exposed him to laughter:
Caninius is awake; indeed he is.
He only slept one night in his consulate!
That’s lovely, but still harmless. But the opposite of the harmless was Catullus, Cicero’s younger contemporary. Loving and innocent, warm and heartwarming in his other poems, which sing of love and friendship, Catullus is poison and gall where he attacks, and the most unclean word is just right for the ruthless. Wiping paper he calls the new epic of Volusius. So he threw himself on Julius Caesar. Caesar was growing up just then. He became so through the support of the great Pompey. At the same time, Caesar gave his young daughter Julia in marriage to Pompey; So Pompey was Caesar’s son-in-law. He had fought through the Gallic War; Mamurra was the name of the scoundrel and rogue who was Caesar’s right-hand man in the Gallic wars, not only as an engineer officer who helped build bridges and all war technology, but also as a robber and plunderer of the newly subjugated country. At that time, Caesar and his creatures grabbed at the riches of Gaul not only with the right, but with both hands. The verses with which Catullus immediately attacks Caesar and Mamurra are like a cry of indignation. Hastily thrown down for the moment, these verses are eternal monuments of history. Let me put the main part here, so that that excited life may arise before us, but I do not fail to soften a few outrageously crass expressions :
Who can only watch this, who only tolerate it,
Who is not a fornicator, a glutton, and a gambler,
That now Mamurra calls his what luxuriance
owned Great Gaul and distant Britain?
You lust Romulus, do you see and admit it?
And high-spirited, exaggerated he should now
May walk through every best bedchamber,
A tender white cock and Adonis? As?
You lust Romulus, do you see and admit it?
You whore, glutton and you player that you are!
That’s why you only great general
You were on the farthest island to the west,
So that here your libertine, the most destitute,
Can eat two million or three?
What feeds him the silly bounty?
Hasn’t he jinxed enough? not squandered enough?
He brought his father’s inheritance through first;
Two the Pontus hive, then the Spanish
As the third that the gold-rich Tajo knows.
And Gaul and Britain even know the latter.
What do you harbor these villains? what does he understand
Than just to swallow goods that are the fattest?
That’s why you, father-in-law, son-in-law,
The world shatters, you smears in town?
The noise and hurricane of the great, the greatest history of the world: we sense something of that in this specimen. Caesar sought to make his peace with this young, sparkling genius; but Catullus would not calm down, and we hear him threaten further: “Again you shall be angry at my iambics, you only general  .” Then the hot-blooded poet died. He died young; Caesar survived him.
Virgil against Noctuin and against Sabinus.
The noise stopped. At that time, the great poet Virgil led us into much narrower relationships. He was the poet of noble tones and sentimental pathos; not only his heroes are sentimental, but also his shepherds. But Virgil wasn’t always like that; he wrote his great works only as a mature man and with cooled blood. He, too, was once young and drove about wildly, like the others, when he was tempted by the folly of fortune-seekers when he was still living in his northern Italian homeland, in Mantua and Cremona, where he was born.
In Cremona lived the proprietor of a pottery by the name of Atilius. The “proud Noctuinus” comes and marries his daughter. But Noctuin is, it seems, a drunkard and marries the wine jug that his father-in-law makes. According to popular idiom, the jug is thought to be the daughter of the master potter who created it. Now Virgil comes to Noctuin with a little spiteful wedding poem, infinitely valuable to the scholar of to-day; because for us it is the only surviving sample of the so-called “Fescennines”, the wedding pranks of the ancient Romans. The poet stands in the street and calls the people together:
There he comes, the disgust, in the train,
The Noctuin, the proud man.
The woman you wanted
You have it now, you have it now, Noctuin.
But look: the owner of the pottery
Atilius has two daughters
And gives you – prouder, be happy –
Even the homemade second one.
The second daughter is the pitcher.
You drain the daughter in one gulp.
Yes, even such a “train” is a wedding procession.
Come, you people, and join in:
Cheers to the ambitious daughter!
Didn’t Noctuinus take revenge on the poet? Because the poem certainly didn’t stay on the desk. The other play on Sabinus is even more vivid, the parvenu, who used to be just called Quintio, who was once a groom in Cremona and then worked his way up to become a freight forwarder. It was the time of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, of which we have already spoken. At that time, large military transports went for the army via northern Italy to France. From the following Vergil poem alone we get to know three local transport companies; even more famous was the large business of the freight forwarder Ventidius Bassus, whom Caesar later promoted to the highest offices of state for the sake of his services. But Sabinus, when he had happily become rich, gave in[p. 211]Cremona went out of business, became Duumvir, or the chief magistrate of the place, and now had his seated image erected in the porch of the Temple of Castor and Pollux — or “Castors” — which was looked upon with scorn and wrath by all who once knew him as a servant would have. Grimm grips young Virgil too, and we hear:
Behold, people, this is the image of Sabin.
What does he say? that he was once the fastest freight forwarder.
The lightest gig has never overtaken him in flight
From other entrepreneurs, whether to Mantua
The fast ride went or to Brescia.
No competitor denies that either, not the Trypho
Nor Cerulus, who boasted of great business,
Among those of Sabinus (at that time his name was just
The Quintio) the horses and the draft cattle once
When servants cut their manes because of the hard yoke
Rubbed the animal’s neck sore and bloody from boxwood.
