Tibullus with Parthenius against Gallus on gender in love & war

In the first century BGC, Parthenius of Nicaea supplied Cornelius Gallus with ancient Greek stories to use in his poetry. Gallus became renowned as the earliest of the great Latin love elegists.[1] A military leader who conquered five cities and became the ruler of the new Roman province of Egypt, Gallus contributed significantly to developing love elegy’s gendered figure of “love’s warfare {militia amoris}.” Like most modern scholars, Gallus failed to understand critically violence against men in Parthenius’s collection. Tibullus, another leading Latin love elegist of the first century BGC, evoked violence against men to create a sophisticated poetic rejection of Gallus’s love elegy.

Parthenius’s story concerning Pallene shows how violence against men relates to men’s love for women. Pallene was the daughter of Sithon, King of the Odomanti in Thrace. Renowned for her beauty and her pleasing temperament toward men, Pallene attracted many men who wanted to marry her. Sithon tested Pallene’s suitors by fighting each one to the death. The precious woman Pallene was thus positioned as a prize that either father or potential husband could earn at the cost of the other man’s life. In the parallel story of Hippodamia, King Oenamous, and Pelops, the father killed eighteen men suitors to assert his superior right to live with his daughter. Horrific violence against men is associated with women’s relatively high social value and privilege.

The social construction of gender under gynocentrism has defined men’s virtue in terms of their strength and fighting ability against other men. When King Sithon grew much older and physically weaker, he realized that he could no longer successfully fight against Pallene’s suitors. He thus considered himself no longer worthy to be the primary man-object of his daughter’s affection. Sithon arranged for two new suitors, Dryas and Cleitus, to fight to death for the prize of being able to marry Pallene. Men have long endured systemic sexual disadvantage relative to women. Men should not have to fight for women’s love any more than women should have to fight for men’s love.

Women are complicit in violence against men. Women, directly or indirectly, commonly motivate, incite, or determine violence against men. So it was with Pallene:

When the appointed combat day dawned, Pallene (who, so it turned out, had fallen in love with Cleitus) was very much afraid for him. She had not the heart to confess this to any of her attendants. But her cheeks so ran with tears that eventually her old tutor realised and diagnosed her condition. He told her to keep her spirits up and that things would go just as she wanted. Secretly he approached Dryas’s charioteer. He promised him a great deal of money if he would not insert the linch-pins in Dryas’s chariot-wheels. So when they went out to battle and Dryas charged at Cleitus, the wheels fell away from under his chariot. Cleitus rushed up to Dryas as he lay there and killed him.

{ τῆς δὲ ἀφωρισμένης ἡμέρας παρούσης, ἡ Παλλήνη (ἔτυχε γὰρ ἐρῶσα τοῦ Κλείτου) πάνυ ὀρρώδει περὶ αὐτοῦ· καὶ σημῆναι μὲν οὐκ ἐτόλμα τινὶ τῶν ἀμφ᾿ αὑτήν5, δάκρυα δὲ πολλὰ ἐχεῖτο τῶν παρειῶν αὐτῆς, ἕως ὅτε ὁ τροφεὺς αὐτῆς πρεσβύτης, ἀναπυνθανόμενος καὶ ἐπιγνοὺς τὸ πάθος, τῇ μὲν θαρρεῖν παρεκελεύσατο ὡς, ᾗ βούλεται, ταύτῃ τοῦ πράγματος χωρήσοντος· αὐτὸς δὲ κρύφα ὑπέρχεται τὸν ἡνίοχον τοῦ Δρύαντος καὶ αὐτῷ χρυσὸν πολὺν ὁμολογήσας πείθει διὰ τῶν ἁρματηγῶν τροχῶν μὴ διεῖναι τὰς περόνας. ἔνθα δή, ὡς ἐς μάχην ἐξῄεσαν καὶ ἤλαυνεν ὁ Δρύας ἐπὶ τὸν Κλεῖτον, καὶ οἱ τροχοὶ περιερρύησαν αὐτῷ τῶν ἁρμάτων καὶ οὕτως πεσόντα αὐτὸν ἐπιδραμὼν ὁ Κλεῖτος ἀναιρεῖ. }[2]

King Sithon had at least a primitive sense of justice. For her manipulation of the violence among men, he planned to immolate his daughter Pallone upon the funeral pyre for the unfairly killed Dryas. In modern societies, women’s tears prompt grossly gender-disparate sentences for similar crimes. In this story, the sky poured down rain and extinguished Dryas’s funeral fire. Interpreting this natural event to signal a divine mandate for women’s privilege, Sithon allowed Pallene to live and marry Cleitus.

Gallus, horseman on trilingual stela

Cornelius Gallus failed to perceive the critical perspective on gender and violence that Parthenius provided through his stories of sufferings in love. Gallus instead accepted the dominant Roman valuation of men and achieved preeminence within it. Gallus led a Roman army in Octavian’s successful invasion of Egypt in 30 BGC. As a reward for his military service, Gallus received the title of Imperial Adjunct. He was made chief administrator of the new Roman province of Egypt. With an inscription on a stela, Gallus celebrated his own military exploits, including “defeated the enemy; victor in two battles, conqueror of five cities {hostem vicit, bis acie victor, V urbium expugnator}.”[3] Gallus was a proud survivor of brutal violence against men.

Gallus also fought for women’s love. He had a love affair with an actress / courtesan called Cytheris, thought to be a Roman freedwoman named Volumnia. She, however, left him to follow Mark Antony in Gaul. Rome’s triumph over Cleopatra and Antony in Egypt almost surely didn’t mean that Gallus received Cytheris’s love. Gallus apparently fought for her love with four books of love elegy. Those books centered on a courtesan named Lycoris, probably a figure for Cytheris / Volumnia.[4] Virgil envisioned questioning Gallus’s insane, failed love:

All ask: “From where is that love of yours?” Apollo came:
“Gallus, what is this insanity?” he said, “Your dear Lycoris
is following another man through snows and horrid camps.”

