A little plank of wood

Here’s an epigram of Martial, that caught my eye, as I was reading it this evening (book 7, no.19):

The fragment that you regard as cheap and useless wood,
This was the first keel to stem the unknown sea.
What the clash of the azure rocks could not shatter of old,
Nor the wrath, more dread, of Scythia’s ocean,
The ages have overcome. Yet however much it has submitted to time,
More sacred is this small plank than a whole ship unscathed.

The poet imagines that a stray bit of wood, perhaps from a beach, is in fact a piece of the Argo.

The Loeb edition, from which I amend this, suggests that perhaps the legend of the Clashing Rocks records some early Greek experience of icebergs, since they were traditionally located at the entrance to the Bosphorus.


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