That martial elegy, like all shorter elegy, belonged to (some form of) the symposion has become a matter of scholarly orthodoxy since Ewen Bowie formulated his powerful arguments to this effect almost thirty years ago. More recently, Elizabeth Irwin has offered a thorough analysis of the social function of martial elegy in the symposion within a historicist framework. What remains to be explained fully is precisely how these poems ‘worked’ as poetry in a sympotic context. This paper aims to begin to provide such an explanation; it does so by building on Irwin’s interpretation of the poems as epic role-play and comparing the poetic strategies of Callinus fr. 1 and Tyrtaeus fr. 10 to some rhetorical strategies characteristic of the symposion more generally, particularly as instanced by the iconography of sympotic pottery.