Ad Elegos Comparandos: Propertius, 2.14 (1-10)

Mr. Sententiaeantiquae seems rather intent (see previous post) upon a comparison between those two giants of Roman elegy, Tibullus and Propertius. While the judgment of Quintillian was that Tibullus represented the height of elegaic attainment, he nevertheless conceded that some preferred Propertius. A modern critic might well consider Tibullus simplicior, Propertius venustior, ambo tamen summo cum ingenio praediti. (Tibullus is more straightforward, Propertius is more charming, but both are endowed with the highest degree of talent.)


“Nay, Atrides, you were not so happy when the Laomedon’s great city fell; nor did Ulysses rejoice so when his journey was done, and he touched the shores of his beloved Dulichia; nor was Electra so well pleased, when she saw that Orestes lived, though she had held and wept over his false bones; nor was Ariadne as pleased, when she saw Theseus unharmed, when the thread led him though the Daedalian path; indeed, none of them felt as much joy as I did last night: I’ll be a god, if I have another like it.”

Non ita Dardanio gauisus, Atrida, triumpho es, 
cum caderent magnae Laomedontis opes;
nec sic errore exacto laetatus Vlixes,
cum tetigit carae litora Dulichiae;
nec sic Electra, saluum cum aspexit Oresten,
cuius falsa tenens fleuerat ossa soror;
nec sic, cum incolumem Minois Thesea uidit,
Daedalium lino cui duce rexit iter;
quanta ego praeterita collegi gaudia nocte:
immortalis ero, si altera talis erit.



Atrides = Agamemnon

Laomedon – The founder of Troy

Dulichia – An island sometimes named as Odysseus’ home; Propertius uses Dulichia and the adjective “Dulichius” frequently for Odysseus, as perhaps more obscurely erudite than “Ithacus.”

Daedalian – Daedalus designed the labyrinth to house the Minotaur; in typical Greek-mythic fashion, he himself was later thrown into it.

3 thoughts on “Ad Elegos Comparandos: Propertius, 2.14 (1-10)

  1. I think that long ago I created an attachment to Tibullus because (1) everyone seemed to esteem Propertius (with the exception of Quintilian) and (2) because of the rustic veneer on the former’s poetry. When I turn to some of it now, however, it just seems like rather poor poetry.

    I wish that someone like Plutarch or Aristotle had written something like “In Praise of Bad Poetry”…

  2. Nay sir, I still reckon Tibullus as one of Rome’s best (surviving) poets, and imagine that your opinion of both Tibullus and Propertius would be greatly increased if Gallus’ work survived. Sed elegeia Latina non omnibus placet. I think that you may also prefer the archaiotatoi hedonai offered by more antique poets such as Homer, and are therefore more fond of the simple directness of a poet like Tibullus in contrast to the Callimachean contortions of our friend Propertius. It may also be true that just as you rail on against QUINTUS Smyrnaeus, so too your aversion to ordinal-nominals may extend to SEXTUS Propertius. I fully expect that your least favorite Roman emperor is Septimius Severus, followed by Augustus.

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