Propertius, Elegies

LCL 18: 10-11

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by the chaos visible at various points in the middle. But Lachmann’s identification of 2.9 as the last poem of one book and 2.10 as the first of the next is not acceptable inasmuch as 2.1-9 amount to an inadequate 356 lines, 2.10-34 to the excessive 1036. What complicates the search for the point of division between the poet’s second and third books is the probability that some dislocation of poems has occurred. Still, it is significant that whereas the average length of a poem in Book One came to 32 lines (longest 52), in Book Two the author is now venturing compositions on a larger scale (the first poem being of 78, or rather 80, lines).

Book Three marks the poet’s formal entry into the groves of Callimachus and Philitas: he is no longer the abject slave of Cynthia but a national poet with a priestly status; personal elegy is not abandoned, but his most memorable compositions deal with other themes. This shift of focus is even more noticeable in his last book, which presents us with some of his finest poems and proves that neither his creativity nor his development as an artist had abated. One would never guess that it was Augustus who had pressured him to write on national and public subjects. Here Propertius fully justifies his boast of being the Roman Callimachus. Let it be observed that this book anticipates the final stages of Augustan elegy, with Arethusa’s letter foreshadowing the Heroides, Acanthis’ precepts the Ars Amatoria, and Vertumnus and other aetiological pieces the Fasti; and it includes two Cynthia poems which are simply non-pareil.

The Manuscripts

[Butrica; Hanslik (v–xxii); Heyworth (diss.); Richardson (16–22); Tarrant]

The total number of Propertian manuscripts known to exist is 146: they are duly registered and discussed in a catalogue raisonné by Butrica, but few of these are unanimously agreed to be independent carriers of the tradition. Indeed, orthodox opinion holds that, where the chief two codices are extant, the rest are totally dispensable as witnesses to the words of the poet.

(1) N = Wolfenbüttel, Gud. lat. 224 (olim Neapolitanus), written in northern France about 1200; complete except for the loss of 4.11.17–76 (which was contained on a leaf now cut out), a loss editors repair from two mss (which may here be derived from N’s missing leaf):

M = Paris, BN lat. 8233 (olim Memmianus), ann.1465 (usually µ I conform to the sigla which Heyworth has adopted for the forthcoming OCT)

and U = Vatican, Urb. lat. 641, c. 1465-70 (usually ν).

(2) A = Leiden,, written near Orleans about

1240; though once complete it contains no text after 2.1.63, the end of the second quire.

N and A certainly derive from a medieval archetype (Ω), as is demonstrated by their close agreement in significant error. Here may be mentioned two 13th-century florilegia,