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Towards the start of the elegy which prefaces his third book, Propertius rejects lengthy, martial epic in favour of slender poetry (3.1.7-8): it is on account of the latter that fame (fama) elevates him above the earth, his Muse triumphant (9-10); accompanying him in the triumphal chariot are his Amores (11), and following the wheels is a crowd of writers (12 `scriptorumque meas turba secuta rotas'). The latter, in the race for glory, rival the poet to no purpose (13-14). Many writers will praise Rome (15 `multi, Roma, tuas laudes annalibus addent') and sing of future conquests (16), but Propertius' pages, a special delivery from the Muses' mount, are the perfect peace-time reading (17-18).

Scholars have detected in this passage considerable evidence of Propertius' wide reading. In addition to Callimachus, Lucretius, and Virgil, for example, there is the possibility that line 8 (`exactus tenui pumice uersus eat') derives from a lost Greek poem which lies also behind Catullus 1.2.(1) Although it would be attractive to imagine that this lost poem was one of Callimachus' own, there is of course no proof; but Callimachus has indeed been suggested as a source for the reference to the crowd two couplets later (11-12).(2) Be that as it may, we can be almost certain that in these lines Propertius is alluding to Livy. Towards the start of his preface, Livy reflects upon his future as an author and dwells on the probability that his fame will be obscure amidst the large crowd of other writers (3 `si in tanta scriptorum turba mea fama in obscuro sit'). It seems that nowhere else in the whole of Latin literature is the expression scriptorum turba to be found;(3) Propertius must have been reading Livy.

When Propertius later refers to annals (15), scholars naturally associate the reference with Ennian epic; but, although the poet is talking primarily about poetry (cf. 16 canent), he is perhaps also glancing at Livy's annalistic history (cf. Liv. 43.13.2 `meos annales'). And, when Propertius proceeds to announce that his name will be greater after his death (24 `maius ab exsequiis nomen in ora uenit'), he is perhaps upstaging Livy's gloomy prediction that his name will be overshadowed by the greatness of others (praef. 3 `nobilitate ac magnitudine eorum ... qui nomini officient meo'). These similarities may be nothing more than coincidental; but is it simply coincidence when Propertius, in the last of his prologue poems to Book 3, describes the early history of Rome as `tantum operis' (3.3.4)? This was precisely the phrase with which Livy, invoking the practice of poets, concluded his preface before embarking on his history of early Rome (13 `... si, ut poetis, nobis quoque mos esset, libentius inciperemus, ut orsis tanturn operis successus prosperos darent').(4)

(1) F. Cairns argued that both poets were drawing on `traditional Alexandrian material' (`Catullus I', Mnemosyne 22 [1969], 153-8, at 155); T. P. Wiseman defended the reading arida ... pumice in Catullus' poem by maintaining that the poet was drawing attention to a Greek model (Clio's Cosmetics [Leicester, 1969], pp. 167-8). On the latter point see now R. Renehan, `On gender switching as a literary device in Latin poetry', in P. Knox and C. Foss (edd.), Style and Tradition: Studies in Honor of Wendell Clausen (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1998), pp. 212-29, at pp. 224-7. An alternative scenario is that Propertius alludes directly to Catullus (cf. P. Fedeli, Properzio: Il Libro Terzo delle Elegie [Bari, 1985], ad loc.).

(2) S. J. Heyworth, `Some allusions to Callimachus in Latin poetry', MD 33 (1994), 51-79, at 71.

(3) The Livy parallel is mentioned neither by the commentators nor by D. R. Shackleton Bailey, Propertiana (Cambridge, 1956), p. 295 or G. B. A. Fletcher, `Propertiana', Latomus 20 (1961), 85-92, at 85, `Further Propertiana', Latomus 48 (1989), 354-9, at 357. An electronic search reveals no other parallel.

(4) G. G. Ramsay describes tantum operis as `a common phrase' but quotes no parallels (Selections from Tibullus and Propertius [Oxford, 1900], 271); J. P. Postgate quotes Plaut. Men. 435 and Liv. praef. 13 (Select Elegies of [Propertius.sup.2] [London, 1884], p. 153), the latter repeated by M. Rothstein (Propertius Sextus: [Elegien.sup.3] [repr. Dublin and Zurich, 1966]) and Fedeli (n. 1 above) ad loc. In addition to Prop. 3.11.70, which some commentators also quote, the phrase is revealed by an electronic search to recur elsewhere in pre-Propertian literature only at Cic. II Verr. 1.147, where tantum is correlative with quantum.


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Author:WOODMAN, A. J.
Publication:The Classical Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 1998
Next Article:A NOTE ON VIRGIL, AENEID 5.315-19.

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