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Sharon Marshall

on 7 December 2016

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Transcript of Sulpicia

A dual perspective
A female voice?
Like male counterparts, depicts herself as prone to erotic disillusionment
e.g. 3.16 confronts lover about his interest in another woman
Demonstrates erudition through learned references and allusion:

“Prevailed upon by my Camenae Cytherea delivered him into my arms on trust” (3.13.3-4)

Also relies on powerful element of realism
e.g. 3.14 requests that Messalla allow her to celebrate her birthday in the city
Encountering Sulpicia
Poems attributed to Sulpicia found in Book Three of Tibullus
An overview of Book Three:
final stages of relationship with mistress called Neaera (poet calls himself Lygdamus)
panegryic to Messalla in his consulate year (31BC) in hexameter
love of Sulpicia and Cerinthus (from a variety of perspectives)
change speaker; use mythological subjects
much shorter; more spontaneous; closer to epigrammatic form of Catullus
infidelity of an unnamed mistress (poet calls himself Tibullus)
short elegy on hurtfulness of gossip
In Renaissance 7-20 often separated in fourth book
Lygdamus - derived from Greek translation of Tibullus’ family name (Albius Tibullus)?
albus = white; lygdinos = marble-white
Common consensus = ‘four poets and a poetess’ (Holzberg):
1-6: Lygdamus
7: anonymous
8-12: sympathetic friend of Sulpicia
13-18: Sulpicia
19-20: pseudo-Tibullus
Three recent theories on the authorship of Sulpicia poems
Holzberg (2001): poetic joke by
single Flavian male author
see also Tränkle (1990)
Hallett (2002):
female authorship
- all poems mentioning Sulpicia by Augustan Sulpicia
Hubbard (2004): two cycles of Sulpicia poems written by
male author
as presents for a wedding and the following wedding anniversary
(possibly for wedding of Sulpicia herself)
Implications of each of those theories

Internal evidence from poems themselves:
3.16.4: claims she is the
daughter of Servius
Servius Sulpicius married to Valeria, sister of Messalla
Sulpicia = Messalla’s niece
Fits with idea of
(Book Three as a collection of poems all from members of Messalla’s literary circle)
Tibullus as supervisor to Sulpicia and the memory box theory

3.13 as programmatic statement
Mixed message? Disclosure vs concealment
Wants to tell the world about her love:

"At last has come a love which it would disgrace me more to hide out of shame than expose to someone" (3.13.1-2)

But doesn’t actively tell the world; urges it be said:

"My joys can be the talk of all those who have none of their own" (3.13.5-6)

Appears to negotiate a position of telling and not telling; combines outspokenness with passivity
Both like and unlike her male counterparts
Unique perspective as both subject and object of erotic discourse
8 poems in 1st person
(3.9, 3.11, 3.13-18)
3 poems in 3rd person
(3.8, 3.10, 3.12)
Sulpicia is also a
scripta puella
: in 3.8 narrator fantasises about her in different attire:

"She burns one if she opts to appear in Tyrian robes;
she burns one if she arrives dressed in snow white."

Element of male fantasy here: womanufacture
Metapoetic element to the different versions of dress

2 poems on same subject: Sulpcia's illness
3.17 Sulpicia’s version:

"Do you feel real concern, Cerinthus, for your girl
now that a fever afflicts my tired body?
Ah, I would not choose to conquer the wretched illness
Unless I thought that you wished it.
What should I gain by conquering illness if you
Can bear my suffering with a cold heart?" (3.17)

Illness as metaphor for love; recognisable feature of elegy
Reluctance to be cured (the end of poetry)
Poem is plea for confirmation of Cerinthus’ love
Cerinthus as
(like Gallus' Lycoris)

Same theme from a different perspective
3.10: Concerned friend of Sulpicia tries to take action, invoking Apollo:

"Come here and cure the sickness of a tender girl,
Come here, Phoebus […]" (3.10.1-2)

Dubious concern for Sulpicia’s body:

"Believe me, hurry, Phoebus, and you will not regret
laying healing hands on beauty.
Make sure those pale limbs do not waste away
and no bad colour marks her fair body" (3.10.5-6)

