The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Tony Potter
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
Yes – Absolutely! I’ve recently re-discovered Martial’s Epigrams and they always cheer me up when I’m feeling a little low.
When did you first come across Martial?
I originally came across his work when I was studying the old OU course A219 – Exploring the Classical World. I can’t remember the exact details, but I think one of the TMAs was about Roman baths or something along those lines and one of the sources we looked at was Martial. I seem to remember then thinking that he was a real ‘people watcher’, and that sort of appeals to me!
Can you tell me a bit about his work and its context?
If I remember correctly Martial was originally from what we would call Spain today and I’m pretty certain that the twelve books of Epigrams are probably the best known of his works. The Epigrams were written between AD 86 and 103 during the reign of the Emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. I reckon if you asked anyone about Martial, they’d definitely mention his Epigrams. I did a quick search on the definition of ‘epigrams’ just to check I knew what I was talking about and Wikipedia (don’t shoot me!) says that they are ‘brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statements’ and I think this sums them up perfectly!
What is it about Martial that appeals to you most?
As I mentioned earlier, I think Martial was the ultimate ‘people watcher’ and if we take anything from the Epigrams, they prove that he was a quick witted, outstandingly sarcastic and unapologetic man with a staggeringly vicious tongue! He observed life in Rome as it was and said exactly what he saw without thinking about the implications and I admire him for that. If I were to go out on a limb, I think I’d go as far as to say I can see a little bit of myself in Martial’s ‘take no prisoners’ attitude! The Epigrams are amazingly offensive but also side-splittingly hilarious and they never cease to make me chuckle.
And finally… what do you do, outside of Classics, to cheer yourself up?
This might sound a bit weird, particularly because we are talking about what I do to cheer myself up – but I do love a good horror film, the scarier the better. I’m not really into gory films but I do like a good film that chills you to the bone. When I’m not scaring myself silly with films about possessed dolls in rocking chairs I like to try and get outside as much as possible. I’m not a sporty person at all but I do have three hyper-active spaniels so I like to take them out on long walks to use up their energy. I also find it helps clear my mind and focus on whatever I’m currently researching or working on.
Tony Potter is currently a postgraduate student with the Open University, in the final year of study for the MA in Classical Studies.
“I have big ambitions and as soon as I’ve got my MA in the bag I really want to start thinking about PhDs. My current area of interest is Greek and Roman medicine, especially the cult of Asclepius. But I’m currently focusing on how the Roman Imperial army contributed to the spread of Roman medicine throughout the Empire.
My day job is not related to Classics at all! I am actually a Customer Service Manager for a decorative aggregates company in East Yorkshire, so my day to day activities are worlds away from Ancient Greece or Rome. In my spare time I’ve been learning Latin (I’ve been on with this for the past few years) and this coming summer I’m going to tackle Ancient Greek.
I am a very occasional blogger, but you can find me most often on Twitter where I tweet from the account @classicalfix. I tweet about lots of things but mainly classics stuff so if you don’t already do so, then please follow me!”
4 thoughts on “Comfort Classics: Tony Potter”
Fab, thanks Tony.
As Martial had to rely on his friends for food, clothes and money, it appears nobody took offence although, perhaps more likely, they liked hearing risque, scandalous and even libellous stories of others.
Maybe not a film but I did enjoy The Haunting of Hill House
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Hi Colin, I haven’t seen The Haunting of Hill House, I shall have to have a look. I agree about Martial though, I mean who doesn’t like a little gossip every now and then! I suspect Martial’s friends liked it because ultimately it was his words and not theirs. They could indulge without the risk!
I can vouch for The Haunting of Hill House. Book’s good, too. Haven’t looked at Martial for a while but I do recall enjoying his jibing comments! I’ll go take another peek at the epigrams. Thanks for the prompt 🙏😄
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Hi Tony, Great to see what you’re up to, and thanks for reminding us that Martial is a great antidote to lock-in blues.