{ omnes “unde amor iste” rogant “tibi?” venit Apollo:
“Galle, quid insanis?” inquit. “tua cura Lycoris
perque nives alium perque horrida castra secuta est.” }[5]

According to Virgil, Gallus himself, mired in a military engagement, was raving in love for his lost Lycoris:

Here are frigid springs, here are soft meadows, Lycoris,
here are the woods: here eternity itself to be spent with you.
Now insane love for the harsh god of war keeps me armed,
detained amid clashing weapons and hostile forces.
You are far from your fatherland — would I not believe such.
Ah! harsh one, Alpine snows and the cold Rhine you see
without me, alone. Ah! May the cold do you no harm!
Ah! May the sharp ice not cut your tender soles!

{ Hic gelidi fontes, hic mollia prata, Lycori,
hic nemus; hic ipso tecum consumerer aevo.
nunc insanus Amor duri me Martis in armis
tela inter media atque adversos detinet hostis.
tu procul a patria – nec sit mihi credere tantum –
Alpinas, a, dura nives et frigora Rheni
me sine sola vides. a, te ne frigora laedant!
a, tibi ne teneras glacies secet aspera plantas! }

Ovid described the outcome of Gallus’s manly struggles:

Gallus is famed in the West, and Gallus in the East,
and with Gallus shall be famed his Lycoris.

{ Gallus et Hesperiis et Gallus notus Eois,
et sua cum Gallo nota Lycoris erit. }[6]

Lycoris’s name indeed became famous with Gallus. That’s not the same as Gallus growing old with his beloved woman. Martial declared, “beautiful Lycoris was Gallus’s genius {ingenium Galli pulchra Lycoris erat}.”[7] That’s an early version of a now-common claim that a man owes all his success to a woman. An elegiac fragment from Parthenius seems to say, “derived no profit from sweet marriage { ‒⏑⏑ ] ος γλυκερῶν οὐκ ἀπελ [‒⏑⏑‒ }.” Gallus surely didn’t have a sweet marriage with Lycoris.[8]

Gallus’s successful violence against men also didn’t bring him enduring happiness. A short time after being made chief administrator of Egypt, he incurred the displeasure of Emperor Augustus. The Roman Senate condemned Gallus. He then committed suicide. Weak evidence suggests that he was subject to an order of “condemnation of memory {damnatio memoriae},” e.g. obliteration of the records of his life. If so, that obliteration wasn’t complete. Verses of Propertius on Gallus have survived:

And recently, dead for beautiful Lycoris, Gallus has
washed how many wounds in the waters of the infernal world.

{ et modo formosa quam multa Lycoride Gallus
mortuus inferna vulnera lavit aqua. }[9]

Gallus died violently, like many of Pallene’s suitors in Parthenius’s story. Gallus didn’t appreciate the deaths of those suitors.[10] Like most men, Gallus didn’t defy the oppression of men under gynocentrism. Gallus lived and died the difficult, violent life set out for men.

Unlike Gallus, Tibullus celebrated simple, peaceful country life. The first elegy in Tibullus’s first book begins:

Let another gather for himself wealth of yellow gold
and hold many acres of well-plowed soil,
let endless work terrify him, with an enemy nearby,
and sounds of war-trumpets driving away sleep.
Let my moderate means lead me to a quiet life,
while my hearth shines with constant flame.

{ Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti,
dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus. }[11]

Tibullus’s last elegy in that book begins:

Who was he who first brought forth the horrid sword?
How iron-willed and truly made of iron was he!
Then slaughter of men began, then war was born,
then a quicker road was opened to fearful death.
Perhaps that wretch merits blame for nothing: do we turn to evil
what he gave us to use on ferocious beasts?
That’s the curse of wealth in gold. No wars were made
when the beech-wood cup stood beside men’s feasts.
No fortresses or fences were there; the flock’s leader
sought sleep securely among the speckled sheep.
Then I might have lived, Valgius, and not known sad
arms nor heard the trumpet-call with trembling heart.
Now I’m dragged to war, and perhaps already some foe
carries the spear that will stick my side.

{ Quis fuit, horrendos primus qui protulit enses?
quam ferus et vere ferreus ille fuit!
tum caedes hominum generi, tum proelia nata,
tum brevior dirae mortis aperta via est.
an nihil ille miser meruit, nos ad mala nostra
vertimus, in saevas quod dedit ille feras?
divitis hoc vitium est auri, nec bella fuerunt,
faginus astabat cum scyphus ante dapes.
non arces, non vallus erat, somnumque petebat
securus varias dux gregis inter oves.
tunc mihi vita foret, Valgi, nec tristia nossem
arma nec audissem corde micante tubam.
nunc ad bella trahor, et iam quis forsitan hostis
haesura in nostro tela gerit latere. }[12]

As Tibullus knew from the stories of Parthenius, peace in an idyllic age before the invention of iron is merely a dream. Violence against men is as old as humans made woman and man.

Marie de Medici as Bellona

Tibullus understood that violence against men has women at its center. The first elegy of Tibullus’s first book, which begins with quiet country life and warm hearth, immediately changes that life slightly but significantly:

I don’t require the wealth of my forefathers,
such as the harvest piled together by my ancient ancestor.
A little field is enough — enough to sleep in peace
if I am able to rest my limbs on my usual bed.
What joy to hear the harsh winds as I recline,
holding my lady to my tender breast,
or, when winter wind from the south sheds frigid showers,
to sleep serenely, helped by an accompanying fire.

