This series provides sophisticated and authoritative overviews of periods of ancient history, genres of classical literature, and the most important themes in ancient culture. Each volume comprises between twenty-five and forty concise essays written by individual scholars within their area of specialization. The essays are written in a clear, provocative, and lively manner, designed for an international audience of scholars, students, and general readers.



A Companion to the Roman Army

Edited by Paul Erdkamp

A Companion to the Roman Republic

Edited by Nathan Rosenstein and Robert Morstein-Marx

A Companion to the Roman Empire

Edited by David S. Potter

A Companion to the Classical Greek World

Edited by Konrad H. Kinzl

A Companion to the Ancient Near East

Edited by Daniel C. Snell

A Companion to the Hellenistic World

Edited by Andrew Erskine

A Companion to Late Antiquity

Edited by Philip Rousseau

A Companion to Ancient History

Edited by Andrew Erskine

A Companion to Archaic Greece

Edited by Kurt A. Raaflaub and Hans van Wees

A Companion to Julius Caesar

Edited by Miriam Griffin

A Companion to Byzantium

Edited by Liz James

A Companion to Ancient Egypt

Edited by Alan B. Lloyd

A Companion to Ancient Macedonia

Edited by Joseph Roisman and Ian Worthington

A Companion to the Punic Wars

Edited by Dexter Hoyos

A Companion to Augustine

Edited by Mark Vessey

A Companion to Marcus Aurelius

Edited by Marcel van Ackeren

Literature and Culture


A Companion to Classical Receptions

Edited by Lorna Hardwick and Christopher Stray

A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography

Edited by John Marincola

A Companion to Catullus

Edited by Marilyn B. Skinner

A Companion to Roman Religion

Edited by Jörg Rüpke

A Companion to Greek Religion

Edited by Daniel Ogden

A Companion to the Classical Tradition

Edited by Craig W. Kallendorf

A Companion to Roman Rhetoric

Edited by William Dominik and Jon Hall

A Companion to Greek Rhetoric

Edited by Ian Worthington

A Companion to Ancient Epic

Edited by John Miles Foley

A Companion to Greek Tragedy

Edited by Justina Gregory

A Companion to Latin Literature

Edited by Stephen Harrison

A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought

Edited by Ryan K. Balot

A Companion to Ovid

Edited by Peter E. Knox

A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language

Edited by Egbert Bakker

A Companion to Hellenistic Literature

Edited by Martine Cuypers and James J. Clauss

A Companion to Vergil’s Aeneid and its Tradition

Edited by Joseph Farrell and Michael C. J. Putnam

A Companion to Horace

Edited by Gregson Davis

A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds

Edited by Beryl Rawson

A Companion to Greek Mythology

Edited by Ken Dowden and Niall Livingstone

A Companion to the Latin Language

Edited by James Clackson

A Companion to Tacitus

Edited by Victoria Emma Pagán

A Companion to Women in the Ancient World

Edited by Sharon L. James and Sheila Dillon

A Companion to Sophocles

Edited by Kirk Ormand

A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

Edited by Daniel Potts

A Companion to Roman Love Elegy

Edited by Barbara K. Gold


List of Figures

Segment of the triumphal procession on the architrave frieze from the Temple of Apollo Sosianus commemorating Augustus’ Dalmatian Victory. Collection of the Capitoline Museums, Centro Montemartini. Fototeca Unione, American Academy in Rome. Neg. 5993.

Feminine Herm in nero antico from the precinct of the Palatine Temple of Apollo. Palatine Antiquarium Inv. 1053. Published by the courtesy of the Ministero per I Beni e le Attività Culturali – Soprintendenza Speciale per I Beni Archaeologici di Roma. Author’s Photograph.

Feminine Herm in nero antico from the precinct of the Palatine Temple of Apollo. Palatine Antiquarium Inv. 1056. Published by the courtesy of the Ministero per I Beni e le Attività Culturali – Soprintendenza per I Beni Archaeologici di Roma. Author’s Photograph.

Pompeian Street and Doorways. Casa del Menandro façade. Vicolo del Menandro. Author’s Photograph.

Wall painting from cubiculum B (det.), Villa della Farnesina, Rome, 20’s B.C.E. Photo: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archaeologici di Roma.

Wall painting from cubiculum D (det.), Villa della Farnesina, Rome, 20’s B.C.E. Photo: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archaeologici di Roma.

Pinax, cubiculum B, Villa della Farnesina, Rome, 20’s B.C.E. Photo: Soprintendenza Speciale Per I Beni Archaeologici di Roma.

Ground plan, Villa della Farnesina, Rome, 20’s B.C.E. Drawn by Joseph Stevens after Roberta Esposito in Donatella Mazzoleni, Domus Wall Painting in the Roman House (Getty 2004, p. 210).

Cubiculum B, Villa della Farnesina, Rome, 20’s B.C.E. Photo: Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.

Pedana Altar, Mid-to Late 1st century C.E., Lever Collection, Port Sunlight, England. Photo: Archäologisches Institut-Arbeitsstelle für Digitale Archäologie/Cologne Digital Archaeology Laboratory.

Rome, Ara Pacis, Antonia minor with Drusus maior and their children; behind, other members of the imperial house. From Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (1990) figure 124, p. 159. (Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut Rom).

