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The Cave and the Source

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

Georg Luck
Harvard University


In his recently published Propertiana, Mr. D. R. Shackleton Bailey has given what I believe to be the correct interpretation of the first two lines. He maintains that sacra has no direct connexion with poetry, that it may be virtually synonymous with Manes or possibly signify the rites paid to the dead, or that it can be taken in the sense of their physical relics, the ashes in the urn. He reminds us that nemus is more than a ‘poetic grove’; it must be a ‘consecrated grove’.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 1957

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1 Bailey, D. R. Shackleton, Propertiana (Cambridge U.P., 1956), pp. 135–6.Google Scholar

2 3. 3. 13 ex arbore = ‘ex nemore’, where arbor stands for a group of trees.

1 I hesitate to follow Scaliger, Muretus, and others who connected 3. 1 and 3. 2. The principle of , variatio, explains easily why two elegies dealing with similar themes were separated in the published collection by a slightly different kind of poem.

2 In the appendix to his Hellenistische Wundererzählungen (1906), p. 152.Google Scholar

3 On Propertius' use of witchcraft as a literary motif see Luck, G., Hermes, lxxxiii (1955), 428 ff.Google Scholar

4 Necromancy in the elegiac poets: Tib. 1. 2. 45–48; Ovid, Amores 1. 8. 17–18; Rem. Am. 253 ff.; cf. Met. 7. 206.

1 One of them is mentioned by Callimachus, fr. 278 Pf.; see in general Rohde, E., Psyche7–8, i (1921), 212–15.Google Scholar

2 Wilamowitz, , Antigonos von Karystos (1881), pp. 263 ff.Google Scholar

3 Lucian, Macrob. 21.

4 Plato, Sympos. 202 e.

5 Rohde, , op. cit., pp. 185 ff.;Google ScholarEitrem, S., R.E. viii (1912), cols. 112, 116.Google Scholar

1 To the bibliography I should like to add Martin, J., Würzburger Jbb. f. d. Altertumswissensch. (1947), pp. 364 f.Google Scholar

2 Strabo, 14. 1. 27, p. 642.

3in specum degressus, hausta fontis arcani aqua …, Tacitus, Ann. 2. 54.

4 In view of this we should take Tacitus' assertion (loc. cit.) that the priest was ignarus plerumque litterarum et carminum not too literally, at least for the Hellenistic period.

5 Cf. Callimachus, Aitia fr. 1. 25 ff. Pf.; Hymn. Apoll. 2; no ff.; Ep. 7. 1; 28. 1 ff., and Propertius 2. 13. 13; 23. 1 f.; 3. 1. 3; 14; 17 f.; 4. 6. 1 ff.; 10. 3 f. (see the commentators for analogous assertions in Horace and Virgil).

6 Cf. Callimachus, Aitia fr. 1. 22 ff. Pf. (and Pfeiffer's note); Propertius 1. 2. 27; 2. 1. 3; 3. 13 ff. 4. 1 133 and the commentators.

7 Dodds, E. R., The Greeks and the Irrational (U. of Calif. P., 1951), pp. 8082;Google Scholar cf. Luck, G., Gnomon, xxv (1953), 364.Google Scholar

8 Callimachus, Aitia fr. 7. 19–21; cf. 4ff.; 31 b (Add.. II); 43. 56.

9 In Propertius 2. 34. 31 f. tu satius memorem Musis imitere Philetan / et non inflati somnia Callimachi, R. Reitzenstein's interpretation of memorem Musis = ‘qui Musis memorem se praebet’ (Hermes xxxi [1896], 196–7),Google Scholar although grammatically difficult, makes excellent sense from this point of view. The pentameter refers to the beginning of Callimachus’ Aitia; this does not mean that the hexameter refers to a (lost) work of Philetas (Rothstein, Butler-Barber, ad loc.); it is much more likely that Propertius transferred to the lesser known Philetas the context of Callimachus that he had in mind. The Muses play such an important role in the famous opening of the Aitia that Callimachus could be properly called memor Musis. An anonymous epigram, Anth. Pal. 7. 41, even addresses him as ‘blessed one, dearest companion of the divine Muses’, cf. Gabathuler, M., Hellenist. Epigramme auf Dichter (Diss. Basel, 1937), pp. 6, 42, 65;Google ScholarCumont, F., Symbolisme funé’raire des Remains (1942), p. 293, n. 2.Google Scholar

1 Abel, W., Die Anredeformen bei den römischen Elegikern (Diss. Berlin, 1930), p. 82.Google Scholar

2 Callimachus fr. 696 Pf. (on the Aganippe) refers to the prologue of the Aitia (Add. II, fr. 2 a 16 ff.); on the controversy see Pfeiffer's note on Schol. Flor. (p. 11).

3 Ovid was aware of the religious mood of Propertius 3. 1 and 3. 3 when he adapted these poems in Amores 3. 1, itself the preface to a new book: stat vetus et multos incaedua silva per annos; credibile est illi numen inesse loco.fons sacer in medio speluncaque pumice pendens… (vv. 1 ff.). In this sacred grove, the poet meets Elegy and Tragedy personified; but instead of revealing hidden truths to him, as one would expect in these awesome surroundings, they plead with him in the best rhetorical manner. The religious symbols have become mere decoration; the poet does not bow to any supernatural command; he reserves his own choice. Ovid's poem, although it still uses the traditional imagery, marks in reality a very significant change in outlook.

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