In a poem addressed to a friend with the same name as his own, Martial details the ingredients of a happy life. The list agrees with what one might draw up today, except that it contains nothing that we might interpret as job satisfaction. The puritan work ethic was more than a thousand years in the future, and a Roman saw no virtue in having to earn a living. Certain careers (advocate, politician, soldier, farmer) were held in esteem, but to work with one's hands was considered degrading, and merchants and traders were despised. The ideal was to lead a life of otium (leisure), such as Martial describes here.
Vitam quae faciant beatiorem, iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
res non parta labore, sed relicta;
non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta; 5
vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
text Martial, ed. D. R. Shackleton Bailey (Loeb Classical Library, 1993) meter hendecasyllable [§m3]
vitam | quae faci|antbe|ati|orem iucun|dlssime | Martl|alis | haec sunt
1 The antecedent of quae (postponed [§g 4]) is haec in 1.2; faciant potential subj. [§g68]; beatior compar. of beatus happy.
3 res here wealth; parta (perf. pple. of pario -ere) here obtained; labore instrumental abl. [§647]; relicta (perf. pple. of relinquo -ere) here inherited.
4 non ingratus (not unrewarding) is used of an ager (farm) that returns a profit— Martial would have seen himself as enjoying rural life while underlings and slaves performed the manual labor; focus -! m. fireplace; perennis year-round, constant, i.e., always burning;—the kitchen fire would be in constant use to provide cooked food.
5 lis litis f. lawsuit; toga rara trans, a toga (toga -ae f.) rarely used—the toga was the formal Roman dress, and the need to wear it was much less in the country than in Rome (cf. Martial, "A Pleasant Retirement," page 191); quietus quiet, at rest.
6 vires ingenuae lit .Jreeborn strength, i.e., the strength of a freeborn man, not that of a slave, who, through hard manual labor, might have been much stronger than the average citizen; saluber healthy.
7 prudens (prudentis) prudent, sensible; simplicitas simplicitatis f. openness; par (paris) matching, equal, i.e., of equal status.
convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
nox non ebria, sed soluta curis;
non tristis torus, et tamen pudicus; 10
somnus, qui faciat breves tenebras:
quod sis, esse velis nihilque malis;
summum nec metuas diem nec optes.
Martial Epigrammata 10.47
8 convictus -us m. companionship; mensa -ae f. table, used here by metonymy [§g 97] for food.
9 ebrius drunken; soluta perf. pple. of solvo -ere (set) free; curls abl. of separation
10 tristis here austere, straitlaced; torus -I m. lit., bed, used here by metonymy [§097] for marriage; pudicus chaste.
11 faciat potential subj. [§g 68]; tenebrae -arum f.pl. darkness, trans, the night. I2f. The two final requisites are expressed by clauses; veils ... mails (2 sg. pres.
subj. void velle and maid malle) potential subj. [§g 68], [that] you would wish to be (esse) whatever you are (quod sis) and would prefer nothing [else]—quod sis is a generalizing relative clause (hence the subj. [§g88]); summum ... diem the final day, i.e., the day of one's death; metuas, optes potential subj. [§g68].
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