References Works: Abbreviations

ActClassActa Classica
AJAAmerican Journal of Archaeology
AJP(h)American Journal of Philology
ANRWAufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt
BMCRBryn Mawr Classical Review
CAClassical Antiquity
CBClassical Bulletin
CJClassical Journal
CLSComparative Literature Studies
CPClassical Philology
CQClassical Quarterly
CRClassical Review
CSELCorpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum
CWClassical World
G & RGreece and Rome
GIFGiornale italiano di filologia
GRBSGreek, Roman and Byzantine Studies
HSCPHarvard Studies in Classical Philology
ICSIllinois Classical Studies
JRSJournal of Roman Studies
LCMLiverpool Classical Monthly
MAARMemoirs of the American Academy in Rome
MDMateriali e discussioni per l’analisi dei testi classici
PCP(h)SProceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society
PLLSPapers of the Liverpool/Leeds/Langford Latin Seminar
SSRStudi storico-religiosi
TAPATransactions of the American Philological Association
ZPEZeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik

Notes on Contributors

Ronnie Ancona is Professor of Classics at Hunter College and The Graduate Center (CUNY). She is the author of Time and the Erotic in Horace’s Odes (1994), Horace: Selected Odes and Satire 1.9 (1999, 2nd ed. 2005), and Writing Passion: A Catullus Reader (2004), coeditor of Gendered Dynamics in Latin Love Poetry (2005), and editor of A Concise Guide to Teaching Latin Literature (2007).

P. Lowell Bowditch is Professor of Classics at the University of Oregon. Her research focuses on the interface between literature and socio-political relations, with an emphasis on literary patronage and issues of gender and sexuality in the Augustan poets. She is the author of Horace and the Gift Economy of Patronage (2001) and of articles on Ovid, Propertius, Tibullus, and issues of translation. She is currently writing a book on love elegy and Roman imperialism.

Barbara Weiden Boyd is Henry Winkley Professor of Latin and Greek at Bowdoin College. She is the author of Ovid’s Literary Loves: Influence and Innovation in the Amores (1997), and has edited Brill’s Companion to Ovid (2002) and (with Cora Fox) Approaches to Teaching the Works of Ovid and the Ovidian Tradition (2010). She is currently writing a commentary on Ovid’s Remedia amoris for the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics.

P. J. Davis is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He is the author of three books: Shifting Song: The Chorus in Seneca’s Tragedies (1993); Seneca: Thyestes (2003); Ovid and Augustus: A Political Reading of Ovid’s Erotic Poetry (2006). He is an editor of Antichthon, the journal of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies.

Joseph Farrell is Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in Latin poetry of the Augustan period, particularly Vergil and Ovid, and is interested in such subjects as ancient intertextuality, ancient and modern conceptions of genre, the interaction of poetry and scholarship in antiquity, and strategies of poetic self-representation.

David Fredrick is Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Director of Humanities at the University of Arkansas. He is the editor of The Roman Gaze: Vision, Power, and the Body, and the author of articles on acoustic play in Catullus, the gaze in Roman wall painting, and architecture and surveillance in Flavian Rome.

Mary-Kay Gamel, Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature and Theater Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has staged more than twenty productions of Greek and Roman drama, many in her own translations and adaptations. She has published widely on ancient drama in performance and is currently completing a book on concepts of authenticity in staging this drama. She received the 2009 Scholarly Outreach Award from the American Philological Association for her theatrical work.

Roy K. Gibson is Professor of Latin at the University of Manchester and the author of Ovid Ars Amatoria 3: a Commentary (2003) and of Excess and Restraint: Propertius, Horace, and Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (2007). He is currently working on Pliny the Younger, who is more like Propertius than people think.

Barbara K. Gold is Edward North Professor of Classics at Hamilton College. A past editor of the American Journal of Philology and the editor of the Blackwell Companion to Roman Love Elegy, she is the editor of Literary and Artistic Patronage in Ancient Rome, author of Literary Patronage in Greece and Rome, and co-editor of Sex and Gender in Medieval and Renaissance Texts: The Latin Tradition and Roman Dining. She has published widely on satire, lyric and elegy, feminist theory and late antiquity. Forthcoming is Perpetua: a Martyr’s Tale (Oxford).

Ellen Greene is the Joseph Paxton Presidential Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on Greek and Roman lyric poetry. Her published books include: Reading Sappho; The Erotics of Domination; Women Poets in Ancient Greece and Rome; Gendered Dynamics (with Ronnie Ancona); The New Sappho on Old Age (with Marilyn Skinner). She is currently working on a book on Sappho for Blackwell.

Judith P. Hallett is Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she has been named a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 1971, and has been a Mellon Fellow at Brandeis University and the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women as well as the Blegen Visiting Scholar at Vassar College. Her major research specializations are Latin language and literature; gender, sexuality and the family in ancient Greek and Roman society; and the history of classical studies, and the reception of classical Greco-Roman literary texts, in the United States.

