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as best entitled to the honor. His father died while the poet was still young, and his mother brought him up and intended him for a public career. He had no special ground for pride in his family, and whatever landed possessions he may have inherited suffered the common fate of large confiscations, as in the case of Vergil and Tibullus. 5 The confiscation probably was in connection with the allotment of lands to the veterans of Octavian in 41 B.C., just before the Perusine war. At the time of this war, then, Propertius, who lost a relative at that time (cf. 1, 22, 7), was a boy whose father had recently died. If we compare the youth of the poet at this date with the statements of Ovid (Trist. 4, 10, 41-54; 2, 463-468) that Propertius was older than himself, though in some sense a successor of
Tibullus, we find ground for conjecture that Propertius was born not before 48 B.C., perhaps a little later. As no reference to a date later than 16 B.C. can be discovered in the elegies, it is believed that he died not later than the year 15, perhaps after attending himself to the publication of the last book. Many hints in his poems would incline us to imagine him as having a rather frail constitution, and we can picture him as pale and thin, if we are to take seriously his expressions, meo palleat ore (1, 1, 22), si exiles videor tenuatus in artus (2, 22, 21), and pallorem totiens mirabere nostrum (1, 5, 21). But he was particular about his personal appearance.
32. It is easy to see that such a temperament did not promise much success in the prosaic profession of the law. Though well educated under his mother's direction, whose remaining fortune
1 Cf. 4, I, 125; Sellar, pp. 268-276; Plin. Ep. 6, 15, 1, and the Assisi inscription in honor of C. Passennus Sergius Paulus Propertius Blaesus.
24, 1, 127.
4 Nullus et antiquo Marte triumphus avi (2, 34, 56); quamvis nec sanguine avito nobilis (2, 24, 37).
54, 1, 129-130; 2, 24, 38: quamvis haud ita dives eras ; 2, 34, 55: cui parva domi fortuna relictast.
6 Cf. 2, 4, 5: nequiquam perfusa meis unguenta capillis, ibat et expenso planta morata gradu.
was still ample, evidently, to provide for all the boy's needs, he early discovered his poetic gift, and turned his back on a Forum which seemed to him a madman's paradise (4, 1, 133-134). But he was no recluse. He loved good-fellowship, and was ambitious to rise into the highest literary circles. Among his best friends were Tullus, a nephew of the consul of 33 B.c.,' Ponticus (1, 7), and Bassus (1, 4). Lynceus (2, 34) may be a pseudonym for some tragic writer. Of the better known literary men, Ovid and Vergil were certainly included in his circle of friends. Tibullus and Propertius do not mention each other; but evidently they were well acquainted each with the work of the other. The relation of Propertius to Horace has been a subject for interesting discussions. There is no sign that they were friends, although belonging to the same literary circle, that of Maecenas. More than that, quite a case can be made out for thinking that Horace turned up his nose at the poetic aspirations as well as the personality of the ambitious young elegist. Postgate (Prop., p. 33) has an elaborate argument for identifying the passage in Horace's Epistles, 2, 2, 87 sqq., as a direct attack upon Propertius. It was probably the publication of Book 1 of the elegies that won recognition and friendship from Maecenas, and placed Propertius in the most coveted position in Rome. Elegies 2, 1, and 3, 9 are addressed to Maecenas.? The friendship of Maecenas implied more or less direct relations with Augustus. The emperor is duly praised in various places. Propertius seems to have lived a social life at Rome, seldom leaving it, and always anxious to return, when away. He was able to live on the Esquiline, 4 and occasionally we find him at Tibur, or back in Umbria for a brief sojourn.
33. But as with Catullus, the career of Propertius, as well as
1 Cf. 1, 1; 1,6; 1, 14; 1, 22; 3, 22.
2 For a fascinating fancy sketch of the poet's relations to this group of men of letters cf. Anne C. E. Allinson, “ A Poet's Toll," Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 106 (1910), pp. 774-784. .
83,4, 1; II, 66; 4, 6, 14; 11, 63 43, 23, 24.
his failure to realize all his possibilities, is largely due to one woman. True, his ardent nature led him when but a slip of a boy into an attachment to one Lycinna. Who she was we can hardly guess ; but when he protested to his jealous mistress later (v. 43) that Lycinna had been but a passing fancy of two or three early years (vv. 7-10) and added, cuncta tuus sepelivit amor, we may believe that he spoke as near the truth as forgetful lovers ever can. For when Cynthia dawned upon his life he became for the time being essentially a man of one idea. Her real name was Hostia,” the pseudonym suggesting not merely the qualities of an ordinary lover's “divinity,” but more especially her function as an inspirer of his poetry; for she was not only herself a docta puella, but came of literary ancestry, her grandfather Hostius having written, it is believed, a poem on the Illyrian war. Her fine literary tastes and elegant accomplishments were enhanced by all the feminine arts and graces and by a beauty which made the susceptible young poet her willing slave. Her birthplace was at Tibur, where she seems to have lived at times, while commonly maintaining a considerable establishment at Rome. It was she who made the first advances, partly, perhaps, because she admired the gifts of the young student of poetic promise. Indeed, she may have been more or less responsible for his forsaking the Forum and frequenting the salon. Immediately the Alexandrian impetus which is seen in his earliest work was concentrated on this absorbing affection and its object, and he tells the world of her golden hair, her taper fingers, her sparkling black eyes, and her stately carriage.