Cremona knows that and the whole Po area,
The land of swamps and cool alpine air,
Thus says Sabinus: for he was born here;
As a little boy he stood here in the bottomless dirt
And in the wet daily unloaded all burdens,
And then as a muleteer he made miles
The trips by cart; yes, he wore it himself
The load nimbly on the pole when the animals are lazy
resisted (both or one, right or left)
And stubbornly no longer wanted to gallop.
He never needed, gods, those of the traveler
Otherwise help vow gifts. Only at the end
Then he hung up the horse’s crest and reins in the temple.
It’s over! Now Sabin is sitting in the temple itself
As a great lord and city councilor on the Kurul’s chair
And dedicates himself to the Castors as a statue!
This poem, in its Latin version, is a first-degree masterpiece; the translation can hardly give an idea of it  . And what is most pleasing: otherwise all Roman poetry moves only in Rome itself; here we have a real local tone, lively, bold Italian small-town poetry that we don’t find anywhere else.
Incidentally, Virgil could still have written his poem in this or a similar way today. I think of the muleteer Mr. Kerkens in Kansas, North America. In January 1910 the following notice went through our newspapers: “The American millionaire Richard C. Kerkens in St. Louis, who is going to Vienna for the United States as ambassador, has had a somewhat unusual curriculum vitae. Born in Ireland, he was employed as a mule driver in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in his youth. Later he was promoted to assistant warden. From Leavenworth he moved to Arkansas and from there to St. Louis, where he laid the foundation for his current fortune in railroad speculation.
Everything just repeats itself in life; only poetry is ever new.
Horace’s Epodes and Lydia’s Ode.
Horace was a satirist by trade ; he was also a satirist in his iambics (or epodes), and it is tempting to look across from Virgil to him. For Horace tried to imitate that poem by Sabinus  ; he, too, is an upstart who now sweeps proudly down the Holy Road in a three-legged, dragging toga. The matter is transferred to Rome. But Horace ducks; he dares not name a name. The shot is a shot into the water. The invective disarms itself and becomes a mere moral image.
Nonetheless, Horace also gives us a masterpiece. I mean the famous one: “ Beatus ille qui procul negotiis .” With these words the poem begins  . It is some voice that speaks and praises the simple country life: “Blessed is he who does not engage in usury today, but cultivates his field as our ancestors once did! He twines the vine around the poplar like a bride, grafts fruit and collects honey, lies in the grass in the summertime and listens to the rippling brook and the birdsong, in winter he catches birds in a twine and hunts the boar. Then one forgets all gray business worries; wife and children[p. 213]are around you; the cattle roar for you in the pen and are milked, and you live vegetarian on olives, mallow and sorrel that grows in the meadows, and only on feast days do you feast on the sacrificial lamb.” Who is speaking? Is it the poet? Oh no. At the end we suddenly get the short business message: a real big-city trespasser, a usurer, who cloaks himself in these phrases:
So spoke the usurer Alfius, as if he longed
After smell of earth, then drove immediately
All funds in on the 15th of the month
And reinvests them at interest.
Otherwise, unfortunately, it is mostly only old women and megara that Horace mocks. Basically, when he loves, he only loves the physicality of the beautiful; when he sneers, he just sneers at her declining beauty and talks about her green teeth and the like. One may read about it in Horace itself; it is not tempting to translate. Even when he was composing his odes, Horace encountered such motifs; but he speaks more moderately now. An example is the ode I, 25 to Lydia; it is the only love poem I rank here:
Rarely meet with dense throws
Bold lads your closed windows,
Don’t rob you of sleep, and your threshold
Love, ah, the door
The previously the fishing very complacent
turned. Less do you hear and less call:
“Sleeper, you leave me the long nights
Soon all this wooing will be silenced. there you cry
Worthless, old, in the lonely corner alley,
If you more than Thracian wind that rages
during the new moon,
Hot inflamed love and desire,
As she is accustomed to rushing mother horses,
Raging becomes in the swarming entrails,
and you grieve
Because the cheerful youth of fresh Epheus
Is glad and intoxicated in dark myrtle,
dry leaves dedicated to Hebrus  , dem
brother of winter.
That wasn’t exciting. Who asked who this Lydia was? Certainly a creature of the lower world of women, of which there were thousands. Anders Ovid , who mocked a genteel Roman woman, Furia, saying, “Since your name is Furia, why shouldn’t I call you a Fury?”
Incidentally, Emperor Augustus wrote the most hideous of the kind at the time. They are swear words about Fulvia, the proud wife of Mark Antony, from the time when the great man and future world bringer of happiness was still fighting for power. We want to cover the epigram with night. It’s a pity that it survived except for us.
Let’s look for something else. There is Bavius with his brother: a new motif of tender brotherly love. The two may even be twin brothers and, as we hear, so faithful to each other that they share everything, country estate, town house and money management, for the rest of their lives; it was a breath and a soul in two bodies. How touching! But Bavius marries; the woman is also to become joint property: then the friendship falls apart; that’s what anger does, and two kingdoms with two masters have come into being, terribly threatening each other with war.
Domitius Marsus. Martial. The epigram poetry developed late.
