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Private Life

224. Sulpicia. Rome, late 1st cent. A.D. (Martial, Epigrams 10.35. L)

The work of the second Roman woman poet named Sulpicia (for the first see here), who lived in the Flavian period (A.D. 69-96), is not preserved. If Martial's praise of her work is any guide, her poems must have lacked the passion and immediacy of those of her earlier namesake.

Let all girls read Sulpicia if they want to please their husband alone. And let every husband read Sulpicia who wants to please his bride alone. She doesn't write about the Colchian's[1] fury or Thyestes' deadly dinner; she doesn't believe in Scylla and Byblis: but she teaches chaste and honest loves, the games, the delights, the humour of love. He who appreciates her poetry will say that no woman was more mischievous, and no woman more modest. I believe the nymph Egeria exchanged such pleasantries with Numa in his dripping cave. And, Sappho, if she'd been your teacher or classmate, you'd have learned more and kept your chastity intact. But if hard Phaon had seen you and her together at the same time, he'd have loved Sulpicia. In vain: that girl wouldn't live as the wife of Jupiter himself or the lover of Bacchus or Apollo if her Calenus were ever taken from her.[2]


Notes:

1. I.e., Medea.

2. In 10.38 Martial congratulates Sulpicia's husband Calenus on their fifteen years of blissful matrimony.