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Propertius 2.10 and 11 and the Structure of Books ‘2A’ and ‘2B’

  • R. O. A. M. Lyne (a1)


The manuscripts of Propertius present us with a single, massive ‘Book 2’ over thirteen hundred and sixty lines long. Like many before me, I am convinced that this ‘Book 2’ is a mistake of transmission and actually preserves the remnants of two ancient books. In this article I identify and discuss the poem which I believe closed the first of the ancient books; for convenience's sake we can call this book ‘Book 2a’. I shall be saying something, too, about the structure and content of both ancient books — of Book 2b as well as Book 2a.

It was Lachmann who first made the — to me — irresistible suggestion that our ‘Book 2’ is the product of two ancient books. There has been strong support for this view. For example, a succinct case is put forward by Otto Skutsch; and highly convincing and detailed support has been offered in an important recent paper by Heyworth. There are intricacies of evidence to consider (for example, Nonius Marcellus' citation of our 3.21.14), but I shall set these to one side. I shall simply cite two crucial and probably familiar facts, which are in summary as follows.



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1 It was first made in his edition Sex. Aurelii Propertii Carmina (1816).

2 cf. too the terse statement of facts by Hubbard, M. in Propertius (1974), 41–2, and the cautious survey in the commentary of H. E. Butler and E. A. Barber (1933), xxviii–xxxv.

3 Skutsch, O., ‘The Second Book of Propertius’, HSCPh 79 (1975), 229–33.

4 Heyworth, S. J., ‘Propertius: division, transmission, and the editor's task’, in Brock, R. and Woodman, A. J. (eds), Papers of the Leeds International Latin Seminar, Vol. 8 (1995), 165–85.

5 For Nonius Marcellus and Propertius, see esp. Heyworth, op. cit. (n. 4), 178–81. Further evidence is cited and discussed by Heyworth.

6 Williams, G., Tradition and Originality in Roman Poetry (1968), 481.

7 Hubbard, loc. cit. (n. 2), and Skutsch, op. cit. (n. 3), 229–30

8 Camps, W. A., Propertius Elegies Book II (1967), 1.

9 Wyke, M., ‘Written women: Propertius' scripta puella’, JRS 77 (1987), 4761, esp. 48, 61.

10 Wyke, op. cit. (n. 9), 48 summarizes, ‘The second book is framed by the naming of Callimachus, by extensive borrowings from the Callimachean polemic in favour of writing elegy, and by references to the Elegiac Woman as Propertius' poetic material’. It seems to me that these quite general motifs could be exhibited by the opening poem of a second book and the closing poem of a third book without surprise. The devices of ring-composition that I cite (see below VI.3, esp. (V)) seem to me much more insistently to mark the beginning and end of a book.

11 Heyworth, op. cit. (n. 4), 166–7, following a point made by Hutchinson, G. O., JRS 74 (1984), 100 who does not, however, believe in the division of ‘Book 2’.

12 Birt, T., Das antike Buchwesen in seinem Verhältniss zur Litteratur (1882), 419–20, first accepted Lachmann's suggestion that 2.10 opened Book 2b, but by RhM 64 (1909), 398–9, and RhM 70 (1915), 266, he suggested, in summary form, that 2.10 and the ‘epigram’ 2.11 closed Book 2a. On neither of these occasions did he offer any substantive argument for his thesis.

13 Goold, G. P.'s Loeb Propertius text (1990).

14 Camps, op. cit. (n. 8).

15 Enk, P. J., Sex. Propertii Elegiarum Liber Secundus Vol. II (1962).

16 Rothstein, M., Propertius Sextus Elegien, Erster Teil (1920).

17 Lloyd-Jones, H. and Parsons, P., Supplementum Hellenisticum (1983), 147, fr. 317; it is quoted by Enk, op. cit. (n. 15), in his note on line 2.

