Tibullus Criticism - Essay

W. Y. Sellar (essay date 1899)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Gallus, Tibullus, Lygdamus, Sulpicia" in The Roman Poets of the Augustan Age: Horace and the Elegiac Poets, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899, pp. 223-51.

[In the following excerpt, Sellar provides an overview of Tibullus, dismisses questions about his identity, discusses his love affairs, and compares and contrasts his contributions to the elegy with those of Horace and other poets.]

Albius Tibullus, the next to Gallus in order of time, was a considerably younger man, although the exact date of his birth is uncertain. The evidence of his epitaph by Domitius Marsus—

Te quoque Vergilio comitem non aequa

(The entire section is 9306 words.)

Arthur Leslie Wheeler (essay date 1910)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Erotic Teaching in Roman Elegy and the Greek Sources. Part I," Classical Philology, Vol. V, No. 4, October, 1910, pp. 440-50.

[In the following excerpt, Wheeler outlines the Greek influence on the Roman elegists in their erotic poetry.]

The erotic teaching which pervades much of the work of Tibullus and Propertius and culminates in the Ars amatoria of Ovid is one of the most striking and characteristic features of Roman elegy. All three elegists assume the rôle of erotic expert and all three give utterance to numerous erotic precepts. Erotic teaching is, therefore, of importance to all who would understand the nature of Roman elegy. But it possesses...

(The entire section is 4484 words.)

B. L. Ullman (essay date 1912)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Horace and Tibullus," The American Journal of Philology, Vol. XXXIII, 1912, pp. 149-67.

[In the following essay, Ullman analyzes two poems written by Horace to Albius and discusses the arguments against and for identifying Albius as Tibullus.]

I. Carm. I. 33 and Epist. I. 4.

Albi, ne doleas plus nimio memor
immitis Glycerae, neu miserabiles
decantes elegos, cur tibi iunior
laesa praeniteat fide.

Albi, nostrorum sermonum candide iudex,
quid nunc te dicam facere in regione Pedana?
Scribere quod Cassi Parmensis...

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R. S. Radford (essay date 1923)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tibullus and Ovid: The Authorship of the Sulpicia and Cornutus Elegies in the Tibullan Corpus. Part I," American Journal of Philology, Vol. XLIV, No. 1, Whole No. 173, 1923, pp. 1-26.

[In the following excerpt, Radford presents evidence that Tibullus's Book 11 and the second elegy of Book IV were actually written by Ovid.]

I. Introduction.

In two articles published in the Transactions of the American Philological Association,1 I have sought to show that the whole Tibullan Appendix—including also the second, third and fifth elegies of Book 1I—as well as the whole Vergilian Appendix, including the great...

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Eli Edward Burriss (essay date 1929)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Religious Life of Tibullus as Reflected in His Elegies," The Classical Weekly, Vol. XXII, No. 16, Whole No. 600 February 25, 1929, pp. 121-26.

[In the following essay, Burriss outlines Tibullus's religious beliefs and describes them as practical in nature and unsophisticated.]

Tibullus was a poet, and so his attitude toward the gods is colored by the fancy of the poet.1 Against this we must set the fact that he was a farmer who knew at first hand the ritual of the country festival, and that he was reverent toward the gods of his country.

That he was an unsophisticated believer in the gods is evident; this is strange in view of...

(The entire section is 5962 words.)

Elizabeth Hazelton Haight (essay date 1932)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tibullus" in Romance in the Latin Elegiac Poets, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1932, pp. 52-80.

[In the following excerpt, Haight provides an overview of Tibullus, describing his life, background, poems, including those written to Marathus and to Sulpicia, and his role in the development of the Latin erotic elegy.]

The Poet1

Thou too, companion to Vergil,
By death most unjust was remanded
In youth to the valley Elysian,
Tibullus, that no one thereafter
Should tearfully sing elegiacs
Of love or chant wars...

(The entire section is 8767 words.)

Archibald A. Day (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Pastoral Elements in Latin Elegy" in The Origins of Latin Love-Elegy, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1938, pp. 76-84.

[In the following excerpt, Day examines the pastoral elements in Tibullus's elegies and the influence of other poets on their composition.]

In an earlier chapter it was noticed that in the elegies of Philetas there appears to have been a marked bucolic element, so far as can be judged from the few surviving fragments, and that the first book of the Leontium of Hermesianax was probably concerned with the tragic loves of shepherds. So that the Latin elegists, whatever they may have owed to their Greek predecessors, were at least justified by...