{ non ego divitias patrum fructusque requiro,
quos tulit antiquo condita messis avo:
parva seges satis est; satis est, requiescere lecto
si licet et solito membra levare toro.
quam iuvat immites ventos audire cubantem
et dominam tenero continuisse sinu
aut, gelidas hibernus aquas cum fuderit Auster,
securum somnos igne iuvante sequi. }[13]

Now Tibullus’s rustic dream includes a ruling “lady {domina}.” In the following, telling half-verse, he declares, “This is my fate {Hoc mihi contingat}.” Tibullus continues on to show that his fate of having a ruling lady disrupts his dream of a simple, rustic life. Gallus’s surviving elegiac verses connect sadness in love to military triumph:

sad, Lycoris, by your misbehavior

My fate will then be sweet to me, Caesar, when you
are the most important part of Roman history,
and when I read of many gods’ temples after your return
the richer for being adorned with your spoils.

{ tristia nequitia … Lycori

Fata mihi, Caesar, tum erunt mea dulcia, quom tu
maxima Romanae pars eris historiae
postque tuum reditum multorum templa deorum
fixa legam spolieis deivitiora tueis. }[14]

Tibullus’s patron Messalla, a figure of Gallus, and Tibullus’s beloved Delia, a figure of Lycoris, tear into his dream and reshape his fate:

Let him be wealthy, by right,
who can endure the raging seas and the mournful rain.
O, let however much gold and emeralds be lost,
rather than any girl would weep about my travels.
Messalla, for you war by land and sea is fitting,
so that your house might display enemy takings,
but the chains of a lovely girl bind me captive here,
and I sit as a doorman before her harsh entrance.
I’m not concerned for praise, my Delia, as long as
I’m with you. Please allow me to be called idle and lazy.
When my highest hour has come, let me gaze on you;
may I hold you, as I die, in my failing grasp.

{ sit dives iure, furorem
qui maris et tristes ferre potest pluvias.
o quantum est auri pereat potiusque smaragdi,
quam fleat ob nostras ulla puella vias.
te bellare decet terra, Messalla, marique,
ut domus hostiles praeferat exuvias:
me retinent vinctum formosae vincla puellae,
et sedeo duras ianitor ante fores.
non ego laudari curo, mea Delia; tecum
dum modo sim, quaeso segnis inersque vocer.
te spectem, suprema mihi cum venerit hora;
te teneam moriens deficiente manu. }[15]

Tibullus’s dream of rustic simplicity has evaporated. He’s enslaved in love. He’s desperate seeking the love of Delia, who locks him out of her house. With an allusion to sexual consummation, he without reason dies while she is still young. Other Tibullus elegies indicate that he’s forced to travel and fight in wars. Love has become as arbitrary as war, and love and war are poetically enmeshed:

Now trivial love is to be practiced, while breaking down doors
isn’t shameful and one delights in sowing quarrels.
Here I’m a good general and soldier. Go far away, you
ensigns and trumpets, carry wounds to greedy men,
and carry wealth to them. Secure with my gathered heap,
I’ll despise their riches, and despise hunger too.

{ nunc levis est tractanda venus, dum frangere postes
non pudet et rixas inseruisse iuvat.
hic ego dux milesque bonus: vos, signa tubaeque,
ite procul, cupidis vulnera ferte viris,
ferte et opes: ego composito securus acervo
dites despiciam despiciamque famem. }[16]

Tibullus has deliberately created semantic incoherence. Like a soldier seeking spoils, he despises hunger and is satisfied with gathering a heap of unspecified objects. The delight of love is the trivial, stupid action of breaking down doors and sowing quarrels. With this incoherence, Tibullus protested against war and against the love of Gallus’s love elegy.

While violence against men is effaced or excused within dominant gynocentric ideology, Tibullus recognized that Gallus’s love elegy endorses brutal violence against men. Tibullus mockingly declared its rules for men:

And for me let the rules be harsh, let me never be able
to praise another without her going for my eyes,
and if I’m thought to have wronged her, let me be taken by my hair
and flung face down in the middle of the street.

{ et mihi sint durae leges, laudare nec ullam
possim ego quin oculos appetat illa meos;
et si quid peccasse puter, ducarque capillis
in medias pronus proripiarque vias. }[17]

Justice systems have long treated men much more harshly than women. In the ancient world, blinding was a punishment for profaning the sacred. The woman is a sacred idol in Gallus’s love elegy. The man is merely a slave to be flung face down in the street. Ovid complained of his girlfriend, “If I praise another, wretched me, you tear out my hair with your fingernails {siquam laudavi, misero petis ungue capillos}.”[18] Urging Delia’s husband to allow him to be her guardian, Tibullus underscored men’s subordination to women in Gallus’s love elegy:

But trust her to my keeping: then I’ll not refuse
savage blows, or shrink from chains on my ankles.

{ at mihi servandam credas: non saeva recuso
verbera, detrecto non ego vincla pedum. }[19]

Men shouldn’t have to suffer savage blows from women or enslavement in love for women. Yet the abasement of men in Gallus’s love elegy is the same as the abasement of men as vassals in the sexual feudalism of troubadour and trobairitz love lyric. Like the violence against men celebrated in Homeric epic, domestic violence against men isn’t recognized within dominant gynocentric discourse. Scholarly discussion of domestic violence today, even in relation to Roman love elegy, is an appalling spectacle of ignorance and gender bigotry.[20]

Men in Gallus’s love elegy enjoy love as war. Gallus apparently was a patron of Tibullus’s near contemporary Propertius. Propertius wrote that his beloved girl abusing him was sweet:

Sweet to me was the lamplight brawl we had last night,
all the abuse from your insane tongue.
You be truly bold: attack my hair
and scratch my face with your lovely nails.
You threaten to bring a flame to burn out my eyes —
rip my clothes and strip bare my chest!
When crazed with wine, you knock over the table and
with your insane hand fling at me full cups.

