Propertius 2.31: what the poet says he saw
Steenkamp, Johan Jacobus
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Not only has Propertius 2.31 been used as a kind of artefact to reconstruct the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine, but it has also been used to show both that the poet was supporting the new ruler of Rome by eulogising his building projects and to show that the poet was anti-Augustan and expressed his opinions through subtly embedded allusions in the poem. This paper re-examines the artworks described in the poem, recent archaeological evidence and some of the poet’s earlier work in order to understand to what extent the temple described in the poem corresponded to the physical temple in Rome; what kind of political message or social commentary the poem delivers, if any; and what this message says about the world of the poet. The paper concludes that it is impossible to say how closely the description of the Temple of Apollo in the poem corresponded to the actual temple, partly because the poet could and probably did exploit the fact that his audience were familiar with the temple, such as emphasising certain features by omitting them. The poem does have a political message suggested by the detail of the artworks it describes, but this message is not anti-Augustan per se. Compared to the author’s other early work, the poem professes strong pacifist sentiments, as is common to Roman elegy, but at no stage blames the princeps for the loss of human life which Propertius’ poems deplores.
- Faculty of Theology