Thursday, 28 April 2016

Martial for Manchildren

It's an unanticipated oddity (though really any translator ought to see it coming) that once 'your' version of such-and-such a text is out there in the world, readers will put it to work for whatever ends they already have in view. Classical texts are particularly worth appropriating, because of the cultural capital they embody - 'the glory that was Greece' and 'the grandeur that was Rome' are the ultimate Top Trumps cards in a long-running game of cultural one-upmanship, in which we're told the world should work a particular way "Because Daddy says so".

One such appropriation comes in a long-running blog I recently found while Googling myself, which is an ingrained vice of mine. I try to make it an occasional habit only, but having an (as far as I know) unique name makes it all too easy. I don't propose to link to the blog in question because I find misogyny icky, but if you're that bothered, you could find it the same way I did.

The blog's author really doesn't like women much, unless they're adoringly subservient to male requirements (and ladies, he's single!). His heart bleeds for absentee fathers who don't pay child support - they're victims of the system:

"Patriarchy has long imposed grotesquely unjust paternity laws on men and treated men as disposable persons."

And you thought patriarchy was all about male privilege? Silly you! "Women have dominated social life (gynocentrism) for as long as humanity has existed": patriarchy is just us men being bullied into working extra-hard for them! Feminists are the shock-troopers of the occupation - you have to sign the SCUM Manifesto before they let you in their treehouse. But the whole history of civilisation, since we came down from the trees and probably before, is a female plot to grab our stuff!

(I am not kidding; he says all these things.)

What's Martial doing there? What am I doing there? It's Martial 12.20, or Octavian's alleged epigram within that epigram:

Because Antony fucks Glaphyra, Fulvia has passed sentence of punishment
on me: I in turn have to fuck her.
Me, fuck Fulvia? What if Manius begged me
to bugger him? Would I? I don’t think so, not in my right mind.
“Fuck me, or it’s war between us,” she says. But how could life itself
be dearer to me than than my cock? Let the trumpets sound!

The blogger has tweaked it a little, with an eye on the Latin original (which he includes), but I'm there in the credits as his source. Eek. What's his point? That Fulvia was a "female tyrant" who,

"if Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus, hadn’t rejected her sexual tyranny, may well have become effectively the supreme ruler of the Roman Empire."

History must thank Octavian for keeping it in his tunic, and the good men of Rome for "rally[ing] to Octavian’s courageous sexual rejection" of her sexual reign of terror. Bros before hoes! Fulvia treated her husbands awfully - we can only guess just how awfully:

"While married to Fulvia, Antony had a variety of mistresses. Men suffering from dominant and abusive wives commonly seek warm, receptive, loving embraces in bed with mistresses.

"Fulvia was cruel, greedy, and bloodthirsty. The historical record doesn’t specifically mention Fulvia engaging in domestic violence against Antony. Women’s domestic violence against men is also scarcely acknowledge [sic] today." 

There's all the proof you need - women are bitches, always have been, and men must unite to save the world from them. The price of masculine freedom is eternal vigilance - the Republic had only been granted a temporary reprieve:

"Fulvia hadn’t become supreme tyrant of the Roman Empire. But the Roman culture that accepted the demands of the Sabine women [he's blogged about that] and believed unquestioningly Lucretia’s claim of rape [that too - women lie about it all the time] permitted Fulvia’s rise to power. That same culture implied the death of the Roman Republic."
 O tempora, o mores - my Martial and I feel quite sullied.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Guest Post: Alex Humm, Martial: the Movie

From the mighty hand of Alex Humm, a first-year student in my Martial seminar, and written for the creative-writing exercise that brought you Gotham's Martial:

Martial’s Rome: The Movie Documentary Drama Opera

(Fade into a panning shot across the Roman Forum from the Palatine Hill. The forum appears to be full of people. A heavy bass drum beat can be heard. It sounds slow and ominous)
You Romans. You believe you live in a civilised age. The most civilised age to date. Your men, strong. Your women, pure.
(The panning shot ends facing our Hero atop the Palatine Hill, Martial. He is blonde, obviously very muscled underneath his toga. He has a sly smile on)
Oh my sweet children, could you be anymore wrong.
(A bright flash transitions to Martial, walking through the forum towards the camera which keeps a consistent metre away from him. He parts the crowd as he walks. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars plays)
(To camera) My name is Marcus Valerius Martialis, but you can call me Martial for short. I’m not rich, I’m not posh, if I had to call myself anything, it’d be modest. Originally from Hispania, but a Roman through and through. I like long walks to the temple of Venus, and most of all, gossip. Forget the Spectacles, this is my new Magnum Opus.
(Jump cut to Martial laying in front of the temple of Saturn)
I’m here to tell you everything, absolutely everything that goes on behind closed doors in our great capital of Roma. And if you think that’ll offend you, don’t watch it. And if you still watch it, don’t complain about it.
(Text appears on a black background)
From the critically acclaimed book series ‘Epigrams’
(Cut to Martial in the slums of Rome)
From the smelly, dirty poor people. I mean, Plebs
(Cut to Martial, once again on the Palatine Hill, in front of an ornate door with a laurel tree either side of him)
To the positively stinking rich and powerful elite
(On a black background)
Written, Directed and Produced by Rome’s most eminent writer ever, Martial.
(Cut to a close up of Martial)
Did you hear about that lady down the road?
(The camera spins 180 degrees to an unidentified Roman)
Which lady?
(Back to Martial)
The one with the black hair
(Back to Roman)
Oh yeah, what about her?
(Back to Martial)
Totally dyes it
(Back to Roman)
I knew it! No-one can have hair that Raven black at her age!
(Cut to Martial, being fed grapes by a servant)
See all the lesbian antics, adultery, lying, stealing and cheating. And if you’re lucky, I’ll even put in proper sex scenes.
(Cut to a wide shot of Martial in a bar, surrounded by people chattering and gossiping)
Someone says: Hey, did you hear about Domitian? Apparently he was seen in the Argiletum!
(Camera zooms in on Martial’s horrified face)
That must all be lies, he is the emperor and is above all reproach.
(Martial turns his head to a camera next to him)
Even I know where to draw the line, I ain’t getting exiled! The country is boring as shit!
(On a black background)
Coming AD 105, Martial’s Rome: The Movie Documentary Drama Opera. All characters appearing in this work could, maybe be fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Probably.