Let love-rivals see the wounds of my bitten neck.
Let bruises inform that I’ve had my girl with me.
I want either to suffer in love or hear of suffering,

{ Dulcis ad hesternas fuerat mihi rixa lucernas,
vocis et insanae tot maledicta tuae.
tu vero nostros audax invade capillos
et mea formosis unguibus ora nota,
tu minitare oculos subiecta exurere flamma,
fac mea rescisso pectora nuda sinu!
cum furibunda mero mensam propellis et in me
proicis insana cymbia plena manu

in morso aequales videant mea vulnera collo:
me doceat livor mecum habuisse meam.
aut in amore dolere volo aut audire dolentem }[21]

Following Gallus, Propertius explicitly associated the pleasure of love with war:

Sweeter was love’s fire for Paris, with weapons engaged with Greeks,
so as to be able to bring pleasure to his Helen, daughter of Tyndareus.
When the Danaans were winning, with savage Hector remaining firm,
Paris waged the mightiest war in Helen’s embrace.
With weapons either with you or with a rival for you
will I always be: peace with you will never satisfy me.

{ dulcior ignis erat Paridi, cum Graia per arma
Tyndaridi poterat gaudia ferre suae:
dum vincunt Danai, dum restat barbarus Hector,
ille Helenae in gremio maxima bella gerit.
aut tecum aut pro te mihi cum rivalibus arma
semper erunt: in te pax mihi nulla placet. }

War is institutionally structured violence against men. That’s obvious, but scarcely acknowledged. Gallus’s love elegy similarly supports violence against men in love, and the subordination of men to women. Propertius didn’t challenge these premises of Gallus’s love elegy, but Tibullus did.

Bellona as Dutch woman in 1633

Tibullus ended his first book of love elegy with a deeply challenging depiction of love, war, and rustic peace. Tibullus’s tableau is as disturbing and subversive as Ausonius’s Wedding Cento:

From the woods the farmer rides, himself half-sober,
going home in a wagon with his wife and children.
But then love’s battles are inflamed. Torn hair
and broken doors the woman bewails.
She cries, her tender cheeks bruised. But the victor himself
cries that his own mad hands were so strong.
And lewd love supplies evil words to their quarrel;
between the angry couple love sits unconcerned.

{ rusticus e lucoque vehit, male sobrius ipse,
uxorem plaustro progeniemque domum.
sed veneris tunc bella calent, scissosque capillos
femina, perfractas conqueriturque fores;
flet teneras subtusa genas: sed victor et ipse
flet sibi dementes tam valuisse manus.
at lascivus Amor rixae mala verba ministrat,
inter et iratum lentus utrumque sedet. }[22]

Broken doors makes no sense relative to a couple going to their own home. That’s a figure imported from Gallus’s love elegy to this rustic scene. Torn hair and bruised cheeks are women’s self-injury in urbane lamenting of beloved men’s deaths. Relative to rustic marital love, the extra-normative love of Gallus’s love elegy plays with the couple, he half-sober and she perhaps completely drunk. The husband’s mad hands are those of the insane lover Gallus. Gallus’s love elegy here colonizes rustic love.

Tibullus in his subsequent eight verses thematically depicted men’s gender subordination to women in Gallus’s love elegy. To his earlier association of iron and war Tibullus added stone, a much more primitive substance:

Oh, he’s stone and iron, he whoever would strike his girl:
that pulls down the gods from the heavens.
Let it be enough to have torn thin clothes from her limbs.
Let it be enough to have tousled her adorned hair.
Having moved her to tears is enough, for four times blessed is he
whose anger is able to make a tender girl weep.
But he whose hands will be savage — he should carry
a shield and pike and be far from the gentle love goddess.

{ a lapis est ferrumque, suam quicumque puellam
verberat: e caelo deripit ille deos.
sit satis e membris tenuem rescindere vestem
sit satis ornatus dissoluisse comae
sit lacrimas movisse satis; quater ille beatus
quo tenera irato flere puella potest.
sed manibus qui saevus erit, scutumque sudemque
is gerat et miti sit procul a Venere. }

This gentle love goddess just spurred the rustic couple’s quarrel. Within heterosexual conflict, women’s violence is privileged. The girl may gouge out the boy’s eyes, but the gods protect the girl from the boy hitting her. To be repeatedly blessed with the fire of the woman’s passion, the man must successfully enact masculine love play: tearing off the woman’s thin clothes, tousling her hair, and dominating her emotionally. Tibullus elsewhere described the war-goddess Bellona, working on behalf of Love, savagely bloodying her own arms with a double-axe. Roman military service put to arms slave men, men conscripts, and citizen men compelled to fight according to gendered selective service. Associating men in the Roman army with savages unworthy of love devalues men’s lives relative to women’s lives.

Tibullus almost surely meant his concluding presentation of rustic domestic violence to be critical insight into Gallus’s love elegy. Tibullus’s patron Messalla served in the Roman army, as did Tibullus himself. Neither are plausibly interpreted in Tibullus’s elegy as truly savage men. The savage man unworthy of love is better interpreted as pointing to Gallus’s love elegy. That poetically associated love with war. It also supported men’s gender subordination in love and war. Tibullus’s first book of elegies concludes:

But come to us with wheat in your hand, nourishing Peace;
may your shining white breast flow with fruits before us.

