This epigram is often selected by those giving examples of Martial’s poems. It purports to be a eulogy to Erotion, a slave-girl who has recently died. Martial wishes her to be safe in the afterlife, and so asks his “parents” to make sure she is not frightened. Whether it reflects real life or not, this is a beautiful and heart-breaking poem.
Hanc tibi, Fronto pater, genetrix Flaccilla, puellam
Oscula commendo deliciasque meas,
Parvola ne nigras horrescat Erotion umbras
Oraque Tartarei prodigiosa canis.
Inpletura fuit sextae modo frigora brumae, 5
Vixisset totidem ni minus illa dies.
Inter tam veteres ludat lasciva patronos
Et nomen blaeso garriat ore meum.
Mollia non rigidus caespes tegat ossa, nec illi,
Terra, gravis fueris: non fuit illa tibi. 10
To you, father Fronto and mother Flacilla, I commend
this girl, my pet and darling.
Little Erotion must not be frightened by the dark shades
and the monstrous mouths of Tartarus’ hound.
She was due to complete the chills of a sixth midwinter, no more,
if she had not lived that many days too few.
Let her now play and frolic with her old patrons
and lispingly chatter my name.
Not hard be the turf that covers her soft bones, be not heavy upon her,
earth; she was not heavy upon you.
Chosen by Francesca Sapsford, PhD Student.
The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library, and the translation is by Shackleton Bailey (LOEB).