18 Indian embassy in 26–25 B.C.: Res Gestae 31 records embassies from India; Orosius 6.21.19 tells us that ‘legati Indorum’ met Augustus at Tarraco in Spain; Dio 53.22.5 tells us that Augustus left Rome in 27 B.C., ‘lingered in Gaul’, then proceeded to Spain; Suet., , Aug. 26.3 tells us that Augustus began his eighth and ninth consulships (26 and 25 B.C.) at Tarraco; another datable embassy from India falls in 20 B.C. (Dio 54.9.8), clearly too late for our poem. The date of the Arabian expedition (still impending in Prop. 2.10, note ‘intactae’) is 25–24 B.C., and the best evidence for this comes from Dio 53.29.3–8; but it needs careful interpreting. This it gets from Hardy, G., The Monumentum Ancyranum (1923), 123; the essential points made by Hardy are quoted by Enk, op. cit. (n. 15), 152. Cf. too J. W. Rich's note (1990) on Dio 53.29.3–8, and La Penna, A., L'Integrazione difficile. Vn profilo di Properzio (1977), 48 n. 1. Augustus himself refers to the Arabian expedition at RG 5.26.

19 Lucr. 6.47 ‘quandoquidem semel insignem conscendere currum…’ has to do with Lucretius' literary enterprise, but we are hampered by an immediately following lacuna. However, since he has just recalled how, in Book 5, he explained the workings of heaven and the heavenly bodies, and will now proceed to explain ‘cetera quae fieri in terris caeloque tuentur/mortales’, 50, cf. 83 etc., a chariot image (the sun is drawn in a chariot, and so on) is arguably appropriate to his context in a way that it is not in Prop. 2.10.23. (Propertius uses ‘currum conscendere’ of Aurora at 2.18.13.)

20 Even in lines 1–2, where the precedent of Choerilus (referred to above) might have induced him, Propertius did not employ chariots.

21 A manuscript reading according to Passerat: Barber, uet. cod. Memmii teste Passeratio. Sil. 3.510 cited in its support is not cogent, since its context is not literary.

22 ‘Trespass’ is the simple term I prefer for the analogous phenomenon in similes (when narrative terms appear in the simile): cf. Lyne, R. O. A. M., Words and the Poet. Characteristic Techniques of Style in Vergil's Aeneid (1989), 92–9 and index s.v. ‘trespass’. ‘Tenor’ and ‘vehicle’, stemming from I. A. Richards, are terms employed by M. S. Silk in his excellent Interaction in Poetic Imagery, with Special Reference to Early Greek Poetry (1974), who refers to this phenomenon as ‘intrusion’. For ‘tenor’ language ‘intruded’ into the ‘vehicle’ see Silk, 138–42.

23 Rothstein, op. cit. (n. 16), ad loc. supports it too, but he thinks the concealed metaphor is ascent of a chariot.

24 On this ‘poem’ see Wimmel, W., Kallimachos in Rom. Die Nachfolge seines Apologetischen Dichtens in der Augusteerzeit (1960), 193202 (with ample bibliography), a useful discussion.

25 On ‘recusatio’ see Lyne, R. O. A. M., Horace. Behind the Public Poetry (1995), 31–9 with bibliography.

26 Lyne, op. cit. (n. 25), 36.

27 Ross, D. O., Backgrounds to Augustan Poetry. Gallus, Elegy and Rome (1975), 118.

28 For the panegyrical acceptability of demurring for this reason, see Lyne, op. cit. (n. 25), 38. Hor., , Serm. 2.1.1213 is perhaps Propertius' immediate source (where Horace plays tricks with Callimachean topoi in addition); cf. then Epist. 2.1.250–59, also (though not in a panegyrical context), Verg., , Georg. 2.483–4.

29 Note the phrasing of Wimmel, op. cit. (n. 24), 194 and 201 (‘compromise’ etc.).

30 We may also distinguish the ‘inclusion’ or ‘incorporation’ of disavowed genres performed by e.g. Horatian ‘recusatio’, and observed by e.g. Davis, G., Polyhymnia. The Rhetoric of Horatian Lyric Discourse (1991), 2836, and Putnam, M. C. J. in Harrison, S. J. ed.), Homage to Horace, A Bimillenary Celebration (1995). 59. The poet shows potential mastery of the supposedly disavowed genres by such ‘inclusion’, but does not actually proffer a piece of encomiastic text as Propertius does in 2.10.

