Martial is the quality of being warlike or combative, or related to the martial arts. It is often used by martial artists with a tone of reverence, generally with the added implication of art and grace. You can speak of a movement, an idea, or a person, as being martial. Martial should *not* be confused with marital, although I hear there are some similarities.

Roman poet of the silver age, born in the province of Spain between A.D. 38 and 41. He wrote 14 books of epigrams; the first, the liber spectaculorum, or Show-book, published in A.D. 96, during the final year of the reign of Domitian, describes his impressions of gladiatorial combat. His wit is typically Roman, i.e. cold and cruel:

Daedalus, when you were mauled by that Lucanian bear,
Didn't you wish then that you had your wings?

-Epigrammata I.VIII

The last two books, 13 and 14, consist of short two-liners meant as snipets to be used as models for dedications at the Saturnalia (kind of like a poetic code library). The rest contains poems on a wide variety of topics, mostly obscene or pornographic in nature, but all masterful satire. Most of our sources for ancient pornography and invective, as well as sexual positions , are found here.

There's very little about Martial you can hate; he drinks, fucks around, and hates lawyers. His style is extremely varied, ranging from well-crafted subtelty to blatant extravagance.

Marcus Valerius Martialis - 38 or 41 AD - 103

Roman Silver Age poet who brought the Latin epigram to perfection. He was born in a Roman colony in Spain, but moved to Rome and integrated himself in the Seneca family, who were very influential at the time.

His first book was entitled 'On the Spectacles' and was written in AD 80. This was a collection of mediocre epigrams celebrating the spectacles put on at the Colosseum. He wrote another two undistinguished books in 84 and 85. However, in the years following this, he wrote the 12 books which made him famous. After 34 years in Rome, Martial returned to Spain and died in his early 60s.

Martial is generally regarded as the creator of the modern epigram. Martial also introduced the concept of a 'sting in the tail' - a word or phrase at the end of an epigram which adds an unexpected angle to the poem. This technique was later adopted by Western European epigram writers. It also inspired the Younger Pliny to write his own light verse.

Mar"tial (?), a. [F., fr. L. martialis of or belonging to Mars, the god of war. Cf. March the month.]


Of, pertaining to, or suited for, war; military; as, martial music; a martial appearance.

"Martial equipage."



Practiced in, or inclined to, war; warlike; brave.

But peaceful kings, o'er martial people set, Each other's poise and counterbalance are. Dryden.


Belonging to war, or to an army and navy; -- opposed to civil; as, martial law; a court-martial.


Pertaining to, or resembling, the god, or the planet, Mars.

Sir T. Browne.

5. Old Chem. & Old Med.

Pertaining to, or containing, iron; chalybeate; as, martial preparations.


Martial flowers Med., a reddish crystalline salt of iron; the ammonio-chloride of iron. [Obs.] -- Martial law, the law administered by the military power of a government when it has superseded the civil authority in time of war, or when the civil authorities are unable to enforce the laws. It is distinguished from military law, the latter being the code of rules for the regulation of the army and navy alone, either in peace or in war.

Syn. -- Martial, Warlike. Martial refers more to war in action, its array, its attendants, etc.; as, martial music, a martial appearance, a martial array, courts-martial, etc. Warlike describes the feeling or temper which leads to war, and the adjuncts of war; as, a warlike nation, warlike indication, etc. The two words are often used without discrimination.


© Webster 1913.

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