Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Classical Studies

First Advisor

Cynthia Damon


Originating from inscribed epigram, concerning itself with occasional and satirical matters, and being written during the Flavian period, a time marked by efforts to catalogue and reframe Roman thought and tradition, Martial’s Epigrams understandably so are obsessed with the material world. Material objects, animate or inanimate, are at the center of interest of Martial’s poetry so much, that this dissertation suggests materiality as a fruitful lens through which Martial’s oeuvre as a whole can be approached. To do so, this study is structured into three avenues of investigation: sense perception, the (imagined) transformations of objects that are evoked through word plays, and a play with the representation of books and poets in poetry. This study finds that Martial often calls the very concept of materiality into question. This can occur e.g., when the poet portrays things that are not material, such as a smell, as palpable within his poetry. Elsewhere, the poet implicitly suggests a transformation of the legs of an individual by juxtaposing them with similarly shaped objects. Finally, the poet imagines concepts such as the greatness of an author as a material presence that can take up an entire room. Likewise, Martial alludes to an ubiquitous, dematerialized presence when he claims that “all of Rome reads me” or “I am in everyone’s pocket,” imagining himself as one with his book. The three chapters of my dissertation in conjunction shed light on how Martial’s material worldmaking suggests a coexistence of physical and conceptual materials that can both be captured by literary epigram. Literary epigram, thus, is fruitful for a reflection on matters of materiality: originating from being inscribed in stone, turned into ephemeral entertainment-pieces which lack coherency with one another and can be fragmented by the reader at will, literary epigram comes across as an anti-genre in which the material and the abstract lie close together.

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