{ at nobis, Pax alma, veni spicamque teneto,
profluat et pomis candidus ante sinus. }

This rustic image of feminine peace has an erotic charge. Violence against men arises primarily from men competing for women’s love and men striving to serve women. Peace isn’t a fruit of women’s breasts. Peace depends on men culturally sophisticated enough to strive to love other men as much as they naturally love women. Tibullus’s distinctive and sophisticated use of “country life {rura}” works ironically against the themes of “love {amor}” and “war / military service {militia}” established in Gallus’s love elegy.[23]

Parthenius’s stories of suffering in love are consistent with Tibullus’s subtle understanding of violence against men. Parthenius recounted persons overcoming insane love through moral reflection. Parthenius represented women culpably entangled in violence against men, including rape of men. He also presented solidarity among men as vital to gender equality and social justice. Parthenius dedicated his story collection to Gallus, yet Gallus didn’t appreciate its significance for love elegy. Tibullus, whether via Parthenius or some other source, understood from ancient Greek stories the key meninist theme of love for men.[24]

Meninist literary criticism encompasses, penetrates, and moves beyond both feminist theory and queer theory. Man, whether a generic abstraction for humans or an instantiation of toxic masculinity, must yeild to men as fully human beings worthy of love merely for their being. Men carry a seminal blessing. Men have created most of the material structure of modern civilization. Both women and men should love men. The future of humane civilization, if there is one, isn’t female. It’s meninist.

*  *  *  *  *

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[1] Ovid presented himself as fourth in a line of eminent elegists:

greedy fate gave
to Tibullus no time for friendship with me.
Tibullus was your successor, Gallus; Propertius his.
After them I myself came, fourth in order of time.

{ nec avara Tibullo
tempus amicitiae fata dedere meae
successor fuit hic tibi, Galle, Propertius illi;
quartus ab his serie temporis ipse fui }

Ovid, Sorrows {Tristia} 4.10.51-4, Latin text from Wheeler (1924) of the Loeb Classical Library, my English translation. Quintilian, writing in the middle of the first century GC, similarly listed four eminent Latin elegists:

In elegy, too, we challenge the Greeks. The most refined and elegant author seems to me to be Tibullus. Some prefer Propertius. Ovid is more self-indulgent than these two, Gallus more harsh.

{ Elegia quoque Graecos provocamus, cuius mihi tersus atque elegans maxime videtur auctor Tibullus. Sunt qui Propertium malint. Ovidius utroque lascivior, sicut durior Gallus. }

Quintilian, The Orator’s Education {Institutio Oratoria} 10.1.93, Latin text and English translation (modified insubstantially) from Russell (2002). While Gallus was the first of the eminent Latin love elegists, Latin love elegy existed before Gallus. Raymond (2013) p. 66. Regarding Gallus’s position in the development of Latin love elegy, Claassen summarized:

He was perhaps the first to write poems that were shorter than those of Greek elegy, which usually dealt with a single topic, but were longer than the erotic epigrams (that had the same metric form) made popular by Catullus. Recent work on Gallus seems in general to concur that the poet set the “unhappy tone” for Roman elegiacs. Parthenius dedicated his erotic myths to Gallus, who may have been the first to draw himself as first-person participant within a myth.

Claassen (2017) pp. 322-3, n. 28.

[2] Parthenius of Nicaea, Sufferings in Love {Ἐρωτικὰ Παθήματα} 6.4-5 (About Pallene {Περὶ Παλλήνης}), ancient Greek text and English translation (modified slightly to be more easily readable) from Lightfoot (2009). All the details of the story above are from Parthenius’s account. The manchette for this story states, “The story is told by Theagenes and in Hegesippus’ Palleniaca {Ἱστορεῖ Θεαγένης καὶ Ἡγήσιππος ἐν Παλληνιακοῖς}.” Id. Here’s the Greek text of Hercher (1858). For comparison to similar ancient Greek stories, Lightfoot (1999) pp. 403-7. Lightfoot’s commentary shows no concern for the horrific violence against men.

[3] Inscription on trilingual stela erected in Philae 29 BGC. Latin text (CIL 3.1414 7,5) from Packard Humanities Institute’s Epigraphy Database (simplified textual presentation), my English translation benefiting from those of Minas-Nerpelm & Pfeiffer (2010) pp. 281-2 and Török (2008) via Attalus. On what’s known of Gallus’s biography, Raymond (2013).

[4] On Gallus love for Cytheris / Volumnia and her leaving him for Mark Antony, Raymond (2013) p. 60. The fourth-century commentator Servius, writing on Virgil, Eclogue 10.1, states that Gallus was “an eminent poet {poeta eximius}”; Gallus “wrote four books on his love for Cytheris {amorum suorum de Cytheride scripsit libros quattuor}.”

[5] Virgil, Eclogue 10.21-3, Latin text from Fairclough & Goold (1999), my English translation benefiting from that of id. and A.S. Kline (2001). The subsequent quote is similarly from Eclogue 10.42-9.

[6] Ovid, Loves {Amores} 1.15.29-30, Latin text from Ehwald (1907) via Perseus, my English translation. Here are William Turpin’s textual notes and A.S. Kline’s translation of the full poem.

[7] Martial, Epigrams {Epigrammata} 8.73.6, Latin text from Heraeus & Borovskij (1925) via Perseus, my English translation.

[8] Parthenius of Nicaea, Poetic Fragments, fragment 27a, ancient Greek text (slightly simplified presentation) and English translation from Lightfoot (2009) pp. 516-7. Parthenius wrote a farewell poem to one traveling overseas (a propemptikon {προπεμπτικόν}). Parthenius, fragment 26, available in id. Gallus apparently wrote a propemptikon to Lycoris. Cairns (1979) p. 226. Nothing is known about the relation of Parthenius’s propemptikon to Gallus’s propemptikon.

Gallus almost surely never married Lycoris. Whether Gallus married isn’t known. Martial describes a Roman official in north Africa (Libya) named Gallus who had an adulterous, promiscuous wife. Martial suggests that Gallus’s wife preferred to penetrate sexually others:

Among the peoples of Libya, your wife, Gallus, has a bad reputation
for the ugly crime of immoderate greed.
But the stories are sheer lies. She isn’t accustomed to
take at all. To what then is she accustomed? To give.