But Cynthia was older than Propertius, and more artful. As a meretrix she could not contract a legal marriage; and there were other lovers to whom at times she gave more attention
13, 15, 3-6.
2 Cf. ” 13. 3 Splendidaque a docto fama refulget avo (3, 20, 8). 4 2, 2, 5; 2, 3, 9 sqq.; 2, 12, 23-24. 5 Cf. 2, 18, 19.
than the ardent poet lover could well endure. There were quarrels and reconciliations. For some fault he was banished for a whole year from her presence?; yet much later, in his bitter leave-taking he reminds her that he had been her devoted slave for five years. The chronology of the poems appears to agree with this five-year period ; for none of those referring to Cynthia appears to have been written earlier than 28 or later than 23 B.C. Yet the question of the relative order of the elegies and the determination of the exact years included in the five are unsolved problems. When the year of separation occurred, and whether the five years were interrupted or not, are moot questions. The publication of the poet's first book of elegies, probably in the year 25, dealing almost exclusively with his love, must have flattered the lady and cemented their affection for the time. But its genius won for Propertius also a place in the friendship of Maecenas, prince of patrons, and opened the way for the development of other interests and for increasing ambition to write on other themes. While about two thirds of all the elegies are connected in some way with Cynthia, there may be noted an increasing restlessness on the part of the poet, a sense of dissatisfaction that his work is confined within so narrow a circle, which feeling was probably fostered by his friends, who saw higher possibilities in him. He defends himself from time to time for not launching out on a broader sea, and tries his hand a little on a certain patriotic type of poetry. Meanwhile his liaison was running the natural course of all such attachments. The lover became tired of the imperiousness and the fickleness of the beloved; love was supplanted by disgust, and, probably in the year 23, Propertius renounced his mistress in two bitter elegies (3, 24 and 25), in which his hatred seems as intense as his earlier love had been. Whether there was any sort of a reconciliation before her death (which may be put not later than the year 18) seems very doubtful. It is not impossible that in conformity with the wishes of Augustus the poet may have married some time before his death and become the father of offspring.?
1 Cf. 1, 8.
2 3, 16, 9.
33, 25, 3. 4 Cf. 2, 8, 13: ergo iam multos nimium temerarius annos, inproba, qui tulerim teque tuamque domum, ecquandone tibi liber sum visus ?
6 Cf. Schanz, 287; Plessis, pp. 210 sqq.; Postgate, Prop., pp. xxi sqq.; Ramsay, p. xlvi; Otto, “Die Reihenfolge der Gedichte des Properz," in Hermes, Vol. 20 (1885), pp. 552-572.
6 The Cynthia Monobiblos of Martial's epigram 14, 189: Cynthia, facundi carmen iuvenale Properti, accepit famam, nec minus ipsa dedit.
34. That the Cynthia book was published first, and as a whole, is clear. Book 2 is somewhat larger, with thirty-four elegies; but they are still mostly on the same subject, and the first and last poems are well adapted to open and close respectively such a book. Lachmann, however, introduced apparently endless confusion into Propertius texts by deciding that a third book begins with 2, 10. His argument is based chiefly on an assumed lacuna before 2, 10; on the apparent fitness of this elegy to open a new book dedicated to Augustus; and on the use of the expression tres libelli in 2, 13, 25.4 On the other hand, it may be urged (1) that it is not certain that 2, 10 is incomplete, or is preceded by any important omission. (2) This poem is not very suitable as an introduction to a book containing little but love elegies. (3) Libellus does not necessarily mean a 'book'of poems at all. Propertius in the passage in question does not appear to be thinking of near approaching death, and might easily have been expecting to complete other books of elegies before that should occur. Perhaps a conventional number is suggested by the fact that Horace published
1 But cf. Postgate's elaborate argument in his Selections, pp. xxiv-xxvii.
2 Cf. Plin. Ep. 6, 15: Passennus Paulus . . . scribit elegos. Gentilicium hoc illi : est enim municeps Properti atque etiam inter maiores suos Propertium numerat.
8 Cf. 2, 3, 3-4: vix unum potes, infelix, requiescere mensem, et turpis de te iam liber alter erit; 2, 24, 1-2 : cum sis iam noto fabula libro et tua sit toto Cynthia lecta foro.
4 Cf, Lachmann, pp. xx sqq.