S. J. Heyworth has been Bowra Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Wadham College since 1988. His Cambridge doctorate examined the manuscript tradition of Propertius, and led on to an Oxford Classical Text together with a detailed textual commentary entitled Cynthia, and in 2011 a commentary for students on book 3 (with James Morwood). He is currently preparing a commentary on Ovid, Fasti 3. He was editor of Classical Quarterly from 1993 to 1998.

Dan Hooley teaches Classics at the University of Missouri. He has written three books, The Classics in Paraphrase: Ezra Pound and Modern Translators of Latin Poetry (1988), The Knotted Thong: Structures of Mimesis in Persius (1997), and Roman Satire (2007), and is working on a new book on satiric space. His articles and contributed chapters have focused on satire and translation and reception studies along with an occasional, modest contribution to the literature of mountaineering.

Richard Hunter is Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College. His research interests include Hellenistic poetry and its reception in Rome, ancient literary criticism, and the ancient novel, and his most recent books include The Shadow of Callimachus (2006) and Critical Moments in Classical Literature (2009). His essays have been collected in On Coming After: Studies in Post-Classical Greek Literature and its Reception (2008).

Sharon L. James earned B.A. degrees in Spanish Literature and Classical Studies at UC Santa Cruz, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. She is associate professor of classics at UNC Chapel Hill. She has published articles on gender, Latin poetry, and Roman comedy, and a book Learned Girls and Male Persuasion (2003), a study of Roman love elegy. She is presently completing a major book project on women in New Comedy.

Micaela Janan is Professor of Classical Studies at Duke University. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University in 1988. She is the author of “When the Lamp is Shattered”: Desire and Narrative in Catullus (1994), The Politics of Desire: Propertius IV (2001), and Reflections in a Serpent’s Eye: Thebes in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (2009). Her interests include the literature of the Roman Republic and early Empire, gender and sexuality, and contemporary critical theory.

W. R. Johnson is John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature Emeritus, The University of Chicago. His most recent book is A Latin Lover in Ancient Rome: Readings in Propertius and his Genre. He furnished the introduction to Stanley Lombardo’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Hackett 2010).

Vincent Katz is a poet, translator, and critic. His book, The Complete Elegies Of Sextus Propertius (Princeton University Press, 2004), won the 2005 National Translation Award, given by the American Literary Translators Association. He was the 2001–2002 John Guare Writer’s Fund Fellow in Literature at the American Academy in Rome and was a Guest of the Director at the American Academy in Berlin in 2006.

Alison Keith is Professor and Chair of Classics at the University of Toronto. Her work focuses on Latin epic and elegy, and especially on the intersection of gender and genre in Latin literature. A past editor of Phoenix, she has written books on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, women in Latin epic, and Propertius, and is co-editor of volumes on the European reception of the Metamorphoses (with S. Rupp) and on Roman dress and society (with J. Edmondson).

Duncan F. Kennedy is Professor of Latin Literature and the Theory of Criticism at the University of Bristol. He is the author of The Arts of Love: Five Studies in the Discourse of Roman Love Elegy (1993), Rethinking Reality: Lucretius and the Textualization of Nature (2002), and Antiquity and the Meanings of Time (forthcoming).

Eleanor Winsor Leach is Ruth N. Halls Professor of Classical Studies at Indiana University. She is the author of three books: Vergil’s Eclogues: Landscapes of Experience (Ithaca, New York 1974); The Rhetoric of Space: Representations of Landscape in Republican and Augustan Art and Literature (Princeton 1988); The Social Life of Painting in Ancient Rome and on the Bay of Naples (Cambridge 2004), as well as numerous articles on Roman art and literature.

Genevieve Liveley is Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol. She is co-editor of Elegy and Narratology: Fragments of Story (2008), and author of Ovid: Love Songs (2005).

Paul Allen Miller is Carolina Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina. He is the former editor of Transactions of the American Philological Association. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters. His books include: Lyric Texts and Lyric Consciousness (1994); Latin Erotic Elegy (2002); Subjecting Verses: Latin Love Elegy and the Emergence of the Real (2004); Latin Verse Satire (2005); Postmodern Spiritual Practices (2007); and Plato’s Apology of Socrates (2010).

Llewelyn Morgan is University Lecturer in the University of Oxford and Fellow of Brasenose College. He is the author of Patterns of Redemption in Virgil’s Georgics (1999), Musa pedestris: metre and meaning in Roman verse (2010), and numerous articles on Roman literature.

Donncha O’Rourke is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, Corpus Christi College. He is currently completing his first book, on Virgilian intertextuality in Propertius Book 4, and embarking on a new project on the reception of Lucretius in the genre of Latin elegy. He has previously held lecturing and research posts at the University of Dublin, Trinity College, where he completed his doctorate in 2008.

Holt N. Parker received his Ph.D. from Yale, and is Professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati. He has been awarded the Rome Prize, an NEH Fellowship, a Loeb Library Foundation Grant, and the Women’s Classical Caucus Prize (twice). He has published on Sappho, Sulpicia, sexuality, slavery, sadism, and spectacles. His book, Olympia Morata: The Complete Writings of an Italian Heretic (2003) won the Josephine Roberts Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. Censorinus: The Birthday Book (2007), the first complete English translation of that curious piece of learning, makes an attractive present. With William A. Johnson he edited Ancient Literacies (2009). His translation of Beccadelli’s The Hermaphrodite is in the I Tatti Renaissance Library (2010).

