Martial was born in Bilbilis, which was located near what is now the town of Saragossa, close to the Pyrenees in North Eastern Spain.
He moved to Rome in 64 (24), when
Nero was Emperor and (among other things) a generous patron of the arts. He lived first in an attic room overlooking the portico of
Agrippa, but was later given a small villa near Nomentum (a few miles north east of Rome) by the Emperor
Domitian, who also later granted him
status, and gave him a house on the Quirinal.
Little else is known about his life until the publication of his first book of epigrams in 84 (44), the
Liber Spectaculorum or Book of Games, in honour of the dedication of the
Coliseum in 80 (40). The Xenia (Gifts for Guests) and
Apophoreta (Gifts for Guests to Take Home) followed, before he produced the twelve
Books of Epigrams, for which he is now remembered, between 86 (46) and 102 (62).
Return to Spain and death
He returned to Spain in 98 (58), and died in c 104 (64).
Comment by Pliny
Pliny, ‘he was clever, sharp and keen eyed, and his writings had both savour and wit, and no less honesty’, though he also wrote : ‘But I think his poems will not long survive their author, though I believe he himself thought they would’.
Book II, Epigram XXXVI
Book X, Epigram XLVII
Other classical poets