This little genre picture finally leads us to Martial . For it is written by Domitius Marsus , and Martial was the great imitator and continuator of Catullus and Domitius Marsus. Martial, the inexhaustibly wealthy epigrammatist from the time of Emperor Domitian: a Spaniard by origin, unmarried, firmly established in the system of imperial despotism, duty-free and thoughtful, a poetic loafer who is always nourished by his good humor: a flatterer without much sense of honor, a client nature with the talent to tease, to praise and to beg in the most graceful way, who presents himself as a table companion and bathing companion of the noble,[p. 215]as a first-rate joker and rhymer, gained entry into all the first houses in the cosmopolitan city. Even after he was knighted, he continued to linger and fawn. But his divine cheerfulness, his knowledge of human nature and his art of acting still increase, and we have to admire them.
How was such a poet possible then? and why did epigrammatic poetry develop so late in Rome? Because it actually only came to real development, to full expression, through Martial. Virgil gives the answer. In Virgil’s time in Rome there was still no great art that could be seen; so why should you take care of the little one? There was a screaming hunger for literature, and it could not be satisfied with the tiny fragments of Catullus. If you want to decorate a ballroom, you don’t need miniatures; he must hang up large plaques, first have powerful depictions drawn up. Therefore, Virgil threw his small attempts of youth behind him and created the great epic, the Aeneid. Horace gave models of satire and sublime poetry, Propertius his great elegiac wreaths, Ovid the Decameron of his Metamorphoses. That was Augustan literature; but it was by no means overflowing with good works, and therefore the second heyday under Nero 50 years later, with good reason, still stuck to the same tasks and paid homage to the same great style. Young Nero himself wrote poetry; so did Seneca, his great adviser; And so there were new pastoral poems, new odes, the epos of Lucan and Nero, the satires of Persius; yea, there were even tragedies, the only Roman tragedies that have come down to us, in which Cassandra, Phaedra, Medea stride on a high cothurn and speak wonderfully fluent Latin. It was only the Greeks who, back in Rome, cultivated that witty little epigram that concerns us. and therefore the second heyday under Nero 50 years later, with good reason, still stuck to the same tasks and paid homage to the same great style. Young Nero himself wrote poetry; so did Seneca, his great adviser; And so there were new pastoral poems, new odes, the epos of Lucan and Nero, the satires of Persius; yea, there were even tragedies, the only Roman tragedies that have come down to us, in which Cassandra, Phaedra, Medea stride on a high cothurn and speak wonderfully fluent Latin. It was only the Greeks who, back in Rome, cultivated that witty little epigram that concerns us. and therefore the second heyday under Nero 50 years later, with good reason, still stuck to the same tasks and paid homage to the same great style. Young Nero himself wrote poetry; so did Seneca, his great adviser; And so there were new pastoral poems, new odes, the epos of Lucan and Nero, the satires of Persius; yea, there were even tragedies, the only Roman tragedies that have come down to us, in which Cassandra, Phaedra, Medea stride on a high cothurn and speak wonderfully fluent Latin. It was only the Greeks who, back in Rome, cultivated that witty little epigram that concerns us. And so there were new pastoral poems, new odes, the epos of Lucan and Nero, the satires of Persius; yea, there were even tragedies, the only Roman tragedies that have come down to us, in which Cassandra, Phaedra, Medea stride on a high cothurn and speak wonderfully fluent Latin. It was only the Greeks who, back in Rome, cultivated that witty little epigram that concerns us. And so there were new pastoral poems, new odes, the epos of Lucan and Nero, the satires of Persius; yea, there were even tragedies, the only Roman tragedies that have come down to us, in which Cassandra, Phaedra, Medea stride on a high cothurn and speak wonderfully fluent Latin. It was only the Greeks who, back in Rome, cultivated that witty little epigram that concerns us.
But the Romans themselves? Big business was once in motion, and it was still going on restlessly; he culminated[p. 216]under Emperor Domitian, in the fifteen years 81–96. This imperious emperor was the zealous patron of all arts of speaking and singing; but he was a tyrant and enemy of liberty. Since one was not allowed to think freely under him, and therefore also not to philosophize, not even to write history, everything now took refuge in poetry; an anxious crowd on Parnassus. Man needs spiritual gymnastics; but only the gymnastic floor of the art of verse was still open for this gymnastics at that time. A genius like Statius cavorted there, but also amateurs in abundance. Of Jason and of Phineus, of Achilles, Diomed and other dead heroes, Rome echoed daily: these ancient stories could not, of course, offend the tyrant. But the allure of novelty was absent; the eye had long since tired of seeing the heroic images that had been stretched out. We know that today too: anyone who has admired Rubens for hours breathes a sigh of relief when he stands in front of Metsu and Teniers and Netscher, the lively little Dutchmen. There, too, in the Netherlands, endless art can be seen!
Such a Dutchman has been Martial. Under Domitian he suddenly opened his studio and brought something new. From the dusty bookshelves he pulled the almost lost Catullus and Domitius Marsus out again to modernize them; but at the same time he took up the fine epigrams of the Greeks. And it was like a miracle, a revelation. Everyone immediately clamored for Martial’s little books. Suddenly there was a master of miniature art, a poet who dared to be big in the small by boldly reaching into everyday life. In comparison to the great epic poet Statius, Martial felt the same way Lessing fared next to Klopstock: “Who will not praise a Statius? but will everyone read it? no We want to be less exalted but more diligently read.” About every year Martial put out a book in each book only about a hundred numbers. Things were so pleasing that, although for the moment[p. 217]written, but have ruled all futures. They have the merit of being preserved for us.
Let’s immerse ourselves in these books, and whether it’s at the expense of our patience, by sorting the 1200 or so poems. We want to get to know Roman city life: this poet shows it to us like no other. A mass of proper names whirls at us. It’s like poking the stick into an anthill.
