Versus Eporedienses playfully mythologized Pavia’s lovely women

In their ardent love for women, men commonly proclaim that the women of their place are more lovely than women anywhere else. Late in the eleventh century near Pavia, a learned cleric apparently made that sort of boast. His love poem, known as Verses from Ivrea {Versus Eporedienses}, is a work of extraordinary literary sophistication. It also exemplifies the playfulness that generated the medieval tradition of Cyprian’s Banquet {Cena Cypriani} and outrageous parodies of the liturgy and even of women. The leading scholar of Versus Eporedienses has pointed to “its unique place in the history of Medieval Latin literature.”[1] Versus Eporedienses provides early medieval examples of metrical love poetry, description of a young woman {descriptio puella}, eternal glory via poetry, and engagement with classical Trojan myth. Beyond those merits, Versus Eporedienses should be further credited with playfully mythologizing Pavia’s women as lovely and accessible.

Versus Eporedienses characteristically begins with a small, odd change to a classical literary convention. When the winter has passed and new flowers appear, love is in the air along with birds and bees and fantasies. So Versus Eporedienses begins:

While it pleased me to play along the banks of the river Po,
chance and desire granted that a nymph returned from the river.
It was the season of flowers which is the whole source of love,
in the month of April, when writing is a pleasing allure.

{ Cum secus ora uadi placeat mihi ludere Padi,
Fors et uelle dedit, flumine Nimpha redit.
Tempus erat florum, quod fons est omnis amorum,
Mense sub Aprili cum placet esca stili. }[2]

In this first-person love poem, the narrator should be loving in April, not writing. The poem continues oddly:

At last I approached, checking who she might be.
Offering her a seat, I took a step closer.
Immediately struck by her beauty, I noticed her memorable actions,
and scarcely restrained myself from violating her.

{ Accessi tandem scrutatus que sit eandem,
Inuitans sedem de prope duco pedem.
Mox specie tactus memorandos conspicor actus
Et uix continui quod sua non minui }

Checking out persons of amorous interest is normal. However, inviting a river nymph on the banks of the Po to sit down seems strange, particularly since the narrator hasn’t yet spoken to her. Moreover, seating for river nymphs usually isn’t a feature of river banks. The scene plays as if the lover has invited a woman friend into his home. But then he observes her “memorable actions {memorandi actus}.” Is she wiggling her ichthyic hips swimmingly as she sits down? He immediately declares that he could hardly restrain himself from violating her. That “suggests a sexual assault.”[3] Immediately following his urge to violate her, he reveals that he’s too shy to speak:

And having become like a mute, I finally uttered these few words,
very timidly but still passionately:
“Young woman, halt your step by the charming Po
and by other streams. I beg you not to leap so quickly.”

{ Factus et ut mutus, tandem sum pauca locutus
Et multum pauide sed tamen hec auide:
“Siste, puella, gradum per amenum postulo <P>adum
Et per aquas alias tam cito <n>e salias.” }

Leaping in streams suggests that the girl has a fish’s tail in place of legs. That makes his reference to her “step {gradus},” like his earlier invitation for her to be seated, incongruous. He praises her beauty briefly and declares:

You outshine Juno when she comes back from Jove.

{ Iuno tibi cedit, de Ioue quando redit. }

Juno and Jove weren’t an ardently loving couple in classical myth. Moreover, Venus outshone Juno in the goddesses’ beauty contest. The author of Versus Eporedienses is an extremely learned poet. The oddities of his poem are best regarded as deliberately playful.[4]

The river nymph shuns the man and turns away her head. In the Aeneid, Dido burned with love for Aeneas. The river nymph perhaps knew Dido’s fate: “she feared talking as much as being burned by fire {sic timet ipsa loqui sicut ab igne coqui}.” But unable to restrain herself, she speaks:

If you want to know about my lineage, a royal lineage honors me.
Noble is my mother, noble is my father.
If you inquire about my forefathers, you seem to do violence to gods
from whose blood every market square knows I descend.
Make no mistake about this: the land of Troy brought me forth,
a land consecrated to a god famous for my progenitor.

