Roman Poetry

The earliest Roman poetry (actually Latin poetry) dates back to the second century B. C. It is often understood as an adaptation of models originally designed by the Greeks.

Martial wrote Roman poetry in the form of epigrams.

Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis) was a Latin poet of Spanish origins best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between 86 and 103 AD. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most spectacular and best-known poems of Rome is Virgil’s Aeneid, which tells the story of the founding of Rome. However, there are a number of other Roman poets who deserve to be remembered, including Horace, Martial, Catullus, Ovid, etc.

Book X:47 The good life

by Martial (40 – 104 AD)

These, my dearest Martialis, are

the things that bring a happy life:

wealth left to you, not laboured for;

rich land, an ever-glowing hearth;

no law, light business, and a quiet mind;

a healthy body, gentlemanly powers;

a wise simplicity, friends not unlike;

good company, a table without art;

nights carefree, yet no drunkenness;

a bed that’s modest, true, and yet not cold;

sleep that makes the hours of darkness brief:

the need to be yourself, and nothing more;

not fearing your last day, not wishing it.

This work has been reproduced for educational purposes from Selected Epigrams Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved. This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Accessed 4/22/21. 

The Roman poet, Martial or Marcus Valerius Martialis, was best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103. He lived and wrote during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan.

Catullus 101

Elegy for His Brother

Carried through many nations and over many seas,
I arrive, brother, for these wretched funeral rites
so that I might present you with the last tribute of death
and speak in vain to silent ash,
since Fortune has carried you, yourself, away from me.1
Alas, poor brother, unfairly taken away from me,
now in the meantime, nevertheless, these things which in the ancient custom of ancestors
are handed over as a sad tribute to the rites,
receive, dripping much with brotherly weeping.
And forever, brother, hail and farewell.

Catullus 101 in the original Latin. 

Multās per gentēs et multa per aequora vectus
adveniō hās miserās, frāter, ad īnferiās,
ut tē postrēmō dōnārem mūnere mortis
et mūtam nēquīquam alloquerer cinerem.
quandoquidem fortūna mihī tētē abstulit ipsum.
heu miser indignē frāter adēmpte mihi,
nunc tamen intereā haec, prīscō quae mōre parentum
trādita sunt trīstī mūnere ad īnferiās,
accipe frāternō multum mānantia flētū,
atque in perpetuum, frāter, avē atque valē.

Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 – c. 54 BC) was a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic whose poetry focused mainly on personal life rather than classical heroes. His surviving works are still read widely and continue to influence other poets. His style is personal and emotional, with frequent use of hyperbole, anaphora, and alliteration.

Finally, listen to at least the Aeneid and Horace readings in this player. The second Vergil reading is especially musical and interesting.


You may also enjoy “Satire I,” a poem by Horace.

Satire I by Horace