There is the emperor himself, who calls himself “God and Lord”, one could also translate “Lord God” ., lets call; but he is unrecognizable behind a thick veil of incense and flattery. Will he himself read the poet’s books of poetry? The courtiers have to play it into his hands when he is in a gracious mood. At court there is the eunuch Parthenius, the man for petitions Entellus, etc. In particular, Domitian’s young cupbearer, the “spring boy” Earinus is sung about as the Ganymede of the Almighty by Martial. Then there are the great palaces of the rich, of the future emperor Nerva, of the poet Silius Italicus, the widow of the poet Lucan, the poetic consular Stella, and the great administrator Regulus. Our poet likes to eat there, accepts presents and praises all these noble people by naming them. They are immortalized by him to this day. Of course, wit and ridicule do not reach them, unless the poet needs money. Then he turns to Regulus (VII, 16):
Regulus, I’m short of money. How do I help myself? your gifts
Do I have to sell? how about don’t you want to be the buyer?
The great gentleman must have been amused and hopefully opened his hand.
On the other hand, where Martial really mocks and teases, he doesn’t give the real names. He secures himself by the pseudonym. He is no armored Catullus. A Catullus was then no longer possible. Just by the pseudonym has[p. 218]Martial secured success in all houses. He was able to speak all the more openly, and so the people he pretends to us are types, but real types, like the people in our Flying Leaves are types. When he snaps at people rudely or venomously or with resounding scorn, it is almost always a matter of amorous sins; these are the traditional infamies of certain circles; and it often remains doubtful whether the poet is more indignant or content at the same time. Otherwise, what kindness! what peaceful splashing! This abundance of human weaknesses, how sharply they are observed, but how mildly judged! No anger grips the reader; he only needs to muster a malicious laugh, a benevolent smile. In a half-dream after a warm bath, where there is no excitement,
First of all, the poet himself. Unfortunately, he is not always treated well in society and he never fails to complain. Especially the lovely food. He goes to guest; one lies down hungry on the larder; but the innkeeper does not serve anything and contents himself with handing out a few perfumeries (III, 12). Worse still, when a brilliant cook knows how to make a sole four-course meal out of mere squash; Lentils and beans, also mushrooms, also dates, even the cake for dessert is made from one chopped pumpkin. That’s supposed to be something extra fine, and it doesn’t cost anything! What disappointment! (XI, 31). With a nobleman, the poet lives in the country. The man grows his rare, exotic fruit behind large panes of glass in wide, sunny rooms. “To me, the old family friend, there is a lightless hermitage that has only a hand-sized hatch instead of the window; not even an icicle would like to live in it. If only I were your fruit,” cries the poet. “It would be better for me there!” (VIII, 14.) And in general the dull duties when you are a client; one should them[p. 219]make it easier for a poet. Martial turns to the Labull.
XI, 24: Labull, now I became your henchman. That is bad.
You’re testing me, friend.
While I dedicate myself to you full of rage
And daily what you do and speak, praise,
An outrageous waste of time
How many verses could I finish there!
Doesn’t it seem like a loss that nipped in the bud
What else refreshes Rome and all foreigners,
What all great lords and senators
Otherwise gladly enjoyed with pricked ears,
What every wise man praises and only the other poets,
The competitors, blame, this bastard!
I should walk by your side in my fine skirt
And my works shall not come into being?
It’s a full month: my page has remained empty,
And all those times I haven’t written anything.
And that’s only because I now and then
can dine with you like a prince?
In this poem we also hear about Martial’s literary opponents. Of course he’s not embarrassed about them. What is striking is his handling:
III, 9: Marullus writes verses against me? He holds it as he pleases.
He whose verses one does not read did not write them.
To another who recites himself he serves thus:
IV, 41: You tender one wear a scarf around your neck,
To recite your poems?
We listeners should rather be stuck
Wear the cloth around our ears.
The audience itself is often more difficult than the competition. There are so many who only admire what is old and think: what is new cannot be classic. But Martial is in good spirits:
VIII, 69: You praise only the old sages, Vacerra,
And only the dead poets may you praise?
Forgive! to earn your approval
I’m not in a hurry to die.
But now the wider environment. How good-hearted and philanthropic is this cheerful spirit! One notices that he is the son of a more mature, more human cultural period. It is said of a drinker, mercifully enough:
I, 28: “He’s miserable! Yesterday’s high does it.”
Missed, you good people!
He always pinches through the night;
His misery stems from today.
From an unworldly man:
XII, 51: the good Fabulinus,
He never protects himself from fraud
And yet I was deceived so often!
Those who are good will never become wise  .
And how touching the verse about the blind man:
III, 15: No one gives more credit in Rome,
As our Cordus gives.
“He’s poor. How does he do that?”
It is a blind man who loves.
