Martial's epigram books might appeal to our postmodern sensibilities for their non-organic form; the ideal of organicism, as Richard Terdiman puts it, “registered the necessity, first, of representing the world as conflicted, and second, of mastering the contradictions within it which were thereby highlighted.” Martial relishes, rather than masters, the contradictions. His method is juxtaposition rather than subsumption and his books are impossible wholes. The question, “How does one read a book of epigrams?” might be answered quite simply by replying that one cannot. Only the heterogeneous society of the book can be adequate to that paradoxical entity, a book of epigrams, which cannot be taken in by a reading. Martial's Liber spectaculorum has proven to be both a valuable introduction to his oeuvre and an anomaly. In Book 1, Martial juxtaposes commemorative epigrams featuring exempla virtutis of the past with occasional epigrams on dinners and dining.
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