Alison R. Sharrock is Professor of Classics at the University of Manchester. She is the author of several books and articles on Roman love elegy, including Seduction and Repetition in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria II (Oxford 1994), and co-editor of The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid’s Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris (Oxford 2006). Recent publications include Reading Roman Comedy: Poetics and Playfulness in Plautus and Terence (Cambridge 2009). She is currently working on a book entitled Ovid and Epic.

Mathilde Skoie is Associate Professor in Latin currently working at the University of Oslo, Norway. Her main research interests are Roman elegy and pastoral poetry, reception of Antiquity, and the history of classical scholarship (in particular the genre of commentaries). Her books include Reading Sulpicia. Commentaries 1475–1990 (2002) and Reinscribing Pastoral in the Humanities. Essays on the Uses of a Critical Concept (ed. with Sonia Bjørnstad-Velásquez, 2006). She is currently co-editing a volume on Romans and Romantics.

James Uden is an Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at Boston University. His interests are in epigram, satire and fable; imperial Greek literature; and the invention of Christian Latin literature. Recent publications include “The Vanishing Gardens of Priapus” (HSCP 2010) and “The Contest of Homer and Hesiod and the Ambitions of Hadrian” (JHS 2010).

Hérica Valladares is Assistant Professor of Classics at Johns Hopkins University. A former fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Washington, D.C., and the American Academy in Rome, she has published articles on Latin love poetry and Roman wall painting. She is currently working on a book entitled Toward an Aesthetic of Tenderness: Painting and Poetry in the Early Roman Empire.

Tara S. Welch is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Kansas. Her broad interest in the cultural contexts of Latin literature is reflected in her book, The Elegiac Cityscape (Columbus, OH 2005), and in several articles on Latin poetry, particularly that of Propertius and Horace. She is currently editing a volume on Propertius and finishing a manuscript on the Roman myth of Tarpeia.

David Wray is Associate Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and the College and Director of the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood (2001) and “What Poets Do: Tibullus on ‘Easy Hands’ ” (CP 98 [2003]), co-editor of Seneca and the Self (2009), and currently at work on Phaedra’s Virtue and translations of Pierre Corneille’s tragedies on Greek themes.


My warm thanks go to all the contributors to this volume for their splendid essays, their unfailing patience and good humor with the sometimes tedious editorial process, and their willingness to treat what sometimes seemed like well-worn topics in new and original ways, even adding sparks of humor and ingenuity in places where we might least expect to find them.

The essays are an inspiring combination of coverage of the issues at hand, in such a way that the essay is made accessible to readers from a wide variety of backgrounds, and of new insights into these authors and topics. Students and teachers at different levels should all find something in here that they have not thought about before. I have learned much from reading these essays (over and over), and I am certain that readers will come away from using this volume with new and better ideas about how to read and how to teach elegy.

My thanks also go to two colleagues who have acted in an editorial capacity for my own essay, P. Lowell Bowditch and Nancy Rabinowitz, to Claire Coiro Bubb for her splendid work on the indices, and to my students, Andres Matlock and Meg Clary, for their sharp eyes in proofreading. Needless to say, they are only responsible for making improvements to it and not for any of its inferior qualities. The editors at Wiley-Blackwell, Haze Humbert, Acquisitions Editor, Classics and Ancient History, who commissioned the volume, and Galen Young, Project Editor, Classics, who dealt with many troublesome details especially around images and permissions, have been consistently helpful and patient, even acceding to my request to set up a web site so that some intertextual responses might happen.

Abbreviations of the titles of ancient texts are those listed in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd edition) or the Oxford Latin Dictionary.

Barbara K. Gold
Hamilton College
July 2011


Barbara K. Gold

There are two amazing things about Roman love elegy. One is that the entire genre (or subgenre) existed for only about 40 years. The other is that elegy nonetheless had an extraordinary and long-lived influence on subsequent art and literature (see Part VII [articles by Davis, Uden, Parker and Hooley] of this volume for elegy’s literary Nachleben; for art, see Fredrick, Leach, Valladares and Welch in this volume).

Many questions persist about this subgenre (of lyric poetry), and these questions will be taken up in depth by the contributors to the volume. First, when we speak of Roman love elegy, what exactly do we mean? The narrowest and most basic defining characteristic of elegy is poetry written in the elegiac meter, couplets formed of one hexameter and one pentameter (or one hexameter and two hemiepes; see Morgan in this volume). If we are trying to define love elegy in particular, we can add the following: Roman love elegy was a book-length collection of poems; these poems were usually written in the first person; and many of these poems were written to or about a lover who is addressed by a specific name that is a poetic pseudonym (so Gallus’ Lycoris, Tibullus’ Delia, Propertius’ Cynthia, Ovid’s Corinna). Further, most of the love affairs recounted in the poetry are fraught with difficulty or end badly. And finally, Roman elegiac poetry, while purporting to be about an external lover, in fact is wholly inward-focused, centering almost entirely on the poet himself. So Coleridge said: “Elegy is the form of poetry natural to the reflective mind. It may treat of any subject, but it must treat of no subject for itself, but always and exclusively with reference to the poet himself” (Table Talk, quoted by Parker, this volume). Barchiesi, discussing the unifying perspective of Roman elegy, says that the essential feature of elegy is “the constant effect of an individual voice, which attracts toward itself every theme” (Casali 2009, 347, quoting and translating Barchiesi; see also Barchiesi 2001, 32; Gibson in this volume: “the lover’s primary concern is for himself and not for his beloved”).

