Martial Book Xiii: The Xenia
Although both innovative and engaging, Book XIII of Martial’s epigrams, the “Xenia,” has generally been neglected. As its name suggests, it is concerned with presents, in particular those given at the Saturnalia by hosts to their dinner guests. Like the” Apophoreta,” which Martial published next, it comprises independent poetic couplets cast as descriptive gift-tags. Far from being mere verse catalogues, however, these books are highly sophisticated literary compositions. Whereas the “Apophoreta” encompass many different items, the” Xenia” are devoted to food and drink, and are carefully ordered to reflect the courses of the “cena” at which they might have been distributed. This edition contains commentary devoted exclusively to the “Xenia.” Combining literary and textual comment with close attention to the social and cultural context, it will be valuable not only to specialists in Latin literature but also to anyone interested in the food and festivals of Ancient Rome.