Of the poet Martial we know a great deal – especially when compared with what we know about his younger contemporary Juvenal, yet one needs to be careful in approaching what he tells us about himself. For instance, he refers several times to his suburban smallholding at Nomentum, usually identified as modern Mentana but possibly Casali, and in so doing is accustomed to belittle its produce. Hence he claims to send as a harvest gift fruit bought in the Subura rather than his own indifferent home-grown (10.94), and declares at 2.38 that what his estate yields is (not produce but) respite from the troublesome Linus. Now it is well appreciated that jokes regarding the viability, or rather otherwise, of suburban estates were standard; but it is possible that Martial's Nomentan estate was originally part of one owned by his compatriot the Younger Seneca, and we are told by Columella (3.3.3) that the vineyards on this estate were especially famed. Thus, although Martial's estate would have been small, the wine it produced might in fact have been very good of its kind – for all that his Nomentan neighbour Quintus Ovidius is credited with better (13.119):
Nomentana meum tibi dat vindemia Bacchum:
si te Quintus amat, commodiora bibes.
‘A Nomentan vintage gives you my wine. If Quintus loves you, you will drink better.’