{ Gentibus in Libycis uxor tua, Galle, male audit
immodicae foedo crimine avaritiae.
sed mera narrantur mendacia: non solet illa
accipere omnino. quid solet ergo? dare. }

Martial, Epigrammata 2.56, sourced as above. Galli were castrated men who served the goddess Cybele. They were thought to perform oral sex on women. Nicholas (2017) p. 26.

Whether Martial was referring specially to Cornelius Gallus in 2.56, or some other Roman official in north Africa named Gallus, isn’t clear. Propertius refers to three or four different men named Gallus (Kline (2001) identifies four; Somerville (2009) and others, three). However, given Cornelius Gallus’s eminence as both a literary author and a Roman official, this epigram likely cast a shadow on Cornelius Gallus in ancient readers’ minds.

Martial 4.16 insinuates that a man named Gallus was having sex with his stepmother. In particular, he wasn’t her stepson while she was his father’s wife, and after his father died, she lived with him. That reference to Gallus lacks the additional specificity of he being a Roman official in north Africa.

[9] Propertius, Elegies 2.34.91-2, Latin text from the Teubner edition of Mueller (1898) via Perseus, my English translation. A.S. Kline provides a freely available English translation of the whole poem. Cf. Propertius, Elegies 1.5, 1.10, and 1.13, all of which some scholars plausibly argue refer to Cornelius Gallus. Cairns (2006) argues that Gallus was a major influence on Propertius and that Gallus was a patron of Propertius.

[10] Cairns speculated, “the influence of Parthenius upon Gallus must have been strong.” Cairns (1979) p. 226. At least with respect to violence against men and gender, the evidence seems to me to suggest that Parthenius had little influence upon Gallus.

[11] Tibullus, Elegies {Elegiae} 1.1.1-6, Latin text from Postgate (1913), my English translation benefiting from that of id. and A.S. Kline (2001). The hearth shining with “constant {adsiduo}” flame seems to me to suggest light connecting earth and sky (“to the star {astro}”). Subsequent quotes from Tibullus are similarly sourced. For a straight-forward, accessible review of the themes of love, war, and country life in Tibullus, Brazouski (1979).

[12] Tibullus, Elegiae 1.10.1-14. Here are some English translation notes. The wonderful translation “How iron-willed and truly made of iron he was! {Quam ferus et vere ferreus ille fuit!}” is from A.S. Kline.

The manuscript reading vulgi in v. 1.10.11 is suspect. Recent editions emend to valgi. That implies Tibullus addressing his contemporary Valgius Rufus, a Roman senator and writer of Latin elegy. Two fifteenth-century manuscripts record the conjecture dulcis. The Gallus fragment from Qaṣr Ibrîm provides some additional support for dulcis. O’Hara (2005). O’Hara commented, “if we read dulcis, we find that the verses on the Gallus papyrus influenced Tibullus.” Id. p. 319. Gallus undoubtedly influenced Tibullus. As argued above, Tibullus at the broad thematic level seems to have written against Gallus’s love elegy.

[13] Tibullus, Elegiae 1.1.41-8. Tibullus contrasted the beloved “lady of the house {domina}” in v. 46 with references to the beloved “girl {puella}” of Gallus’s love elegy in vv. 52 and 55. Claassen observed: “It is now generally accepted that use of domina (‘mistress’) in the erotic sense in elegy originated with Gallus.” Id. p. 330.

[14] From Qaṣr Ibrîm papyrus with text attributed to Gallus; Latin text (simplified presentation) and English translation (adapted insubstantially) from Anderson, Parsons & Nisbet (1979) p. 140. This Gallus fragment has attracted enormous scholarly attention. See, e.g. the work of Adrian Pay, such as Pay (2016). For a comprehensive recent review and analysis, Claassen (2017) pp. 325-34.

[15] Tibullus, Elegiae 1.1.49-60. O’Rourke associated Tibullus 1 and 10 with the song of Ares and Aphrodite in the Odyssey and Empedoclean conflict between love and strike as represented in Lucretius’s De rerum natura. Concerning the emergence of Delia in Tibullus’s arms, O’Rourke stated:

Given Tibullus’ quasi-Epicurean desire to live a peaceful and secluded life, and the specific evocations of Lucretius earlier in the elegy, it is tempting to contemplate in this picture of Tibullus, loving and dying in Delia’s embrace at the opening of Book 1, an analogy with the embracing lovers Mars and Venus in parallel position at the opening of De rerum natura 1.

O’Rourke (2014) para. 10. Tibullus seems to me to have moved on to a critical perspective like that on Mars and Venus in Johannes de Hauvilla’s Architrenius.

[16] Tibullus, Elegiae 1.1.73-8. On Tibullus’s military travel with Messalla, 1.3.1-22. and on Messalla’s foreign military success, 1.7. Messalla’s triump occurred on September 25, 27 BGC. Tibullus imagines himself having died “following Messalla by land and sea {Messallam terra dum sequiturque mari}.” 1.3.56; cf. 1.1.45. Nonetheless, Tibullus also proclaims:

That man was iron who, when he could have possessed you,
foolishly preferred to follow after war and plunder.
Let him chase Cilicia’s routed troop before him,
and pitch his war camp on captured ground.
All covered in silver, all in gold,
let him conspicuously sit on his swift horse.
If only I myself might yoke oxen with you, Delia,
and graze flocks on the usual hill,
and while I hold you in my tender arms,
soft sleep be mine even on the rugged earth.

{ ferreus ille fuit qui, te cum posset habere,
maluerit praedas stultus et arma sequi.
ille licet Cilicum victas agat ante catervas,
ponat et in capto Martia castra solo,
totus et argento contectus, totus et auro,
insideat celeri conspiciendus equo;
ipse boves mea si tecum modo Delia possim
iungere et in solito pascere monte pecus,
et te dum liceat teneris retinere lacertis,
mollis et inculta sit mihi somnus humo. }

1.2.67-74. Conflicting claims and irony are central to Tibullus’s love elegy.

