Friday, March 6, 2009

Quis est Martialis 'malignus interpres'?

Who is Martial's 'malignus interpres'?
The mysterious malignus interpres has been received as an unwelcome intruder to Martial’s preface; he occupies vital space—the traditional domain of a declaration of poetic program—but his presence has, thus far, served only to obscure a line that is autonomously problematic. Since the early 17th century conjecture of Heinsius, critical editions of Martial have failed to reach a consensus whether to read the standard scribat or, with Heinsius, inscribat. The identity of the malignus interpres has been subsumed by this controversy and, consequently, an investigation of the enigmatic interpres has been unjustly neglected. He is hapax legomenon in Martial, and his prominent position in the preface suggests semantic marking—which necessarily implies the question: Why interpres? It is a failure of scholarship that an answer has not yet been provided...
Until now.