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Bad Scorpion: Cacemphaton and Poetics in Martial's Ligurinus-Cycle

From: Classical World
Volume 106, Number 3, Spring 2013
pp. 365-395 | 10.1353/clw.2013.0056



A bilingual cacemphaton in Martial 3.44 allows the author to blur the categories of chaste and obscene language, furnishing a moment of ribald humor in a section of book 3 that Martial claims is free from Latin obscenity. The cacemphaton recasts an unusual reference to a scorpion as a more familiar socio-sexual threat: the σκῶρ-πέος of a pedicator. It risks charging the epigram's mundane activities with erotic significance and contributes to a nexus of sexual, culinary, and literary imagery in the short cycle of poems against poetaster Ligurinus (3.44, 45, 50), suggesting why his verses give no pleasure and how they corrupt food and ruin meals.