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Though he looked to the themes of old for inspiration, he shifted and mixed genres, creating a style that was completely his own, and thus becoming a model for the Latin erotic elegists who craved what was new, what was different, and what was wholly theirs As time went on and Romans began developing their own conventions of elegy, though still inspired by those Hellenistic predecessors, subversion and innovation became most important. It is with these models of rebellion from tradition that the Latin erotic elegists, and Propertius in particular, were able to jumpstart their own literary and political dissent.

They knew of the hardships — military, political, and social — of the new Principate not from hearsay but from experience. With this in mind, we finally come to the elegist in question, Sextus Propertius.

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Tuttle 10 history. We know that he was born between 49 and 47 BCE to a family of notables at Asisium. There, however, he denied his military and political career and opted instead for a life of writing erotic elegy. Propertius composed four books of elegiac poetry, which total around ninety-two poems. Though the majority of his corpus revolves around ideas of love, adultery, and the servitium amoris, it is in the last poem of his first book that we see our first elegiac challenge to Augustus.

In the poem 1. For our intents and purposes, however, it is important to note that his extant work is not outstanding but is substantial. From here I will be using two translations, unless they are my own, and several commentaries to guide my readings of the ancient texts and, thus my arguments. The translations are those of Shepherd, Propertius, and Lee, Propertius.


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Tuttle 11 homeland has been destroyed by the military actions of Augustus. For many Roman authors, whether composing prose or verses, patrons played an integral role in the success of their works. Maecenas was one such patron. He was an early supporter of Augustus, fighting alongside the young Octavian, and, from there, a trusted associate of the princeps.

It is not that they wanted to please him or the emperor, but that they craved the circulation and popularity the patron could potentially offer them. In the case of Propertius and other more independent authors, it is unfair and rather insulting to suggest that these poets wrote what Maecenas asked them to write. Propertius was not writing for a man who is pro-Augustan, nor is he writing for Augustus himself; Propertius was writing what he wanted to write, influencing and influenced by those around him but without the strict instruction of any other man.

With this evolution of erotic elegy and the introduction to the poet and his motives, let us now take a turn to the poem in question: Propertius 2. When determining how Propertius used his poetry to directly challenge Augustus and his potestas and what exactly it is that he is challenging, it is integral that we understand the context in which Propertius 2.

In Tibullus 1. Tuttle 13 triumph, we can deduce that Propertius 1 was released before this triumph — perhaps around 29 or 28 BCE — and that Propertius 2, therefore, was published around 26 or 25 BCE. He does not, however, provide his reasoning or evidence. For it is from her my glory earned so great a name,] glory spread to the wintry Borysthenes. Bracketed translation: Lee. Tuttle 14 From here I will be splitting 2. Though Propertius uses the militia amoris throughout his poems in the way we have come to expect from an erotic elegist, he uses the theme in a rather uncomfortable and unexpected way in 2.

Tuttle 15 connection. No longer does love feel like war, but love is war and Propertius is fighting with Cynthia.

Similarly to the militia amoris, Propertius uses the time-honored tradition of the paraklausithyron in a way completely different from that of his predecessors. He then creates a vigil upon the doorstep, hanging garlands on the door and singing songs of lament, begging the woman to allow him into her home.

Propertius 2.7

Though the motif appears in all genres of ancient Greek poetry and in Greek tragedy, its Roman uses predominately lie in lyric, comic theatre, and erotic elegy. Plautus is the first to use it in Latin literature, but Horace and the Latin elegists employ the motif more and in better 46 Prop.


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Lumen would be a much more elegiac word as it is often used to describe the eyes of a lover. Tuttle 16 ways. As Catullus and Tibullus,51 and — we assume — Gallus, often addressed their laments to the lover inside the house or to the door itself, Propertius uses his elegy to twist the tradition. Instead of the lover speaking, the door is recalling a recent paraklausithyron it has witnessed. Unlike the paraklausithyron, which was traditionally an indication of the beginnings of a love affair, Propertius here is mourning an old love. He is taken now by a woman whom he must marry to satisfy the law Augustus has enacted but whom he does not love.