[17] Tibullus, Elegiae 1.6.69-72.

[18] Ovid, Loves {Amores} 2.7.7, Latin text from the Teubner edition of Ehwald (1907) via Perseus, my English translation. Here’s A.S. Kline’s translation of the whole poem.

[19] Tibullus, Elegiae 1.6.37-8. Women’s violence against men sometimes provokes men’s violence against women. In reality, much of domestic violence is mutual violence. Yet that mutual violence isn’t a normative expression of love. It’s thus distinct from the mutual violence that Tibullus depicted within Gallus’s love elegy:

Then I gave her juices and herbs to erase the bruises
that mutual love makes teeth imprint on the flesh.

{ tunc sucos herbasque dedi quis livor abiret
quem facit impresso mutua dente venus. }

Tibullus, Elegiae 1.6.13-4.

[20] O’Rouke (2018) is best interpreted not as a unique authorial creation, but as reflecting pervasive gynocentric imperatives in discussing domestic volence. It approaches social-scientific literature on domestic violence with worse interpretive skills than mass-market newspaper columnists. It doesn’t consider obvious biases in survey questions about rape. The connection that it puts forward between military service and intimate-partner violence ignores gender bias in determinating perpetrators of domestic violence and gender bias in military service.

Under gynocentric dominance, scholars are compelled to make absurd claims even in relation to ancient Latin love elegy. Consider:

In Roman elegy, then, depictions of the domina’s abuse of her lover should not be taken as recognition that the perpetrator of domestic violence is not always the male: the bruising with which Propertius threatens Cynthia if she goes to bed clothed (2.15.17-20, quoted above, p. 116) is not symbolically equivalent to that which elsewhere he invites as a token of her true love (3.8.5-10) and displays, or wishes to display, to his peers as manly ‘war wounds’ (3.8.21-2). … Ultimately, then, the marks of physical violence in elegy, whether (imagined) on the male or the female body, always betoken male dominance and female servitude.

O’Rouke (2018) p. 124. Gynocentrism upholds female dominance in part by insisting, no matter what the facts, “male dominance and female servitude” is the unquestionably necessary and only permissible master narrative. According to dominant gynocentric ideology, the master narrative “male dominance and female servitude” must control all reading and thinking.

[21] Propertius, Elegies {Elegiae} 3.8.1-8, 21-3, Latin text from the Teubner edition of Mueller (1898) via Perseus, my English translation. A.S. Kline provides a freely available English translation of the whole poem. In 2.5, Propertius claims that he would never act with such violence toward a beloved woman. The subsequent quote above is similarly from 3.8.29-34.

Propertius’s representation of violence is consistent with Cynthia’s violence toward him when she discovered him enjoying a threesome with Phyllis and Teia:

She angrily thrusts her fingernails into Phyllis’s face.
Terrified, Teia cries out, “Help, neighbors, come with water!”
Their screamed claims disturb the sleeping Romans,
and the whole street becomes mad with resounding voices.
With torn hair and clothes ripped, Phylllis and Teia
escape into the nearby tavern on the dark street.
Cynthia rejoices in her spoils and victoriously runs back
and gashes my face with the back of her hand,
marks my neck, drawing blood with her bite,
and especially strikes my eyes, which deserve it.
And at last when her arms tire from beating me,
she drags forth Lygdamus from hiding at the bed’s
left side. Prostrate, he pleads to my guardian spirit.

{ Phyllidos iratos in vultum conicit ungues:
territa ‘vicini,’ Teþïa clamat, ‘aquam!’
crimina sopitos turbant elata Quirites,
omnis et insana semita voce sonat.
illas direptisque comis tunicisque solutis
excipit obscurae prima taberna viae.
Cynthia gaudet in exuviis victrixque recurrit
et mea perversa sauciat ora manu,
imponitque notam collo morsuque cruentat,
praecipueque oculos, qui meruere, ferit.
atque ubi iam nostris lassavit bracchia plagis,
Lygdamus, ad plutei fulcra sinistra latens,
eruitur geniumque meum prostratus adorat. }

Propertius, Elegiae 4.8.57-69, sourced as above.

[22] Tibullus, Elegiae 1.10.51-8. On the war-goddess Bellona bloodying her arms, 1.6.45-50. On Tibullus’s challenges to gender polarization, Nikoloutsos (2011) and Damer (2014).

Tibullus didn’t want his beloved girl Delia to suffer similar wounds through traditional female mourning practices after his death:

as for you — do not offend my ghost, but spare your loosened
hair and spare your tender cheeks, Delia.

{ tu manes ne laede meos, sed parce solutis
crinibus et teneris, Delia, parce genis. }

1.1.67-8. Tibullus also emphatically rejected committing violence against Delia:

I wouldn’t wish to strike you, but if such madness
were to come to me, I’d prefer to have no hands.

{ non ego te pulsare velim, sed venerit iste
si furor, optarim non habuisse manus. }


The subsequent two quotes above are from 1.10.59-66 (Oh, he’s stone and iron…) and 1.10.67-68 (But come to us with wheat…).

[23] Gaisser recognized rura {country life} as Tibullus’s distinctive contribution to Latin love elegy. She wrote:

we shall be concerned with the relation between amor and rura. The prevailing modern view sees these themes allied against militia: love and the country-side, or love in the countryside, is viewed as Tibullus’ alternative to participation in war. We will question this view … In 1.10 and 1.1 amor is by no means represented as the poet’s principal theme; it receives less emphasis than the rura and its qualities suffer in comparison or juxtaposition with those of the rura.

Gaisser (1983) pp. 58, 72. Gaisser perceived Tibullus to be challenging Propertius’s first book. Id. p. 72. Gallus plausibly was Propertius’s patron when Propertius wrote his first book. Cairns (2006) Ch. 3-4. Tibullus’s challenge to Propertius is more generally a challenge to the poetic figuring of love and war in Gallus’s love elegy.

