Thursday, 28 April 2016

Martial for Manchildren

It's an unanticipated oddity (though really any translator ought to see it coming) that once 'your' version of such-and-such a text is out there in the world, readers will put it to work for whatever ends they already have in view. Classical texts are particularly worth appropriating, because of the cultural capital they embody - 'the glory that was Greece' and 'the grandeur that was Rome' are the ultimate Top Trumps cards in a long-running game of cultural one-upmanship, in which we're told the world should work a particular way "Because Daddy says so".

One such appropriation comes in a long-running blog I recently found while Googling myself, which is an ingrained vice of mine. I try to make it an occasional habit only, but having an (as far as I know) unique name makes it all too easy. I don't propose to link to the blog in question because I find misogyny icky, but if you're that bothered, you could find it the same way I did.

The blog's author really doesn't like women much, unless they're adoringly subservient to male requirements (and ladies, he's single!). His heart bleeds for absentee fathers who don't pay child support - they're victims of the system:

"Patriarchy has long imposed grotesquely unjust paternity laws on men and treated men as disposable persons."

And you thought patriarchy was all about male privilege? Silly you! "Women have dominated social life (gynocentrism) for as long as humanity has existed": patriarchy is just us men being bullied into working extra-hard for them! Feminists are the shock-troopers of the occupation - you have to sign the SCUM Manifesto before they let you in their treehouse. But the whole history of civilisation, since we came down from the trees and probably before, is a female plot to grab our stuff!

(I am not kidding; he says all these things.)

What's Martial doing there? What am I doing there? It's Martial 12.20, or Octavian's alleged epigram within that epigram:

Because Antony fucks Glaphyra, Fulvia has passed sentence of punishment
on me: I in turn have to fuck her.
Me, fuck Fulvia? What if Manius begged me
to bugger him? Would I? I don’t think so, not in my right mind.
“Fuck me, or it’s war between us,” she says. But how could life itself
be dearer to me than than my cock? Let the trumpets sound!

The blogger has tweaked it a little, with an eye on the Latin original (which he includes), but I'm there in the credits as his source. Eek. What's his point? That Fulvia was a "female tyrant" who,

"if Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus, hadn’t rejected her sexual tyranny, may well have become effectively the supreme ruler of the Roman Empire."

History must thank Octavian for keeping it in his tunic, and the good men of Rome for "rally[ing] to Octavian’s courageous sexual rejection" of her sexual reign of terror. Bros before hoes! Fulvia treated her husbands awfully - we can only guess just how awfully:

"While married to Fulvia, Antony had a variety of mistresses. Men suffering from dominant and abusive wives commonly seek warm, receptive, loving embraces in bed with mistresses.

"Fulvia was cruel, greedy, and bloodthirsty. The historical record doesn’t specifically mention Fulvia engaging in domestic violence against Antony. Women’s domestic violence against men is also scarcely acknowledge [sic] today." 

There's all the proof you need - women are bitches, always have been, and men must unite to save the world from them. The price of masculine freedom is eternal vigilance - the Republic had only been granted a temporary reprieve:

"Fulvia hadn’t become supreme tyrant of the Roman Empire. But the Roman culture that accepted the demands of the Sabine women [he's blogged about that] and believed unquestioningly Lucretia’s claim of rape [that too - women lie about it all the time] permitted Fulvia’s rise to power. That same culture implied the death of the Roman Republic."
 O tempora, o mores - my Martial and I feel quite sullied.

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