All of this could also apply today. But further. Should I just pick a few more topics from the abundance, like the slips of paper from the ballot box, at random? About status differences in love affairs (III, 33); by incompetent advocates (VIII, 7); of upstarts who do great things, now it is a shoemaker, now a master tailor (IX, 73; III, 18); of the schoolmaster waving his rod (IX, 68) and the happiness of the summer school holidays (X, 62); of building frenzy (IX, 46) and other ridiculous extravagance (VIII, 5; VII, 98); the toiletries of the Roman women (IX, 37). Then there is the strange Mamurra, who stands around in every shop for hours to look at the treasures with a connoisseur’s air, but doesn’t buy anything (IX, 59); Hermogenes, apparently a man of good family who has a mania for stealing table napkins everywhere (XII, 29). In addition, a certain Klytus, who suffers from greed and has managed to celebrate his birthday eight times in the last year because it rains presents; Martial rightly says: In this way,[p. 221]young man, you grow old early; because that’s how you get 8 years older every year, a nine-year-old can already be seventy-two. Also the barber finally gives a nice theme. The barbers of antiquity had no soap and had to struggle to thoroughly remove all the hair. Here comes the shaver boy; he has such a smooth face; but during the endlessly long work he does, he himself grows a beard (XI, 84 and VIII, 52).
But enough of enumerating. Let’s rather hear the poet himself. Cinna is insufferable because he always speaks so softly in the parties:
I, 89: You secretly whisper everything in our ears,
Cinna, what everyone in the circle can hear,
Laugh in my ear, cry, swear in my ear, you fool,
You recite poems to me like that.
morbid! Next time you’ll even whisper, you quiet one,
Cheers to our Kaiser!
Phileros follows with the seven wives he inherits:
X, 43: It’s almost an exaggeration:
Seven of the rich women
Has Phileros until now
Buried in the ground.
A hard blow, for sure.
Only the poorest can say to himself:
The soil brings yield.
The seed will bear sevenfold fruit.
And the frosty orator Aulus:
III, 25: Is the thermal bath really too hot for you, Faustin?
Of course, even Julian can’t bear it,
Call the orator Aulus into the bath; the heat melts away.
The man is so chilly, his jokes so cold as a frog.
There is also Fabulla, who thinks she is beautiful:
VIII, 79: Only old boxes are always your companions,
Fabulla. Always only nasty women
Are your friendship, and you drag without mercy
You to the theater, to the promenade
[p. 222]And to dinner. That’s how it is, I should think
Not difficult, Fabulla, to appear beautiful and young.
But then the teeth of the old women appear before us, but in a milder light than Horace once did:
I, 19: You had four teeth, Aelia, I believe.
The cough came; they fell to him as a plunder.
The first attack threw two out; at the second time
We saw the last one slip from your mouth.
Now you don’t need to restrain yourself any further.
A third cough can’t take anything away from you.
The family doctors, the henchmen of the underworld, were often insulted. I have already given a brilliant example of this elsewhere  . Here’s a second one:
X, 77: Carus has done nothing worse in life,
Than that the severe fever killed him.
If only it had been easy! I have to resent him.
He should have kept his doctor.
One sees: man is obliged not to die of illness, but of his doctor! Actually, Rome was not a healthy city; slight fever came on very often; but you walked around with it carelessly. Our poet also describes this to us once:
XII, 17: Where does it come from (you often ask me with sighs) that the fever
Hasn’t left you for weeks and months now?
With you it rides in the sedan chair, it bathes with you in the thermal baths.
Feasts lampreys with you, oysters and mushrooms even,
Drink Setiner and heavy Falerner with you often to the point of intoxication,
Yes, and the Cäcuber wine always chilled and on ice,
Bed with you in roses at table and in spicy Amomum,
Shares your bed at night too, down on a crimson bed.
Since he’s doing so gluttonously well with you, the fever should steer you away
Flee and go to Dama, who lives poorly?
Worse is when Martial is once suspected of the crime[p. 223] raises. It’s arson. Tongilianus is addressed by him:
III, 52: You negotiated the house for 20,000.
Then it turned to ashes,
tongilian. The house caught fire.
But your friends quickly gathered
Replaced you tenfold. Now pay attention.
You are suspected, my dear friend:
So that the damage is covered for you
Did you set the box on fire yourself?
You can see how our modern fire insurance was replaced in ancient Rome. Business friends formed a consortium and the person concerned was helped. But even then it was obvious to abuse this help.
But finally Issa, and enough of the everyday people. Our poet also bows down to Issa, the little dog. He saw the animal with his friend Publius. This is the last piece of my selection.
I, 109: I want to sing Issa today.
My song shall sound from Issa.
She is droller than the sparrow was,
whom Catullus once loved,
Is more blissful than the pair of doves,
that practices its beak,
More flattering than the dearest maiden,
More precious than India’s pearl jewelry.
This is Issa, Publius’ little dog.
Let’s look at it for an hour.
It’s already whimpering softly, as if it’s talking to you:
“As pleasure as sorrow, we share that,”
And then stretches its neck because it wants to snooze.
You can’t hear a breath. It’s so still.
And comes a need, not even a stain,
Not a drop makes it on the ceilings,
Scratches only with the paw pleadingly:
“Lift me off the prick! because it scares me!”
The little bitch is also very chaste,
Flee all love affairs.
Where is the dog that would be worthy
[p. 224]To woo our Issa?
But alas! but ah! this puppy too
Once upon a time has his dying dog.
Therefore her master, who loves her so,
Her picture, which she renders splendidly,
Painted with my own hand: so faithful!
You don’t know which Issa is,
The animal itself? or the likeness?
This is Roman life, down to the housedog; how intimately touched it all is! But I’m letting the curtain fall now. All that I have offered here is poor and insufficient, and those who can should read the Martial for themselves. Because all translations are at best talmi gold or simili diamonds  ; in most of his miniatures, however, the lively poet also brings such a wealth of allusions that a simple translation would not suffice for understanding. In any case, my reader will understand that Martial found eager imitators again and again over the course of many centuries.