31 For the Gallan origin of Ecl. 6.64–73, see Skutsch, F., Aus Vergils Frühzeit (1901), 34–8, Ross, op. cit. (n. 27), 34 with bibliography in his n. 1.

32 Important adjunct texts for fr. 2 are fr. 2A, a commentary on the scene (which tells us among other things that Callimachus made reference to Permessus, fr. 2a.20), and AP 7.42. For discussion of Callimachus' ‘Dream’ scene, cf. e.g. A. Kambylis, Die Dichtenoeihe und ihre Symbolik. Untersuchungen zu Hesiodos, Kallimachos, Properz und Ennius (1965), esp. 69–75, 89–109. But it has recently been subjected to fresh scrutiny by A. Cameron, Callimachus and his Critics (1995), 127–32, also ch. 4, esp. 119–32, and many familiar assumptions challenged. I am still however persuaded that Callimachus' ‘Dream’ pictured his initiation by a draught of spring water (cf. Lyne, op. cit. (n. 25), 36–7 with n. 11).

33 Kambylis, op. cit. (n. 32), 194, insists that we cannot pin down the identity of the mountain — presumably Parnassus or Helicon — referred to in Ann. 208–9 Sk., and this is true; cf. Skutsch, O., The Annals of Q. Ennius (1985), 374 and 149–50. (Kambylis, 196 thinks that, on the basis of Persius, Prologus 2 and its scholiast, we can identify the mountain on which Ennius' dream encounter with Homer — in Book 1 — took place: Parnassus. Skutsch, 149–50, is more sceptical.)

34 O. Skutsch, op. cit. (n. 33), 374.

35 O. Skutsch, op. cit. (n. 33), 375 favours a door metaphor, ‘claustra (Musarum)’, or ‘fores’; Kambylis, op. cit. (n. 32), 194–5, favours ‘fontes’.

36 More or less certain imitations of, or allusions to, Ennius' scene in Book 7 are, I think: Lucr. 1.117–18, Verg., , Georg. 2.175–6, 3.10–11, Prop. 2.30b.25–40, 3.1.15–8 and 20 (cf. 4.10.3–4), and possibly 3.3.6; and 2.10 may allude directly to Ennius as well as indirectly via Gallus. I would even be tempted to include Catull. 105 ‘Mentula conatur Pipleium scandere montem: / Musae furcillis praecipitem eiciunt’. Those interested in trying further to reconstruct Ennius' scene can profitably exploit these texts. Cf. too O. Skutsch, op. cit. (n. 33), 367, 373–5 (Skutsch seems to imagine nothing extensive), Kambylis, op. cit. (n. 32), 191–204, esp. 194–5, 202. (It should be noted that Skutsch, 147–8, and Kambylis, loc. cit., esp. 198–201, convincingly argue against any meeting with, and initiation by, the Muses back in Book 1, within or in addition to the ‘Dream’ scene in that book in which Ennius encountered the ghost of Homer, (Ann. 2–11 Sk.; this is modelled in some other respects on Callimachus' ‘Dream’ which did, according to most scholarly opinion, stage an initiation by the Muses).)

37 cf. F. Skutsch, op. cit. (n. 31), 36–8, W. Clausen's note in A Commentary on Virgil Eclogues (1994) on Verg., , Ecl. 6.64. Contrast Ross, op. cit. (n. 27), 31–4, advancing a thoughtful, stubbornly defended minority opinion regarding Permessus, its situation, and significance, an opinion which needs to be considered carefully. Naturally, in the absence of Gallus' text scholars dispute what sort of poem the ‘Grynean Grove’ was, indeed whether Gallus ever wrote the poem. But there is broad agreement that the poem was written, and that it was aetiological and Callimachean. For a conjecture on its subject (Apollo's rape of the Amazon Gryne in the grove which then took her name: Serv., auct. on Aen. 4.345) see CQ 28 (1978), 186. Most scholars assume that it was the story of the contest in divination between Calchas and Mopsus (thus F. Skutsch, op. cit. (n. 31), 34; cf. Servius, on Ecl. 6.72).

