The 17 Necessary Conditions for a Good Life, According to Martial

In the 47th epigram of his 10th book, first century Roman poet Martial supplies the 17 necessary conditions for a good life, as follow.

  1. Inherited wealth, as opposed to that produced by an actual job.
  2. Some reasonably fertile land.
  3. A working fireplace.
  4. Total avoidance of lawsuits.
  5. An avoidance, almost as total, of business attire.
  6. A calm mind.
  7. Physical health.
  8. Gentlemanly powers.
  9. A sort of artful candor — or perhaps “benign insouciance.”
  10. Likeminded friends.
  11. Agreeable dinner parties.
  12. A simple, functional table.
  13. Nights without anxiety, but also not totally drunken, either.
  14. An active, but not entirely indulgent, sexual life.
  15. Considerable sleep, preferably when it’s dark out.
  16. The desire to be oneself only and nothing more/else.
  17. Neither a fear of, nor a wish for, one’s own death.

Translation courtesy Shackleton Bailey, Christopher Francese, Tom Gardner, A.S. Kline, and the present author’s own mediocre Latin.

Regarding Wine and Poetry, Three Notable Differences

Baudelaire recommends always to be drunk — on wine, for instance, or poetry. I consume much of the former — and would much of the latter, as well, were there more palatable examples of it.

One can become drunk on either wine or poetry, that’s true. The difference, however, is this: few vintners take pleasure in the difficulty with which their product is consumed.

Wine is served at poetry readings with a view to rendering the event more tolerable. Notably, there is not an equal but opposite example of this.

Three Tolerable Aphorisms Regarding Wine and Its Consumption

As a guest at a dinner party, I’m among the very harshest of wine critics: if there’s not enough wine, I become critical.

Good wine is better than mediocre wine: that’s obvious. Mediocre wine is much better than no wine at all, however.

At the market yesterday, I wanted to buy the five-liter bottle of wine for €5. My wife, meanwhile, insisted on the 3/4-liter bottle for €6. Her palette is superior to mine, I concede that; her grasp of arithmetic, however, much worse.