Second, to what genre does Roman love elegy belong? There is general agreement that we cannot call elegy a genre in and of itself, since it is both too complex to fit into a single category and too idiosyncratic to be called simply “elegy.” As Farrell says, elegy was “a hybrid genre if there ever was one” (Farrell 2003, 397; Farrell, this volume, where he discusses “the dynamics of the elegiac canon” and refers to both “proto-elegy” and “meta-elegy”). Elegy contains within it the seeds of many other genres, e.g., epic, pastoral, comedy, and lyric. Its relationship to epic in particular is especially antagonistic and complex: the elegists repeatedly and specifically declare themselves, their poetry, and their chosen lifestyle to be anti-epic, and yet the traces of epic are everywhere. So when Propertius maintains in 2.1.17–46 and 3.9.1–4 that he will not, indeed cannot write the requested epic for Maecenas, he makes his point by writing a mini-epic (undercutting it by making a few errors but writing epic nonetheless, although in elegiac meter). And Propertius refers to his “battles” in bed with Cynthia as his Iliads (2.1.5–16). Elegy adopts and subsumes points of view not its own (Farrell 2003, 399; Conte 1994, 35ff.; Conte says that the ideology defined by servitium amoris [“the slavery of love”] “constructs for itself an organic language that works by transcodification, inasmuch as it transvalues from one system to another,” 38). So this process reformulates the world according to elegiac rules and sensibilities.

Third, who exactly should be included in the canon of Roman love elegists? The first-century BCE Roman educator and authority on rhetoric, Quintilian, says that only four authors belong to this exclusive group: Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid and Gallus (this is his order; chronologically, Gallus should be at the head of the list). But other authors could, and often do lay claim to membership in this club. The most significant of these is Catullus, who wrote many poems in elegiac meter and what is arguably the first Roman elegiac poem, poem 68 (see Miller 2007, 413: he contends that Catullus is “the progenitor of the elegiac subgenre”; but cf. also Wray in this volume, who says that Catullus “stops very far shy of elegy’s potential for enacting the horror of erotic obsession”). Catullus, in both his elegiac and his polymetric poems, handed down to the later elegists (who explicitly or implicitly acknowledge his importance) a “complex, self-reflexive, and multi-temporal consciousness” (Miller 2007, 413), a poetic subjectivity that is the brand of Roman love elegy. Other possible poets and poetry in this group include Sulpicia, the only extant female poet of Latin love elegy (see Hallett, Liveley and Skoie in this volume), Lygdamus (who, with Sulpicia, forms a part of Book 3 of the Corpus Tibullianum; see Skoie), and the poems of Ovid that are in elegiac meter but do not strictly fit the canonical definition of elegy: his Heroides, Ars Amatoria, and exile poetry (Tristia, Epistulae ex Ponto; on Ovid, see Sharrock and Boyd in this volume).

Fourth, is love elegy narrative poetry? Does it tell a story? Scholars in the past have pointed to the lack of action, plot, denouement, continuity and chronology as reasons to deny that we should look to Roman elegy for a story (Veyne 1988, 1–14, 50–66; he is right of course to deny that we should look for any genuine biographical details in these poems). But with the rise of new ways of interrogating literary landscapes (narratology, intertextuality), “narrativity is now seen as fundamental to the distinctive character and shape of Roman love elegy” (Liveley, “Narratology,” this volume; see O’Rourke, this volume, for intertextuality). Readers detect different kinds of narrators, developing subjectivities of characters, stories unfolded over different non-contiguous poems and even different books with possibly or probably historical characters used as symbols and themes, chronotopes established and undercut, and themes repeated in different ways throughout books of elegies. One critic even sees Ovid’s Amores as an “erotic novel” (N. Holzberg, cited by Liveley, “Narratology,” this volume).

For those not inclined or able to see in a book of elegiac poetry a unified voice but rather a complex, shifting, polyvalent figure, psychoanalysis offers an interesting hermeneutic. So Janan (this volume) presents a Lacanian approach to help grapple with our ever-present desire for a unified subject so that “the fractured subject, and the disjunctive collection he subtends, become not problems to be solved, but insights to be grasped, enabling us better to contextualize and understand both” (Janan, this volume; cf. Miller 2007, 412–13, who discusses the split consciousness that we find in Catullus 68 and later elegy).

