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The Politics of Elegy: Propertius and Tibullus

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Chapter Summary

Private life provides the context for most of the Elegiac poetry, such that public and political themes struggle to compete with it, and that struggle is itself thematized by the elegists, who regard the political from the point of view of outsiders already committed to unconventional, or as some might have put it, un-Roman, values. To neither Tibullus nor Propertius was the poetry that addressed his patron inconsistent in mode or attitude with the poetry addressed to his mistress. Political interpretations, of Propertius in particular, assume a progressivist model in which he moves from relative independence in book 1 to an association with Maecenas in the second and third books to a more direct support for Augustus' position and policies in book 4. In the work of Tibullus it is the objects of his erotic desire that change, though his subjection to desire itself remains constant.

Keywords: Augustus; Elagiac poetry; Maecenas; political interpretations; progressivist model; Propertius; Tibullus



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