(The entire section is 3054 words.)

C. R. Harte (essay date 1952)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tibullus, Lover of Nature," The Classical Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 6, April, 1952, pp. 67-8.

[In the following essay, Harte contends that Tibullus portrays nature as a gentle refuge from unrest, and that Nature is his real lover, not Delia or Nemesis.]

If Vergil's preeminence as a poet of Nature is undisputed, there may be a similar accord in granting second place to Tibullus, Vergil's short-lived younger contemporary. By what qualities does the gentle elegiac poet merit this by no means inconsiderable honor?

There is little in Tibullus of that reference to a particular tree, flower, or bird which contributes much to the charm of Homer,...

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A. G. Lee (essay date 1963)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "On [Tibullus] III, 19 (IV, 13)," in Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, No. 189, 1963, pp. 4-10.

[In the following essay, Lee explains why he considers Tibullus 1II, 19 to be the work of a skillful forger.]

In considering whether or not this poem is genuine Tibullus we have only internal evidence to go on. Internal evidence is often not conclusive enough. It is difficult to assess, and the assessment usually involves a subjective element. The ideal is to reduce this subjective element to a minimum, to appeal to logic in the way a textual critic does when he chooses one MS reading rather than another or decides to admit an emendation of the text....

(The entire section is 3375 words.)

Edward N. O'Neil (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tibullus 2.6: A New Interpretation," Classical Philology, Vol. LXII, No. 3, July, 1967, pp. 163-68.

[In the following essay, O 'Neil considers the question of Macer's identity in Tibullus 2.6 and contends that the poem refers not to a journey, but to a literary plan.]

The sixth and concluding elegy of Tibullus' second book opens with the words:2

Castra Macer sequitur: tenero quid fiet Amori?
sit comes et collo fortiter arma gerat?
et seu longa virum terrae via seu vaga ducent
aequora, cum telis ad latus ire volet?
ure, puer, quaeso, tua qui ferus otia liquit

(The entire section is 3395 words.)

J. K. Newman (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Augustan Elegists: Ovid: Manilius," Collection Latomus, Vol. LXXXVIII, 1967, pp. 365-420.

[In the following excerpt, Newman contends that Tibullus's popularity among ancient readers stemmed from reworking cliches, not in being sincere or autobiographical.]

…Tibullus is a striking proof of Tronsky's thesis about the folly of trying to make elegy autobiographical. We know from Horace1 that Tibullus was handsome, wealthy, with a taste for luxury and country life and mild philosophical speculation (tacitum silvas inter reptare salubres/Curantem quidquid dignum sapiente bonoque est—4-5). Tibullus's first book begins—


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Herbert Musurillo (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Theme of Time as a Poetic Device in the Elegies of Tibullus," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 98, 1967, pp. 253-68.

[In the following essay, Musurillo describes Tibullus's portrayal of time as subtle, subjective, and blurred but notes that the poet shows much ability to control distinctions between past, present, and future.]

The early Greek poets had no strict concept of time, nor should we expect them to. Homer, however, beautifully portrays the poignancy of passing youth and the young warrior's strength that diminishes with age, and he loves to dwell on old men's reminiscences of their past deeds of...

(The entire section is 6188 words.)

Edward M. Michael (essay date 1968)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An Introduction to The Poems of Tibullus, translated by Constance Carrier, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968, pp. 7-31.

[In the following essay, Michael provides an overview of Tibullus and his work, including analysis of his themes and the nature of his amorous love.]

Tibullus wrote elegies, but not in the modern sense of the word. For us an "elegy" implies a sad and meditative poem written in a country church-yard. The mood defines the poetic form. But in ancient Greece and Rome "elegy" was defined only by its metrical form—a series of alternating dactylic hexameters and pentameters. Its themes and moods could vary. It is hardly necessary to...

(The entire section is 8278 words.)

R. J. Littlewood (essay date 1970)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Symbolic Structure of Tibullus Book I," Latomus, Vol. XXIX, No. 3, July-September, 1970, pp. 661-69.

[In the following essay, Littlewood examines the structure of Tibullus's Book 1, describing it as harmonious and logical.]

The last twenty-five years of Classical scholarship have seen such great advances in the study of structural symmetry and its significance in the works of the Augustan poets that now there is no longer any doubt that this aspect of artistic ingenuity was a recognised concept of Augustan art1. It is here of considerable importance to note that the structural harmonies involved are always subtly devised not only to produce a...

(The entire section is 3491 words.)