The characters as they are drawn by the elegists, even while we know they are fictions assembled from the many layers of literature and life, continue to fascinate us and make us wonder about “who they really were.” Who was the puella, “too impossibly good and impossibly bad to be true” (Janan, this volume; cf. Keith, this volume, for the figure of the domina)? And what about the narrator, or elegiac persona, “bad, mad, and dangerous to know” (Hooley, this volume, quoting Lady Caroline Lamb)? Even as it is “historically impossible and aesthetically absurd to identify the paramours of the Roman love elegists” (Veyne 1988, 67) or the other characters of elegy, scholars have persisted in trying to “create a short circuit between individual texts and naked biographical realities” (Conte 1994, 113; but see Hallett, this volume, for an argument that autobiographical and realistic detail in the elegies confers amatory authority on the poets and adds to elegy’s appeal). As Leach maintains, the response of the poet’s internal readers “ostensibly merges poems and lifestyle lending to representation a sense of intimate reality that … has made this interrelationship appear as narrative and given persona the look of autobiography” (Leach, this volume; cf. Conte 1994, 112ff).

Fifth is the fraught issue of gender. According to Maria Wyke, Propertian elegy “has three … interlocking themes: love, writing and gender” (2002, 173). Women are, of course, central to Roman love elegy. Gender roles are clearly delineated, with subservience, dependency, passivity, and softness (mollitia) on one side, and mastery, dominance, and toughness (duritia) on the other. But in elegy, the traditional roles are reversed: it is men who are slaves of love (servi amoris), dependent on their female lovers, who are called dominae (mistresses, in the sense of “those who rule”) and harsh (durae); so Propertius says “a hard-hearted girl spelled the end of this poor guy” (“huic misero fatum dura puella fuit,” Prop. 2.1.78). As Ellen Greene discusses in her article on “Gender and Elegy” in this volume, this purported subversion of gender roles and attributes has prompted a debate among scholars about whether the poets are in fact ceding to women a genuine voice, subjectivity and agency, or are objectifying their mistresses and female characters, controlling them by their poetic authority while only pretending to be under their control. This debate has given rise to such essays as Miller’s “Why Propertius is a Woman” (2004, 130–59), a Lacanian reading of gender in the Rome of the late Republic, and to comments such as this by Wyke: “Propertian elegy is not an obstinately male genre. It is engendered as masculine in its discursive mastery over the female object of its erotics and poetics, but engenders itself as effeminate in its association with softness, submissiveness, and impotence, and as feminine especially in its self- critique and its interrogation of Roman gender and sexuality” (2002, 189). Another scholar maintains that “although Propertius never really relinquishes control over his material, he opens up spaces in his text in which we can feel and see the presence of ‘woman’ ” (Gold 1993, 92). Elegy is the first Roman genre to speak from a feminine point of view (in Sulpicia’s poetry) or as if from a woman’s point of view (Propertius 1.3, 3.6, 4.3, 4.7, 4.8), but clearly scholars differ on how to read this feminizing of Roman elegy (see Farrell 2003, 401 and n. 63; Keith and Boyd in this volume). As Greene sums it up, “No matter what particular line of argument one wants to take regarding the gender implications of elegy, it is clear that, as a genre, Roman elegy is a site for very complicated negotiations concerning traditional notions of gender, sexuality, and power” (essay in this volume).

The many contributors to this volume take up all these issues and debates as well as others not yet mentioned. In Part I, “The Text and Roman Erotic Elegists,” Joseph Farrell lays the groundwork for a possible definition of canonical Roman elegy (Quintilian’s quartet of Gallus, Tibullus, Propertius and Ovid) and leads us nicely into a detailed discussion of these elegists by David Wray (whose “Catullus the Roman Love Elegist?” indicates by its interrogative form the question he takes up), W.R. Johnson (“Propertius”), Paul Allen Miller (“Tibullus”), Alison R. Sharrock (“Ovid”), and Mathilde Skoie (whose essay, “Corpus Tibullianum, Book 3,” discusses Sulpicia inter alias/os).

Roman love elegy may be fantasy or fiction, but it is also in many ways urban, grounded in Roman realities, and a part of the social, political and cultural context from which it arose. So in part II, “Historical and Material Context,” three contributors examine the cultural and ideological contexts in which elegy is grounded. Tara S. Welch, in “Elegy and the Monuments,” looks at the urbanism of elegy and how we can read Roman monuments. P. Lowell Bowditch, in “Roman Love Elegy and the Eros of Empire,” discusses the idea of empire in elegy and the ways in which elegy seduces its readers through the rhetoric of luxury while presenting Rome as a metropolitan center. Eleanor Winsor Leach, in “Rome’s Elegiac Cartography: The View from the Via Sacra,” examines what makes Roman elegy so Roman and how Romanitas is represented in the cartography of elegists from Catullus to Ovid in his exile poetry.

Canonical elegy had its antecedents in both Greek elegy and earlier Roman elegy. In part III, “Influences,” Richard Hunter, in “Callimachus and Roman Elegy,” looks at this intriguing and important figure and his implicit and explicit, general and specific influence on the Roman elegists. Roy K. Gibson, in “Gallus: the First Roman Love Elegist,” starting us off with a surprise twist, talks about our almost irrational fascination with this all but lost progenitor of Roman love elegy and the many attempts to recover intertexts with subsequent elegy.