38 With relief I here find myself in some agreement with Ross, op. cit. (n. 27), 119–20.

39 The epithet Άσκραῖος; applied to Hesiod first appears in the Hellenistic period, in Nicander (Ther. II) and in epigram; we may conjecture that Callimachus used it thus, but no instance survives. Cf. Thomas, R. F., Virgil Georgics Vol. I (1988) on Verg., , Georg. 2.176, and Clausen, op. cit. (n. 37) on Verg., , Ecl. 6.70.

40 Cameron, op. cit. (n. 32), 371 challenges the usual interpretation of 112.5–6, arguing that they refer to Callimachus himself, not Hesiod.

41 Cameron, op. cit. (n. 32), 362–86.

42 In spite of Cameron, op. cit. (n. 32), 374–9, which is convincing in some details, we must surely still see Callimachean veneration for Hesiod in this epigram.

43 Pace e.g. Enk, op. cit. (n. 15), ad loc., following F. Skutsch, op. cit. (n. 31), 37 (‘der Strom des Permessus bedeutet für Properz die niedere, die erotische Poesie, die Musenquellen aber die höhere, die heroische.’), Goold, op. cit. (n. 13), ad loc. An attempt at explanation and compromise, to me not successful, is made by Wimmel, op. cit. (n. 24), 200. Camps, op. cit. (n. 8), ad loc. retreats into vagueness: ‘higher up the mountain is another spring from which a higher inspiration could be drawn.’

44 I am inclined to lean on ‘etiam’, in spite of Camps' (op. cit. (n. 8)) note on ‘nondum etiam’ (‘meaning the same as plain nondum; cf. 1.3.11, 9.17, etc.’).

45 Rothstein, op. cit. (n. 16), on 2.11.3, sees the reference to 2.3.25 (and pertinently compares too 1.2.27), but does not appreciate how climactic 2.3.25 is. Camps, op. cit. (n. 8) on 2.11.3, who also sees the reference to 2.3.25, thinks that mercenary ‘munera’ ‘in the sense of II, xvi, 15 and 21’ may also be in mind. We could add 1.16.36, 2.8.11, 2.16.9, 220.25, 2.23.3 and 8 and others. But I think this sense is marginal and unimportant. The only uses of ‘munus’ in the remnants of the putative Book 2a (2.1–11; cf. below VI. 1) are those in 2.3, 2.8, and 2.11.

46 Rothstein's extensive, paraphrasing efforts to explain the reasoning (in his notes on both 2.11.1 and 3, op. cit. (n. 16)) boil down to: ‘others may praise you, but I won't because there is no lasting fame in it for me’ (‘dauernder Ruhm ist auf diesem Gebiete doch nicht zu erreichen’). He sees an important connection to 2.10 (‘also bella canam’), but to harp on the question of Propertius' fame is not hitting the centre of the target. Enk, op. cit. (n. 15), has nothing helpful to offer ad loc. Camps, op. cit. (n. 8), ad loc. has nothing.

47 I think I make a convincing case in this article that 2.10/11 closed Book 2a. But while much of what I say is consonant with, and is I think most comfortable with, the assumption that 2.10/11 formed one poem, much is not incompatible with an assumption that Propertius closes with a pair of allied poems, 2.10 and 11. But the argument on structure that I here give is very strong support for the contention that 2.10/11 is indeed one single poem.

48 Many examples are gathered in the discussion referred to above n. 25.

49 Propertius here plays between the doing of the actions and the description of the actions in a way which I have discussed elsewhere (‘Propertius 2.30b’, forthcoming), but the message and the structure are essentially the same as in other ‘recusationes’.

50 For the likelihood of lost ‘recusationes’, see Lyne, op. cit. (n. 25), 34–6.

51 I have adopted the text recommended by Heyworth, S. J., CQ 34 (1984), 399; Goold, op. cit. (n. 13), follows Housman's ‘mi lubet. … posito’. Surely iuuet (NFL) cannot be right.