[24] Tibullus didn’t necessarily have to read Parthenius’s collection in order to reflect upon gender in such stories of sufferings in love. Cairns (1979) documents that Hellenistic poetry was a major influence on Tibullus.

[images] (1) Gallus as a horseman attacking a crouching warrior-man. Drawing of engraving on trilingual stela from Philae. From Bresciani (1989), p. 98, Fig. 1. On the iconography, Minas-Nerpelm & Pfeiffer (2010) pp. 275-8. (2) Marie de’ Medici (lived from 1575 to 1642) as triumphal Bellona. Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, as commissioned by Marie de’ Medici. Painted between 1621 and 1625. Preserved as accession # INV 1792 in the Louvre Museum, Paris. Image thanks to the Web Gallery of Art and Wikimedia Commons. (3) Bellona, portrayed as a contemporary Dutch woman (cropped slightly). The shield depicts the head of the Gorgon Medusa. Painting by Rembrandt van Rijn. Painted in 1633. Preserved as accession # 32.100.23 (credit: The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Image thanks to the Met and Wikimedia Commons.


Anderson, R. D., P. J. Parsons, and R. G. M. Nisbet. 1979. “Elegiacs by Gallus from Qaṣr Ibrîm.” The Journal of Roman Studies. 69: 125-155.

Brazouski, Antoinette. 1979. The Augustan Attitudes of the Poetic Persona of Tibullus. Ph.D. Thesis, Loyola University Chicago.

Bresciani, Edda. 1989. “La Stele Trilingue di Cornelio Gallo: una Rilettura Egittologica.” Egitto e Vicino Oriente. 12: 93-98.

Cairns, Francis. 1979. Tibullus: A Hellenistic Poet at Rome. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Cairns, Francis. 2006. Sextus Propertius: the Augustan elegist. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (review by Elina Pyy)

Claassen, Jo-Marie. 2017. “The Exiled Ovid’s Reception of Gallus.” The Classical Journal. 112 (3): 318-341.

Damer, Erika Zimmermann. 2014. “Gender Reversals and Intertextuality in Tibullus.” Classical World. 107 (4): 493-514.

Davis, P. J. 2012. “Reception of Elegy in Augustan and Post-Augustan Poetry.” Ch. 27 (pp. 441-458) in Gold, Barbara K., ed. A Companion to Roman Love Elegy. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Fairclough, H. Rushton, revised by G. P. Goold. 1999. Virgil. Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1-6. Loeb Classical Library 63. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gaisser, Julia Haig. 1983. “Amor, rura and militia in Three Elegies of Tibullus: 1.1, 1.5 and 1.10.” Latomus. 42 (1): 58-72.

Kline, A. S. 2001. Tibullus. Elegies. Brindin Press Virtual Chapbook 40. Online. The Latin text here seems to me inferior to that of Postgate (1913 / 1988). Alternate presention without Latin text at Poetry in Translation.

Lightfoot, J. L. 1999. Parthenius of Nicaea: The poetical fragments and the  Ἐρωτικὰ Παθήματα. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (review by Christopher Francese)

Lightfoot, J. L. 2009. Hellenistic Collection: Philitas, Alexander of Aetolia, Hermesianax, Euphorion, Parthenius. Loeb Classical Library, 508. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. (reviews by Giambattista D’Alessio, by Claudio De Stefani, and by Iiro Laukola)

Minas-Nerpelm, Martina and Stefan Pfeiffer. 2010. “Establishing Roman Rule In Egypt: The Trilingual Stela Of C. Cornelius Gallus From Philae.” Ch. 13 (pp. 265-298) in Lembke, Katja, Martina Minas-Nerpel, and Stefan Pfeiffer. Tradition and Transformation: Egypt under Roman rule: proceedings of the international conference, Hildesheim, Roemer- and Pelizaeus-Museum, 3-6 July 2008. Leiden: Brill.

Nicholas, Lucy. 2017. “Ovid’s Calculated Ambiguity.” Paper presented at Globalizing Ovid: An International Conference in Commemoration of the Bimillennium of Ovid’s Death. May 31–June 2, 2017, in Shanghai, China.

Nikoloutsos, Konstantinos P. 2011. “From Tomb to Womb: Tibullus 1.1 and the Discourse of Masculinity in Post-Civil War Rome.” Scholia: Studies in Classical Antiquity. 20 (1): 52-71.

O’Hara, James J. 2005. “War and the Sweet Life: The Gallus Fragment and the Text of Tibullus 1.10.11.” The Classical Quarterly. 55 (1): 317-319.

O’Rourke, Donncha. 2014. “Lovers in Arms: Empedoclean Love and Strife in Lucretius and the Elegists.” Dictynna 11, online.

O’Rourke, Donncha. 2018. “Make war not love: Militia amoris and domestic violence in Roman elegy.” Ch. 4 (pp. 110-139) in Gale, Monica R., and John H. D. Scourfield, eds. Texts and Violence in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pay, Adrian. 2016. “A (or Another) Note on Gallus Fr. 2.2-5 (Courtney).” Online.

Postgate, J.P. ed. and trans. 1913. Tibullus in Catullus. Tibullus. Pervigilium Veneris. Revised by G. P. Goold (1988). Loeb Classical Library 6. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Raymond, Emmanuelle. 2012. “Caius Cornelius Gallus: ‘The inventor of Latin love elegy.’” Ch. 3 (pp. 59-67) in Thorsen, Thea S., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Latin Love Elegy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Russell, Donald A., ed. and trans. 2002. Quintilian. The Orator’s Education. Volume IV: Books 9-10. Loeb Classical Library 127. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Somerville, Ted. 2009. “The Pleonasm of the New Gallus, and the Gallus of the Monobiblos.” Mnemosyne. 62 (2): 295-297.

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