Roman elegy has its own distinct style, meter, poetic patterns and arrangements, and diction. In Part IV, “Stylistics and Discourse,” Duncan F. Kennedy, in “Love’s Tropes and Figures,” addresses the elegists’ skills in troping and the embeddedness of the poetic tropes in an infuriatingly elusive form of expressiveness. Llewelyn Morgan, in “Elegiac Meter: Opposites Attract,” tackles (with a surprisingly light touch and sense of humor) the topic of meter and the communicative power that the manipulations of this meter embodied. S.J. Heyworth, in “The Elegiac Book: Patterns and Problems,” grapples with the difficult issue of book arrangement and structure from Gallus to Ovid, with Propertius as the most problematic case. Vincent Katz, in “Translating Roman Elegy,” brings a professional translator’s eye to discussions of using translation as a tool for literary analysis and making translation into a work of art.

Part V, “Aspects of Production,” foregrounds in its seven essays particular ways in which elegy relates to its social, historical and cultural contexts. In “Elegy and New Comedy,” Sharon L. James finds the deep roots of elegy in New Comedy (Plautus, Terence), from social structures and sexual relations to social class. Judith P. Hallett, in “Authorial Identity in Latin Love Elegy: Literary Fictions and Erotic Failings,” reads elegy against its contemporary Roman background, arguing for the importance of realistic and autobiographical details in the poetry. In “The Domina in Roman Elegy,” Alison Keith discusses the textualization of one of the most vexing figures in elegy, the puella, and the gender dynamics of the roles these puellae play. Barbara K. Gold, in “Patronage and the Elegists: Social Reality or Literary Construction?”, discusses the importance of patronage and the role of the patron in Roman elegy, in particular the patron as amatory and triumphal figure. Hérica Valladares, in her essay “Elegy, Art and the Viewer,” opens up the intensely visual quality of Roman elegy and the important role that viewing and vision play in our appreciation of Roman elegy. Another significant method of approaching Roman elegy, and one that, like viewing, has gained increasing attention recently, is performance. Mary-Kay Gamel, in “Performing Sex, Gender and Power in Roman Elegy,” offers us a different way of negotiating these poems: through dramatic readings. Finally Ellen Greene takes up the aspect of gender in “Gender and Elegy”; she explores the roles that the female beloveds play in elegy – as objects of male fantasies of domination or examples of female subjectivity?

In Part VI, “Approaches,” the contributors give us four different critical methodologies that allow us entries into Roman elegy. Micaela Janan, in “Lacanian Psychoanalytic Theory and Roman Love Elegy,” articulates how concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis can elucidate key issues in elegy such as subjectivity and sexual difference. Donncha O’Rourke, in “Intertextuality in Roman Elegy,” takes up one of the most prominent and stimulating hermeneutical approaches used by recent scholars: the conversation between the texts of two or more authors and how that conversation informs both the source and the target texts. Genevieve Liveley, in “Narratology in Roman Elegy,” invokes narratological theory as an important way to read across books of poetry or to read the narrative features of an individual elegy. And David Fredrick, in “The Gaze and the Elegiac Imaginary,” borrows from film theory, gender theory, and the viewing of art to elucidate the importance of the gaze and the imaginary in the specific political context of Roman elegy.

Part VII, “Late Antique Elegy and Reception,” takes us to the Nachleben of Roman elegy. P.J. Davis, in “Reception of Elegy in Augustan and Post-Augustan Poetry,” concentrates on five authors who engage with Roman elegy: Virgil (and Gallus), Horace (and Tibullus), Seneca (and Ovid, Heroides), Valerius Flaccus (and Propertius), and Statius (and Ovid, Ars Amatoria). James Uden, in “Love Elegies of Late Antiquity,” focuses on the expansion in thematic range and scope in later elegiac poets and examines three distinct modes of engagement: established scripts and characters replayed in an Ovidian manner; the Christian poets’ wedding of amatory themes to elegiac meter set against a rhetoric of impossible, divine paradox; and the new uses of the militia amoris theme in poets of the 4th to 6th centuries. Holt N. Parker, in “Renaissance Latin Elegy,” continues the journey into later poetry; he covers a wide variety of neo-Latin authors and works from the Hermaphroditus of Antonio Beccadelli (alias “Panormita”) in the 15th century to the poets writing in both vernacular and Latin like Jan Kochanowski in the late 16th century. Finally Dan Hooley, in “Modernist Reception,” investigates the afterlife of Roman elegy in more recent literature from the first third of the twentieth century in authors such as Pound and Lowell.

The final section, Part VIII: “Pedagogy,” focuses on concerns around the teaching of Roman elegy. Ronnie Ancona, in “Teaching Roman Love Elegy,” bases her comments here largely on her informal survey of classicists and on her own teaching experience, giving us possible new ways of introducing elegy to both students with Latin and those reading elegy in English. Barbara Weiden Boyd writes specifically about Ovid in “Teaching Ovid’s Love Elegy,” covering changing approaches to Ovid’s elegiac presence in the classroom, and categories of analysis that could be used for the teaching and study of Ovid’s love elegy: Gender, Cultural and Political Contexts, Genre and Intertextuality. The final essay in the volume, “Teaching Rape in Roman Elegy,” is divided into two parts by two different authors. Genevieve Liveley first investigates this topic for courses taught in the United Kingdom, while Sharon James does the same for courses taught in the United States. Both ask pressing questions that often arise from today’s students (especially, but not only, from female students), worrisome questions that hit at the heart of personal response to the poetry and to our students: the relation between representation and reality; what kinds of matters we should be raising in our reading and teaching of elegy; resistant ways of reading; how to teach disturbing subjects.