Later epigrammatists. Soldiers and priests spared.
From late antiquity I mention the poets of the so-called Anthologia latina , as well as Ausonius and Luxorius. The latter two are Christians; nevertheless, with them the studious search for the indecent increases to the point of the monstrous. More valuable is Claudian, the poet of the imperial court, which had become Christian around the year 400; because in him a fighter finally arises again who dares to insult with open visor . Apparently it was the imperial court itself that protected him. These latecomers bring nothing new that could captivate us. Only the plane, of course. The aviator appears at Luxorius. Don’t be too surprised, however; because in reality it was just an equilibrist. Luxorius lived in the early 6th century in the African Vandal Empire, where ancient Roman culture still flourished and Roman amphitheaters still existed. In such a space the miracle happened: a giant long jump, which[p. 225]flight  , a young circus artist performed through the whole length of the arena, if we want to believe it, 40 meters wide. “It is not man,” says the poet; “Only birds can do that, and I’m no longer surprised that a Daedalus once flew over the sea on wings. I served the young man good Greek wine. He is as light as a swallow, but the wine should make him heavy.”
We wanted to learn. Have we finally learned enough with this? and are we able to make a final judgement? no way! but the most valuable remains. Anyone who wants to judge must not only pay attention to the many things that are written in the poets, he must also pay attention to what these poets conceal. For more instructive is often what antiquity was notsays than what it says. And the observation that results is quickly done; I only mean that in all these poets almost every expression of racial hatred is missing, furthermore every religious contrast, every denominational strife remains completely untouched and there is not a word anywhere against the priests, yes, finally, that the military status is never disparaged by anyone . Nothing more remarkable, nothing more characteristic, nothing more admirable than that!
Plautus once wrote Miles gloriosus . Then the stupid Greek officer, who thinks he is the handsomest of all men and boasts of the most unbelievable feats, was laughed at endlessly. The later Rome knows nothing more about it. The Roman military was untouchable. The Roman sergeants and recruits, the legionnaire and the tribunus militum , too, must certainly have had their weaknesses, and nothing was more bold in their demeanor than the imperial guard in the capital itself. But unspeakable respect surrounded them. We never hear a word of ridicule. Only once does Martial bring the tame distich:
II, 80: listen! fleeing from the enemy, Fannius killed himself.
Isn’t it madness to die so you don’t die?
tolerance in religion; no racial hatred.
In principle, the same protection also applies to the bearers of the services. In ancient times only Afranius staged a play, The Augur, where such a priest, who was in charge of the bird’s eye view, an augur, was the dreaded protagonist: the influential man screams and rages so that the sky threatens to collapse above it ; but his countenance is false and ugly like a painted wall  . That was Afranius, and that’s all. Later it is only once more the Christian Luxorius, who attacks a drunken priest of his church  .
The Sacerdotes were already protected by their office. Moreover, in pre-Christian times it was men and women who belonged to the best circles, yes, even to the high nobility, who, mostly married, did not stand out from the rest of the noble world in everyday life, since they lived in their private houses and only during holy days act of sacrifice and prayer put on the priestly robes. The emperor himself did the same, as the high priest, pontifex maximus , who personally performed the state sacrifices. There was not yet a demanding isolation and consecration of the clergy, which could have provoked the ridicule or repugnance of the impious.
Martial only sneered at the Asiatic priests of Cybele  , because they were also officially outlawed with their shameful manhunt, which they pursued in the cities of Italy, and so the goddess Cybele herself hits who demanded the emasculation of her worshipers, an indignant word  .
That speaks for itself. Otherwise, however, hardly a single one of the almost innumerable religions that were then surging about in the Mediterranean countries was touched on or exposed to criticism by these poets. Isis, Serapis, Mithras, Anubis, Jehovah, Christianity—to say nothing of the traditional Roman national gods—all these deities and creeds found their worshipers at that time. who[p. 227]but may they interfere in their faith? Religion is a private matter; wit gives way before these things. Above all, Christ has never been mocked by these poets, as far as their works are available to us and it is possible to check them. That seems forever memorable to me.
And what applies to religions also applies approximately to racial differences. Masses served z. B. the Syrians in Rome as elegant slaves and litter bearers, unpopular as they were because of their cunning character; but only once does she hit an attacking turn at Martial  . He is also only abusive in one place against the Jews who are otherwise so willingly persecuted  . Wherever he sees Jewish beggars in the street, he doesn’t find a malicious word at all  , but he has to defend himself against a Jewish adversary who has attacked him . It was annoying that when Germans, Jews or Persians came to Rome, Roman girls fell in love with these strangers and then treated the young Roman gentlemen as nothing. The poet cannot hide his anger from us  .
So we actually meet a German in the streets of Rome, and that must arouse our special curiosity. It’s a slave, maybe a slave employed by the city administration to clean the streets. But man behaves very ruthlessly, as if he were the lord of Rome. A boy, a Roman citizen’s son, wants to drink from a water tank of the long-distance pipeline, which is fed with delicious mountain water; the German comes and pushes him away imperiously because he wants to drink first. This is what happened in Rome in AD 96. We can’t blame him for the fact that Martial snaps at people rudely . But it is even more amusing to read how once a Gaul, also a man of strength, was introduced by him; there we get a picture of the street again, at night:
VIII, 75: A man of Celtic race lives for rent in Rome.