52 ‘uiuet’ Barber followed by Goold, op. cit. (n. 13); etiam MSS.

53 On 3.22, 23, 24 and 25 cf. the brief but suggestive comments of Williams, op. cit. (n. 6), 490–1. Cf. how 1.17–19 arguably form a closing sequence to the Cynthia poems of Book 1. But in ‘Book 4’, while 4.11 has clearly closural force, 4.9 and 10 seem to me to contribute in no obvious way to a closing sequence. Back in Book 1 again, 21 and 22 clearly pair as a mixture of closing sphragis and political statement; but 20 requires comment.

54 See my forthcoming article ‘Propertius 2.30b’; the phrase is borrowed from Conte, G. B., Virgilio. Il genere e i suoi confini (1984), 121–33.

55 cf. Heyworth, op. cit. (n. 4), 167–8; cf. too Heyworth in Mnemosyne 45 (1992), 45–9, discussing the unity of 2.13, its opening status, etc.

56 See my forthcoming article ‘Programmatic poems in Propertius: 1.1 and 2.12’.

57 i.e. 2.9.1–48. With Goold, op. cit. (n. 13) and many before him I can find no place for 2.9.49–52 in 2.9, even supposing a lacuna. This is one of the many floating fragments or excerpts that complicate our reading of ‘Book 2’.

58 Hutchinson, op. cit. (n. 11), 100, Heyworth, op. cit. (n. 4), 166–7. See further below sub-section (2).

59 Heyworth, op. cit. (n. 4), 168 wonders how 2.11 and 2.12 ‘intruded’ between the end of Book 2a and the beginning of Book 2b.

60 For Heyworth's views on both 2.9.25–8 and 2.24 see op. cit. (n. 4), 169. I am accepting, provisionally, Scaliger's junction of 2.23 and 2.24.1–10, adopted by Goold, op. cit. (n. 13).

61 Hutchinson, loc. cit. (n. 58).

62 Wimmel, op. cit. (n. 24), 193, 195–6, 199, 201 already well brings out the influence on Prop. 2.10 of the end of Verg., Georg. 2 and the beginning of Georg. 3.

63 With ‘uictorque uirum uolitare per ora’, cf. Ennius' ‘epitaph’ Varia 18V = Epigrams 10 Warmington ‘uolito uiuos per ora uirum’. Cf. above n. 36.

64 Heyworth, op. cit. (n. 4), 166–7.

65 Pfeiffer, R., Callimachus Vol. I (1949) on fr. 112.9 briefly states the thesis of a later, collected edition of Callimachus' works in which the epilogue was added to the Aetia, its last line effecting the transition to the text of the Iambi (he likewise argued that the ‘Telchines’ preface, our fr. 1, was added to a second edition of the Aetia or to a collected edition of his works: Hermes 63 (1928), 302–41). Parsons, P. J. (ZPE 25 (1977), 50) intrudes caution, elaboration and refinement: he thinks that the epilogue was fitted (together with the new prologue, fr. 1) to a new edition of the Aetia, when Books 3–4, framed by honorific pieces to Berenice, were added to Books 1–2 (and at that point the Iambi would already have been published). But Knox, P. E. (GRBS 26 (1985), 5966) suggests that the epilogue was composed for the earlier issue of Aetia Books 1–2 and looked forward to Iambi not yet published. For a summary of the views of Pfeiffer, Parsons, and Knox, see Cameron, op. cit. (n. 32), 104, 112, 145, 157–8.