This volume contains a rich trove of material, both helpful summaries of important information about Roman love elegy and new insights into the many and varied topics covered by the contributors. I hope that it will appeal to, enlighten and delight the many kinds of students and teachers who read and use it.


Barchiesi, A. 2001. Speaking Volumes: Narrative and Intertext in Ovid and Other Latin Poets. Ed. and trans. M. Fox and S. Marchesi. London. 29–47. (=A. Barchiesi. 1987. “Narratività e convenzione nelle Heroides.” Materiali e discussioni 19: 63–90).

Casali, S. 2009. “Ovidian Intertextuality.” In P.E. Knox, ed., A Companion to Ovid. Malden, MA. 341–54.

Commager, S. 1974. A Prolegomenon to Propertius. Cincinnati.

Conte, G. B. 1994. Genres and Readers: Lucretius, Love Elegy, Pliny’s Encyclopedia. Trans. G.W. Most. Baltimore, MD.

Farrell, J. 2003. “Classical Genre in Theory and Practice.” New Literary History 34: 383–408.

Gibson, Roy K. 2005. “Love Elegy.” In S. Harrison, ed., A Companion to Latin Literature. Malden, MA. 159–73.

Gold, B. K. 1993. “ ‘But Ariadne Was Never There in the First Place’: Finding the Female in Roman Poetry.” In N.S. Rabinowitz and A. Richlin, eds., Feminist Theory and the Classics. New York. 75–101.

Kennedy, D. F. 1984. “The Epistolary Mode and the First of Ovid’s Heroides.” Classical Quarterly 34: 413–22 (= D. F. Kennedy in P. E. Knox, ed. 2006. Oxford Readings in Ovid. Oxford. 69–85).

Luck, G. 1959 (2nd ed., 1969). The Latin Love Elegy. London.

Lyne, R. O. A. M. 1980. The Latin Love Poets: From Catullus to Horace. Oxford.

Miller, P. A. 1994. Lyric Texts and Lyric Consciousness: The Birth of a Genre from Archaic Greece to Augustan Rome. London.

—— . 2004. Subjecting Verses: Latin Love Elegy and the Emergence of the Real. Princeton, N. J.

—— . 2007. “Catullus and Roman Love Elegy.” In M. B. Skinner, ed., A Companion to Catullus. Malden, MA. 399–417.

Veyne, P. 1988. Roman Erotic Elegy: Love, Poetry, and the West. Trans. D. Pellauer. Chicago.

Wyke, M. 2002. The Roman Mistress: Ancient and Modern Representations. Oxford.


The Text and Roman Erotic Elegists


Calling out the Greeks: Dynamics of the Elegiac Canon

Joseph Farrell

Quintilian names Gallus, Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid as the canonical poets of Roman elegy. His comments are brief enough that they can be quoted in full:

Elegia quoque Graecos provocamus, cuius mihi tersus atque elegans maxime videtur auctor Tibullus. Sunt qui Propertium malint. Ovidius utroque lascivior, sicut durior Gallus.

                                                              (Quint. Inst. 10.1.93)

In elegy too we challenge the Greeks; I think its most polished and elegant author is Tibullus, but there are those who prefer Propertius. Compared to either of these Ovid is rather unrestrained, just as Gallus is rather stiff.

                                                                   (All translations are my own)

In spite of his brevity, Quintilian gives us a lot to discuss; but his brevity itself deserves comment. Of all genres only iambus receives as skimpy treatment as elegy, each occupying about 1% of Quintilian’s canon. Moreover, Quintilian says that the Romans never really treated iambus as a proper genre, whereas he considers elegy a genre in which Roman writers successfully challenge the Greeks for supremacy. Why then does he say so little about it?

Quintilian’s Roman canon is of course modeled on an earlier Greek one, and it may be important that he has even less to say about Greek elegy, which he dispatches in a single sentence of sixteen words. (The relevant portion is italicized in the passage quoted below.) And the way Quintilian introduces Greek elegy is telling, as well. After discussing epic poetry, Quintilian mentions elegy via an elaborate praeteritio designed to anticipate complaints that he ignores a great number of capable poets. His justification?

Nec sane quisquam est tam procul a cognitione eorum remotus ut non indicem certe ex bibliotheca sumptum transferre in libros suos possit. Nec ignoro igitur quos transeo nec utique damno, ut qui dixerim esse in omnibus utilitatis aliquid. Sed ad illos iam perfectis constitutisque viribus revertemur: quod in cenis grandibus saepe facimus, ut, cum optimis satiati sumus, varietas tamen nobis ex vilioribus grata sit. tunc et elegiam vacabit in manus sumere, cuius princeps habetur Callimachus, secundas confessione plurimorum Philitas occupavit. Sed dum adsequimur illam firmam, ut dixi, facilitatem, optimis adsuescendum est et multa magis quam multorum lectione formanda mens et ducendus color.

                                                                                                                                            (Quint. Inst. 10.1.57–59)

Then we shall have time to take up even elegy, of which Callimachus is considered the principal author and Philitas, in the opinion of most, has taken second place