It’s late at night. From the Flaminian Road
Does he want to go home? Then he stumbles while running.
The tibia is dislocated; he falls and cannot get up.
What should the giant do to get up?
The Gaul’s servant sees it and stands uneasy.
He’s so weak, so small. He’s happy to help.
But his strength is barely enough to hold the lantern.
It was like asking for help:
A corpse was dragged by two fenders,
How to get the criminals without aches and pains
Out into the pits a thousandfold.
The servant begs: “Touch it, you people! here.
It doesn’t matter what becomes of the corpse.”
They’re already exchanging the load. Up
If the giant is already lifted up,
It’s already heavy in his fat
On the common stretcher, on the flaying board.
He saw himself last from the gravedigger
Buried alive in his own home  .The satire is different. Religious Enlightenment.
So far the satirical poetry and the epigram, so far the flying leaves of Rome. We have seen what restraint this easy-going art imposed on itself in antiquity. The great Roman satire is quite different, to which we turn now. As we also let them have their say, the comfort immediately ceases; the lesson begins, and it pulls us from all the cheerfulness that has surrounded us up to now into seriousness, which goes to the point of anger, and into worries about the difficult fundamental questions of life. Just think of the religious question. It is with the help of satire that we can approach one of the greatest human events, the transition from polytheism to Christianity, the great religious upheaval of antiquity, which was slowly taking place at that time. It’s about five centuries from 200 B.C. to 300 AD The great Roman satire also intervened in this development; for their task was precisely the education of the people. But the establishment of virtuous tenets was enough[p. 229]you not; she again called on mockery for help. She tore down all false values with scorn; everything that was hollow and rotten she smashed to pieces.
Here I disregard the important enlightening work of the Greek philosophers and only keep my eye on Rome, the center of the world. The poet Ennius once had in the 2nd century BC. Coldly touched on the old belief in gods and presented trivial-euhemeristic explanations for the origin of the ideas of Jupiter and the other national gods, which read like an amusing novel for the semi-educated. The high-spirited, cheeky popular theatre, the so-called Mimus, has also had a similar effect for a long time. In the farces that were there, Jupiter, the supreme god, was nicely buried like an old uncle, the goddess Diana made her will, and more similar jokes, whereby the most sinful was always the favorite of the public. Then came Varro, the philologist, with the heaviest artillery, who honestly recorded all the colorful belief in gods of antiquity with its thousand names in a thick compendium, but proved this belief to be void and only allowed the natural forces in space to be considered divine and holy powers. But the same Varro also wrote satires, e.g. B. a “falsified Apollo”, in which he dealt with the gods and only allowed the popular ideas to exist in order to play with them in a funny way . Cicero then worked at the same time as Varro, and he popularized these free views; Cicero’s famous work “On the Nature of the Gods” was the first major work of enlightenment to have an impact. The state cult with its rich temple service continued undiminished, of course, but every educated person thought what he wanted from then on. In reality, at that time everyone who was thinking withdrew to the Stoic religion, which emanated from the philosophers and whose teachings gradually and more and more clearly made their way into spiritual monotheism.[p. 230]The only question was what would eventually become of the traditional gods.
Persius. Seneca. Juvenal.
The ideas that Persius put forward in his satires at the time of Emperor Nero have been wonderfully refined. It is about prayer; silly and godless, says Persius, are the people who want cash and other pleasant things and bother the high gods with such requests. God is kind, and he knows best what we need. And next to Persius there was now Seneca, who finally put the ax to the root by turning against the prevailing divine service itself, against the rite with its sacrifices and ceremonies. God is a spirit; he has no need of these human wretches. “On Superstition”, de superstitione, is the title of Seneca’s revolutionary book, of which we definitely count certain sections as satirical literature; for the most biting satire was his weapon in it. Just as satire always seeks the extreme, so Seneca has here described the most ridiculous excesses of so-called piety, which he considers superstition, and we read his description with amazement. One of the passages that we have is the principal place of worship of the ancient Roman trinity Jupiter, Juno and Minerva: “I came to the Capitol. One has to be ashamed of the madness that is shown in public and to which senseless enthusiasm feels obliged. One puts the ledger (about the administration of the temple property) before the god, another tells Jupiter what time it is; one stands around as a lictor or placemaker; another one is the god’s anointing and with a useless movement of his arm pretends that he is really anointing him. There is also no lack of persons doing the hair of Juno and Minerva; but they stand far apart from the idols, even from the temple itself, and only move their fingers as if styling them. Others hold the mirror to it. Then come those who (in their own legal case) invite the three gods to provide a guarantee and offer them theirs[p. 231]bring the indictment and present their case. I also saw a drama director from a good school, but already old and worn out, who mimed his part every day on the Capitol, as if the gods could still take pleasure in him, whom no one wanted to look at anymore. And so there are all sorts of artists or stunt makers who waste their time honoring the immortal gods. All these people are now doing what is superfluous, but they are not dishonoring themselves; but women, too, who think they can make love to Jupiter, sit on the Capitol, and not even the sight of Juno deters them, who, if the poets are right, easily gets angry.”
Now we know what happened there. This account of Seneca finally gives us what Martial fails to mention: a valuable addition to our knowledge of the Roman city-dwellers, especially the lower classes. Unfortunately, almost nothing else has survived from Seneca’s writing; the church father Augustine only drew this out of it because it was particularly helpful to his Christian tendency. We would also like to read the further and more weighty ones.
