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Not written in stone: Martial and the epigrammatic reader

July 2012

This dissertation examines the relationship initiated and developed by the Roman epigrammatist Martial with his general reader. Martial creates a position of prominence for the reader in his poetry books; my dissertation, after first examining how Martial presents himself as engaging with the general reader, also explores why it is important for him to do so. I argue that the techniques Martial uses to arrest the reader's attention are deeply bound up with his overall orientation toward the epigram book rather than the individual epigrams within it. By frequently addressing and involving his readers, Martial both educates them on the best way to approach his books as coherent units and rewards their diligent adherence to such an approach. My dissertation goes on to place Martial's engagement with the reader into a broader context by comparing it with the approach of other epigrammatists, especially Posidippus of Pella and Ausonius; these authors are not often brought into critical discussions about Martial, yet their poems (and poetry book, in the case of the New Posidippus) demonstrate as clearly as Martial's own how integral a component of the epigrammatist's approach to writing poetry is the reader's experience of reading it.