Objectifies elegiac lover through use of her body (but cf. 3.17.2 where she also mentions her body)
Cerinthus is not cold-hearted, but concerned (3.10.15)
Sulpicia looks like
dura puella
in her anger (3.10.21-2)

The response to Sulpicia
None of the male elegists mention Sulpicia by name
But Ovid
3.14 = criticism of unnamed woman too open about her sexual misbehaviour
Emphasis on the woman’s words and their circulation in public – points to poetry?
Repeatedly employs words used by Sulpicia in 3.13 (e.g.
Criticises realism and humiliation it brings to poet and lover alike – double-standard
Sulpician Narrative
Fragmentary narrative
Limited opportunity for storytelling on account of epigrammatic brevity of poems
Nevertheless, attempts to piece together novel-like story (e.g. Skoie, 2008)
8-18 follows story: initial infatuation to suspicion and disillusionment
‘Non-narrated story’; events related through showing rather than telling (mimetic rather than diegetic)

Discover Cerinthus’ infidelity not because we’re told, but because of evidence of 3.16:

“You’re welcome to toga-love and a basket-laden strumpet instead of Servius’ daughter Sulpicia” (3.16.3-4)

Reality of separation feared in 3.14 only revealed at start of 3.15:

“That dreary journey’s lifted, you know, from your girl’s heart” (3.15.1)

More like diary entries or letters
Further reading:
Flaschenriem, B. L. (1999) ‘Sulpicia and the Rhetoric of Disclosure’,
Classical Philology
94: 36-54.
Hallett, J. P. (2006) ‘Sulpicia and her
: An Intertextual Approach to Recovering her Latin Literary Image’,
Classical World
100: 37-42.
Holzberg, N. (1999) ‘Four Poets and a Poetess or a Portrait of the Poet as a Young Man? Thoughts on Book 3 of the
Corpus Tibullianum
Classical Journal
94: 169-91.
Hubbard, T. K. (2004-5) ‘The Invention of Sulpicia’,
Classical Journal
100.2: 177-194.
Keith, A. (2006) ‘Critical Trends in Interpreting Sulpicia’,
Classical World
100: 3-10.
Lowe, N. J. (1988) ‘Sulpicia’s Syntax’,
Classical Quarterly
38: 193-205.
Merriam, C. U. (2006) ‘Sulpicia: Just Another Roman Poet’,
Classical World
100.1: 11-16.
Milnor, K. (2002) ‘Sulpicia’s (Corpo)reality: Elegy, Authorship, and the Body in [Tibullus] 3.13’,
Classical Antiquity
21.2: 259-282.
Parker, H. N. (1994) ‘Sulpicia, the Auctor de Sulpicia, and the Authorship of 3.9 and 3.11 of the
Corpus Tibullianum
21: 39-62.
Richlin, A. (1992) ‘Sulpicia the Satirist’,
Classical World
86: 125-140.
Roessel, D. (1990) ‘The Significance of the Name Cerinthus in the Poems of Sulpicia’,
Transactions of the American Philological Association
120: 243-250.
Santirocco, M. S. (1979) ‘Sulpicia Reconsidered’,
Classical Journal
74: 229-39.
Skoie, M. (2008) ‘Telling Sulpicia’s Joys: Narrativity at the Receiving End’ in Liveley, G. and P. Salzman-Mitchell, eds.
Latin Elegy and Narratology: Fragments of Story
. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press. 241-256.
Tränkle, H. (1990)
Appendix Tibulliana
. Berlin: De Gruyter.
The Petale epitaph:

Passer-by. Observe the ashes of Sulpicia the lectrix/the lectrix of Sulpicia,
to whom the slave-name ‘Petale’ had been given.
She had lived thrice ten years plus four,
and on earth, she had brought forth a son, Aglaos (‘glorious’);
She had seen all the good things of nature, and was strong in artistry;
she was splendid in beauty, and had grown [mature] in intellect.
Envious Fortune was unwilling that she should spend a long time in life:
the Fates’ distaff itself failed them.

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