Juvenal against fanaticism. satire of the Church Fathers.
But finally Seneca is followed by Juvenal , the last and most powerful of the satirists. His sermons roll out in mighty breadth. To elevate society morally, to purify hearts, that was also Juvenal’s purpose; but what Seneca had already written he did not need to repeat. So he turned his anger against another threatening specter, religious fanaticism, which had long been stirring in the Orient. To Egypt he turned his eyes; something monstrous had happened not long ago, and he decided to present this frightening example in a horrible description of all future events as a warning. It is Juvenal’s 15th poem.
Two neighboring Egyptian cities, Omboi and Tentyra, were. Both have different gods and they hate each other to the point of frenzy because of it. It’s a holiday for the Ombites right now, and[p. 232]they celebrate it with lavish and intoxicating worship. Then they are attacked by the people of Tentyra, a scuffle begins; at first they only smash their faces. Then stones are thrown; then you reach for the knife until the attackers flee; but one of the fleeing is seized and torn by the victorious crowd and eaten in unprecedented cannibalism. Everyone fills up on the meal. The last one who didn’t get anything greedily licks the blood from the victim’s fingers. God, the creator of the world, says Juvenal, raised man above the animal by giving us love for man and the urge to help one another. But where is the beast that eats its own kind? Religious rage, hatred of the neighbor’s gods, accomplishes that.
Did Juvenal exaggerate here? In any case, it is clear what position he took in the strife of religions, and it is all the more gratifying that in none of his poetry does he find a malicious, dismissive word against Christianity. Around the year 130, Juvenal could not go unnoticed by the rapidly growing Christian communities; for the gospel was already audible over the streets in the Greek quarters of Rome. Juvenal, this energetic ethicist and people’s educator, lived entirely in the Stoic moral doctrine, which was actually so close to the Christian. Perhaps we may assume that for this very reason he found no impulse and no cause for satirical attacks on the new ethnology.
Christianity itself was different. Scarcely had Juvenal fallen silent than Christianity itself raised its voice in polemics, and the great satire of the Christian church fathers in the struggle with the pagan gods began. Because that too was satire. The church authors borrowed the tone of bitter mockery and boundless indignation from Juvenal, but from the outset they are much more confident of victory than he is. For her task was easy; they could take their arguments from the enlightened pagans themselves, and they really took them[p. 233]faithfully from Varro, Cicero and Seneca. But even in the Roman popular theatre, the gods, as we have seen, had long since been desecrated and made into merry figures. This, too, offered the most welcome help to the Christians. “You must blush at your gods,” begins Tertullian  . “I don’t know whether to laugh at your folly or to scold at your blindness.” So there we have the laughter; it is the laughter of the satirist. And then it goes on: The old god Saturn is said to be the son of heaven; Heaven is called caelum in Latin; caelumbut is a neuter. How can a neuter beget children? Saturn is also said to have possessed a sickle; a sickle requires forging, but the blacksmith god Vulcan, who invented forging, was only Saturn’s grandson! So how could Saturn already have a crescent? Furthermore, Hercules was made a god because he slew so many wild animals; but why not rather the Pompey who got rid of all the pirates? Because the countless pirates were much worse than the few wild animals. The countless small city gods in the country are particularly laughable; for every little nest has another; “I laugh at these divine magistrates whose authority extends no further than their city walls. And what more can one say about Romulus, who founded Rome and killed his brother in the process? If all city founders are to become gods, then of course there can be many!”
And so the polemic continues. The later generations, Arnobius, Lactantius, Augustine, spoke no differently than Tertullian; and who should contradict them? Blessed be the time when Christianity fought and conquered only with such weapons, with the weapons of clever speech! The time would come when it would reach out to others. Juvenal had warned in vain. The time came when fanaticism took up the sword again and blood shed. It was the fanaticism of Christianity and its strengthened Church.
Why remember? The religious wars lie, thank God[p. 234]far behind us. The beautiful thought of antiquity that polytheism is only a multi-named God, that the many gods of the peoples of the earth are only many attempts to name the one, and the religious toleration that is rooted in this friendly thought has gradually conquered our present, too. and we hope that one day it will be fully victorious. It is worse today with racial hatred, hatred of peoples, the division of the peoples of Europe. In the world war that tore apart our part of the world in the last years of terror, it was not only the weapons that Vulcan forged that clashed; the word fought again, but completely degenerated, and the meanest taunting was let loose. The peoples who had decided to destroy us attacked us Germans with the basest, most mendacious insults, because our people had the incredible courage to express themselves independently and powerfully within their borders. All the wit of the speech, all the subtlety, all the grace was stifled in the most tasteless caricature and ugly screaming slander. This betrays a moral and cultural low of the present, which throws Europe far, far back behind the age of Horace and Juvenal and fills us with completely hopeless sadness. For the peoples of whom I spoke were already alive at that time; they are all the common heirs to the civilization of Rome and Hellas. At that time, Roman rule compelled the highly gifted nations it encompassed to unite, to work hard, and to live happily ever after. Will the planned “League of Nations” really encompass all nations peacefully? or do we have to wish that a tyrant will arise again, who takes the world in his strong hand and secure administration? Pitiable the world that wants to be compelled to be happy, to protect its dignity. Because happiness is only in freedom, and the true calling of peoples is to express pure humanity in themselves in free union.