Michael Putnam (essay date 1970)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Simple Tibullus, or the Ruse of Style," Yale French Studies, No. 45, 1970, pp. 21-32.

[In the following essay, Putnam asserts that Tibullus's simplicity is purposefully deceiving and that his understated stance disguises a "poetics of action."]

Of the three surviving elegists of the Roman Augustan age, Tibullus is little read, less appreciated. Propertius fascinates by his intensity, his gnarled propulsion of idea which forces careful attention to the process as well as the wholeness of a poem. Ovid's facile warmth and smooth irony win ready admirers. With Tibullus praise was not always so faint. A younger contemporary of Virgil (he died the same year, 19 B....

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Julia H. Gaisser (essay date 1971)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tibullus 1.7: A Tribute to Messalla," Classical Philology, Vol. LXVI, No. 4, October, 1971, pp. 221-29.

[In the following essay, Gaisser discusses Messalla, a Famous Roman general and patron of Tibullus, and contends that Tibullus 1.7 is best read as a tribute in which Messalla is equated with Osiris.]

The central problem in the interpretation of Tibullus 1. 7 is to determine the meaning of the hymn to Osiris and its relation to the rest of the poem.1 A secondary, problem is to account for the exceptionally large number of literary allusions and echoes from other poets.2

The solution that I should like to propose is that...

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C. Campbell (essay date 1973)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tibullus: Elegy 1.3," Yale Classical Studies, Vol. XXIII, 1973, pp. 147-57.

[In the following essay, Campbell argues that Tibullus has been incorrectly interpreted by many critics due to the use of faulty criteria in their evaluations.]

One of the most frequent errors made by critics who would defend Tibullus' poetry is the acceptance of the very standards of judgement which led earlier critics to attack it. Because they continue to ask the same, wrong questions about a poem, they should not be surprised to arrive at the same, wrong answers. The resulting conflict between an intuitive admiration for Tibullus and a negative judgement based upon the observation...

(The entire section is 3699 words.)

Michael C. J. Putnam (essay date 1973)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Tibullus: A Commentary, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1973, pp. 3-13.

[In the following essay, Putnam provides an overview of Tibullus, considering his life and his poems' subjects, order, style, and meter.]

Documentation for the life of Albius Tibullus is meager.1 If we may trust Ovid's list of elegists—Gallus, Tibullus, Propertius, and himself—as chronological, then Tibullus' birthdate would logically rest somewhere between 60 and 55 B.C.2 An epigram, attached to the manuscripts and ascribed to Domitius Marsus, points to contemporary death dates for Vergil and Tibullus. This would place his demise not long...

(The entire section is 3898 words.)

Robert B. Palmer (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Is There a Religion of Love in Tibullus?," The Classical Journal, Vol. 73, No. 1, October-November, 1977, pp. 1-10.

[In the following essay, Palmer contends that the strength of Tibullus's poetry results from his use of antitheses and syntheses.]

Ever since 1905 when F. Jacoby's article on origins appeared, numerous attempts have been made to reduce the Latin love elegy to a limited series of motifs and topoi which were then referred back to their apparent sources in Hellenistic poetry or before.1 Behind this search often lay the unspoken assumption that the identification of these motifs and their sources would eventually produce the...

(The entire section is 5549 words.)

Francis Cairns (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Informing," in his Tibullus: A Hellenistic Poet at Rome, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979, pp. 144-65.

[In the following essay, Cairns explains how Tibullus conveys information in his poems.]

[The conveyance of information] is a vital part of exposition, since without knowing the situation the audience cannot understand the poem. This chapter will examine how Tibullus gives such information.… In a narrative poem the reader must follow the story-line to understand the poem, including any elaborations, descriptions, similes and digressions. But the whole story is not told at the beginning: new facts and incidents are introduced regularly...

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Guy Lee (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Tibullus: Elegies, third edition, translated by Guy Lee, revised in collaboration with Robert Maltby, Leeds: Francis Cairns (Publications) Ltd, 1990, pp. ix-xxii.

[In the following essay, Lee describes some of the chief merits of Tibullus's poems.]

The reader who comes to Tibullus from the love poetry of Ovid will be surprised to discover in parts of his work a distinctly Ovidian tone. The Consultation with Priapus (1.4) in which the grotesque fertility god treats the poet to a brief lecture on the art of pederasty in elegantly balanced couplets is evidently intended to shock and to amuse and its unexpected conclusion to raise a laugh...

(The entire section is 5517 words.)