Do the poems of Martial and Juvenal offer us any insights into the workings of patronage in roman society?
In order to answer the question fully it is important to first establish the official system of patronage in Roman society. The patron-client system was a feature of Roman society in which citizens (clients) of inferior status formed political and social relationships with citizens of a superior status (patrons). The client would depend upon the patron for protection, legal help, advice, money, food and business opportunities. The client also had duties to fulfil. Every morning he would go to his patrons house (called salutatio) and receive his daily gift (a sportula) of food or money. He had to accompany his patron to the forum and support his political career by voting for him and perform other vital services. This was very important as shown by Cicero,
"When several candidates are campaigning and men see that there is one who really appreciates the services of his attendants [i.e.
clients], they frequently desert the other candidates and pledge themselves to him . . . " 1
Clients ranged from freedmen and businessmen to artists and writers. It was common practice for a patron to associate himself with a writer. This would please both parties. The writer would receive money and accolade for his work. The patron would be praised and have his status commemorated. "The writer and the public figure would form, in the form of a patron- client relationship, an alliance or a relationship of convenience in which both had much to gain." 2
Marcus Valerius Martialis (Martial) was a Latin epigrammatist born around AD 38 - 41. Martial came to Rome at the age of twenty-four and secured the patronage of the Senecan circle. Unfortunately this was short lived and he...