I have no doubt that plagiarism existed in the Greek and Roman antiquity: some authors must have copied material more or less directly from others without attribution. (The moral requirement to cite your sources is a later invention, as far as I know.) But are there attested ancient mentions of ancient plagiarism? For example, a comment like this would count as a mention: "This Marcus doesn't write his own books; he takes others' work and publishes it as his own."

I don't recall seeing any mentions to that effect, but I assume there are some. My first guess is to look at satirists, but this is hard to search. Something like this would fit the overall tone of Juvenal, for example, from what I remember.

  • 4
    AFAIK, the inverse of plagiarism was much more preeminent in Roman times ... to publish something under the name of an already famous author that he didn't write. Feb 21, 2018 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


The concept, and indeed the word, is in Martial 1.52 (Inpones plagiario pudorem).

Commendo tibi, Quintiane, nostros—
Nostros dicere si tamen libellos
Possum, quos recitat tuus poeta—:
Si de servitio gravi queruntur,
Adsertor venias satisque praestes,
Et, cum se dominum vocabit ille,
Dicas esse meos manuque missos.
Hoc si terque quaterque clamitaris,
Inpones plagiario pudorem.

  • This is great! I had no idea the word itself was that old. (To break a row in a quote or elsewhere, just end the line in the editor with two spaces. Click "edit" to see what I did.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 21, 2018 at 16:25
  • Plagiarius in the sense "plunderer" goes back at least to Cicero. I wonder whether it was in fact Martial who coined the modern meaning.
    – fdb
    Feb 21, 2018 at 21:53
  • Finding out whether this passage or Martial in general is the origin of plagiarism (with a related word) in the modern modern sense is certainly worth a follow-up question. This rabbit hole is much more deep and interesting than I anticipated...
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 21, 2018 at 22:03

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