66 ‘Scribo’ is used in a self-reflexive manner within the remnants of the putative Book 2a too: 2.5.27, Tibullus may knock his girl around, but Propertius will write his retaliation to bad behaviour on Cynthia's part (cf. Solmsen, F., ‘Propertius in his literary relations with Tibullus and Vergil’, Philologus 105 (1961), 273–89). The one other use of a ‘scribo’ cognate in this Book 2a is 2.3.21: Cynthia produces ‘scripta’. In 2.13.12 ‘scripta’ plays a leading role in the introduction of the putative Book 2b; it plays a prominent role in 3.9.45 in the description of ‘Book 3’, and in 3.23.2 it contributes to a closural motif. ‘Scribo’ and cognates occur often in other passages of Propertius, but not with quite the same key force as in Book 2a and perhaps ‘Book 3’. Interesting from my present point of view (self-reflexive, or potentially self-reflexive) are 1.18.22, 2.34.87, 3.9.3, 3.23.19, 4.1.136 (and perhaps 3.3.21 deserves consideration in this context); less interesting (from this point of view) are 2.23.8, 2.28.44, 3.8.26, 3.20.16, 3.23.24. 4.3.72, 4.5.37, 4.7.83. There are ‘scriptores’ at 2.34.65 and 3.1.12. (This is I think a complete list of ‘scribo’ cognates in Propertius.)

67 cf. OLD s.v. 2 ‘A duty owed by a citizen to the State (e.g. military service, tenure of magistracies) …’. Cf. Cic., , Ver. 3.98 ‘multa sunt imposita huic ordini munera, multi labores’, Livy 9.3.5 ‘is grauis annis non militaribus solum sed ciuilibus quoque abscesserat muneribus’. The only other use of ‘munus’ in Book 2a is 2.8.11. For other uses of the word in Propertius (but not a complete list) see n. 45 above.

68 Some post-Catullan examples are cited by Fordyce, Catullus. A Commentary (1961), ad loc. See too TLL 5.1.1757.34–44 which gives Catullus 65.2 as the first instance of ‘doctus’ ‘de deis’. In Greek culture, it is typically the poet who is σοϕός: cf. e.g. Nisbet and Hubbard on Hor., , Odes 1.1.29. The use of διδάσκω cited above in connection with the Muses in Hesiod is perhaps particularly interesting.

69 I refer to a well-known passage in the ‘Postille a “Il nome della rosa” 1983’ (see Il Nome della Rosa (1995). 528–9: ‘Il post-moderno … Ironia, gioco metalinguistico’). In Eco's now celebrated example, the post-modern lover is inhibited from saying ‘ti amo disperatamente’, since it has been said too often, it is the sort of thing that is said in the sentimental novels of Liala; and he says instead ‘Come direbbe Liala, tiamo disperatamente’. In this way he is dissociated from the unsayable sentiment, but nevertheless manages to say it in an ironic mode. Comparably, Propertius is dissociated from saying ‘cinis hic docta puella fuit’, but in an ironic mode still manages to say it. (In the English version of the Postille, Postscript to the Name of the Rose (1984), 67–8, Barbara Cartland is used instead of Liala. The post-modern lover is unable to say ‘I love you madly’, but can say ‘As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly.’) D. P. Fowler has already used the insight of Umberto Eco, and the quoted passage, to illuminate brilliantly Catullus 51: see Fowler, , ‘First thoughts on closure: problems and perspectives’, MD 22 (1989), 112–13. Cf. too Fowler, , ‘Postmodernism, romantic irony, and classical closure’, in De Jong, I. J. F. and Sullivan, J. P. (eds), Modern Critical Theory and Classical Literature (1994), 231–55, esp. 236–7, citing the same passage of Eco in an interpretation of Theognis 236–54.

70 Goold, op. cit. (n. 13), prints Sterke's re-ordering of these lines (29, 32,31, 30), correctly I think.

71 These are the only examples of ‘laus’ and ‘tumultus’ in the putative Propertius Book 2a. ‘Bellum’ occurs in addition to the examples cited at 2.3.35 and 40, safely mythical.

72 cf. the interesting comments on this poem of T. D. Papanghelis, Propertius: A Hellenistic Poet on Love and Death (1987), 47–9 (and see his Index of Passages for further comments).

73 It is worth here referring the reader in a general way to the important book of Papanghelis (n. 72).

74 cf., most recently, Clausen's note (op. cit. (n. 37)) on Vergil, , Ecl. 6.64.

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Propertius 2.10 and 11 and the Structure of Books ‘2A’ and ‘2B’

  • R. O. A. M. Lyne (a1)


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