Martial [translation by Nigel Kay]

Epigram XI.20

[Warning: some may find the language of the following coarse.]

Spiteful reader, who read Latin words with a frown, read these six verses of Augustus Caesar: "Because Antony fucks Glaphyra, Fulvia fixed this punishment for me, that I should fuck her too. That I should fuck Fulvia? What if Manius begged me to bugger him? Would I do it? Not if I had any sense. 'Either fuck me or we fight,' she says. What about my prick being dearer to me than life itself? Let the charge sound!" You do of course free my risqué books from blame, Augustus, who know how to speak with Roman straightforwardness.



Manius was an agent of Antony's working with Fulvia in Italy in 41-40 BCE.

Glaphyra was queen mother of Cappadocia, whose personal connection with Antony had secured the throne for her two sons during the reorganization of the East in the aftermath of Philippi.

N. Kay comments: "It is an effectively unpleasant piece of propaganda; it lays the blame squarely on the other side, which is controlled by a woman (compare the Antony and Cleopatra propaganda of ten years later); her motives are reduced to the purely sexual, and it is additionally ridiculous that she wants to punish Octavian for the misdemeanours of her husband Antony; she is moreover portrayed as sexually repellent ... This type of personal insult propaganda was rife at the time and can be seen on the lead sling bullets from the siege found at Perugia ('Perusinae glandes') ... There is plenty of sexual slanging elsewhere: most interestingly we know that Octavian was attacked for passive homosexuality by Marcus and Lucius Antonius, undoubtedly around this time... [see Suetonius Aug 68]... J. P. Hallett (AJAH 2 (1977), p. 151f) convincingly argues that in this epigram Octavian was trying to redress the balance by picturing himself as an aggressively active male: he is fighting for his mentula, which makes life worthwhile; even in complying with Manius' offer he would be taking the active role; and he implies a connection between his virility and his military self-confidence. Despite his moral legislation, he seems to have had little objection to a portrayal of himself throughout his reign as a 'selectively voracious womaniser'."