His songs are no longer of a desirous nature, but of a defeated heart. There is little known about the moral reform referenced here, partially due to the fact that the only time a law attempted by Augustus and subsequently withdrawn is mentioned by a contemporary of the princeps is in Propertius 2. Though some believed the new princeps needed to regulate the wayward morals of the Roman people and called for his legislative interference, others were surprised and outraged by his attempted political, and thus public, regulation of their private lives.

Suetonius, a Roman biographer writing in the early second century CE, offers a less biased approach to history. On the law, he writes, [Augustus] revised existing laws an enacted some new ones, for example, on extravagance, on adultery and chastity, on bribery, and on the encouragement of marriage among the various classes of citizens.

Having made somewhat more stringent changes in the last of these than in the others, he was unable to carry it out because of an open revolt [tumultu] against its provisions, until he had abolished or mitigated a part of the penalties. Against a law that changed too much too soon, a law that pressed too hard, the Romans began to revolt. We are unsure as to exactly what Suetonius means by a tumultus, but the extent to which the Roman people revolted is not of the highest significance here as we are more worried about 55 Richardson, Propertius, Also see Tac.

Tuttle 18 the reaction of our poet rather than the popular reaction. If they had, we can surely bet that the poem content would be much different.

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Perhaps Propertius would be regretting their time apart rather than fearing what might have happened. He cannot separate two people when a passionate, eternal love bonds them together. If Jupiter, a god much more powerful than mortal Augustus, cannot do this, Augustus surely cannot either.

Propertius 2.7 - A comparison of two translations

In two of the most controversial lines in 2. This is a qualification which he eventually refutes. We will come to this later.

The princeps ruling all of Rome, especially one who boasts a connection to the goddess of love herself, should be able to control love much as Venus does. With this, Propertius is asserting that his love, and love in general, is much more powerful than any divine lineage or potestas Augustus may have. Horses in antiquity were often seen as a status symbol as they represented the equestrians who rode them into battle and, thus, the equestrian class of Roman society.

Tuttle 21 suitable to serve the poet. With this, we can see that Propertius is, once again, suggesting that he and his love for Cynthia is greater than any triumph or victory Augustus could earn. In most cases, line 13 in Propertius 2. As the Oxford Classical Text suggests, patriis is the preferred version.

If this is the case though, then why did Ruhnken prefer Parthiis and Heinsius Latiis? Instead, let us focus on the Parthiis and the implications of such a word. RG 29 and that he then placed those standards in the temple of Mars Ultor. They wondered how exactly Augustus forced the Parthians to do anything when there was no true victory over the eastern kingdom. It would be easy to assert that Propertius is directly denying Augustus of soldiers for fumbled victories, but I believe he is doing something more.

In replacing Parthiis with the rightful patriis, not only is Propertius refusing to produce sons for Augustan triumphs, but he is refusing to produce any sons to ever fight for Rome in any triumph. His refusal is not just fleeting, it is everlasting. His audience infers that he will not be producing sons for Parthian triumphs, but his words declare his refusal to ever aid in the military triumphs of the Roman people for the rest of eternity.

Tuttle 23 is the modern Dnieper River of eastern Europe that runs through the southwest edge of Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine before finally emptying into the Black Sea. It was a river known to the ancients but that was mysterious and almost had a mythic quality to it. As such, Propertius is suggesting that the glories of his love and the glories of his poetry dedicated to Cynthia are more well-known and more widespread than even the Roman Empire. His love is not just famous, it is eternal. Building off of Sappho and Callimachus, Propertius uses his content and form to challenge literary tradition and the traditions of Rome.

He uses the militia amoris and the paraklausithyron to subvert traditional Roman elegiac values even more than his elegiac forefathers and contemporaries did with their subversion of literary expectations and their employment of other elegiac themes.

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One may wonder as to what the significance of all of this is. With this, it is essential to keep in mind that this is not a question of whether Propertius 2.

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But one thing is clear: if Propertius had wanted to completely portray himself as anti-Augustan and anti-Principate, he would have. This was not a man afraid of feelings or expression. Instead, I posit that Propertius here is not trying to portray himself as pro- or anti- Augustan, or, for that matter, pro- or anti- anything.