Propertius, Elegies

LCL 18: 1

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Introduction About the Poet

From Propertius himself we learn that he was a native of Assisi in Umbria, of a well-to-do (but not aristocratic) family, and it would seem that the confiscation of its estates after the Perusine War (in which a kinsman was killed, and possibly also his father, who died about the same time) did not reduce him to poverty. His mother intended him for a legal career, but his moving to Rome (like Ovid’s) served rather to bring him into contact with a coterie of poets, and it was to the Muses that he devoted his life. We learn little about him from others. Donatus tells us his praenomen, Sextus, and Ovid, that Propertius was older than he (so that he will have been born about 50 b.c.).

His first book is, to judge from the first and the last poems, dedicated to Tullus, the nephew of Lucius Volcacius Tullus (consul with Octavian in 33 and proconsul of Asia in 30); young Tullus went off on an official mission to the east about 29, and to 30 or 29 we are probably justified in assigning its publication. It at once established Propertius’ reputation and brought him a call from Maecenas, the influential patron of the Augustan poets.

On admission to the privileged circle he produced over the next few years what we know as Book Two. It is now reasonably certain that this, in a defective and disordered