{ Si de prole uoles, decorat me regia proles,
Nobilis est mater, nobilis ipse pater.
Si proauos queris, dis uim fecisse uideris,
Sanguine de quorum me sapit omne forum.
Ne super hoc erra, genuit me Trohica terra,
Terra dicata deo nota parente meo. }

This river nymph is no ordinary river nymph, but a descendant of Trojan nobility with a divine bloodline. No wonder she couldn’t restrain herself from speaking. She’s been convincingly associated with Ovid’s Amores 3.6 and Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus in influential Roman founding myth.[5] Rhea Silvia lived before Christians established pride as a cardinal sin. The river nymph could thus freely brag that even the rabble in every market square recognize her divine blood.[6] The goddess Venus favored Troy and mothered Aeneas, a mythological forefather of Rhea Silvia and Rome. Versus Eporedienses implies that the river nymph isn’t quite as beautiful as Venus. She probably isn’t as beautiful as the Greek woman Helen either. Troy, more closely associated with Hecuba than Helen, isn’t famous for attractive women.

After the river nymph declares that she is a Trojan princess, the man in Versus Eporedienses isn’t shy about expressing his interest in her. He doesn’t seek a politically useful marital alliance. He seeks caring, joyful sex:

If picking flowers from this meadow could be pleasing,
you might, moved by the offering of my prayers,
you might often under this sunshade, beautiful young woman,
be in joyful play as a man’s desired care.

{ Si foret hoc gratum floris decerpere pratum,
Tu posses mecum munere mota precum,
Sepe sub umbella posses, speciosa puella,
Ludere letari, cura cupita mari. }

“Deflowering” is a brutalizing metaphor for a man having sex with a virgin woman. This man, in contrast, highlights joy and care in repeated sexual play. He would also would like to gaze on her naked:

A spring of fresh water runs beneath a leafy olive’s branches,
beneath the tender boughs is the shelter of the goddess Venus.
In springtime it might perhaps be pleasing to bathe,
so advises the spring, the fresh grass, and the worthy place itself.

{ Currit aque uiue fons frondes subter oliue;
Ramis sub teneris umbra dee Veneris.
Tempore sub ueris placeat quod forte laueris,
Fons monet herba recens et locus ipse decens. }

There’s nothing subtle about suggesting a bath together in fresh spring water amid greenery in a shelter of the goddess of love. Yet this proposition is just the beginning of Versus Eporedienses.

Versus Eporedienses primarily concerns inviting the beloved river nymph into a city. As the leading scholar of Versus Eporedienses observed, the poet is redirecting myth:

The Ivrean poet-narrator not only appropriates Thetis’s golden cups (VE, line 58), Berenice’s onyx stone (VE, line 64), the tent that once belonged to Darius, Alexander the Great, Evander, and the Emperor Henry IV (VE, lines 151–56), the garments that Paris offered to Helen (VE, lines 215–16) etc., he also, and most importantly, seduces a Trojan princess! The erudite message is that the Po Valley now is the new Troy.[7]

In Amores 3.6, the lover seeks his beloved in the country, across a mountain stream. In Versus Eporedienses, the lover seeks to bring his beloved into a city:

Since you please the crowd, if you want, let us stay in the city;
all that you seek, you will get from the city.
The glory of the city is very great: it has rich inhabitants,
no man can know such a great drinking vessel.

There you may see all that is, except the pains of Hell.
Cities are for pursuing pleasure; they’re places with desired beauty.

If you shun the face of people to escape the commotion,
if you look for pleasure, seek within the city walls.
A hundred chambers are there, by no means lacking clients’ praise,
elegantly furnished and decorated, suffering no defect or decay.

{ Cum placeas turbe, si uis, maneamus in urbe:
Totum quod queres, illud ab urbe feres.
Maximus urbis bonos: dites habet illa colonos,
Tantum scire sinum nemo potest hominum.

Omne quod est cernas ibi penas preter Auernas:
Urbs est cura ioci, forma cupita loci.

Si populi uultum uites uitando tumultum,
Si qua placere tenes, menia quere penes.
Sunt camere centum minime sine laude clientum:
Cultus opis uarie labe carens carie. }[8]

The city is the “delightful place {locus amoenus}” at scale. In the city, one woman can please a crowd, and in a hundred elegant chambers, a hundred women please their lovers. The city is a place of commercial love.

Men have long sought to acquire women’s love through sumptuous provisioning. A poem from tenth-century Europe begins:

Come soon, sweet beloved,
you whom I love as my own heart,
come into my little room,
laden with many ornaments.

Couches are laid out there,
and the house is ready with curtains,
and in the house flowers are scattered
and fragrant herbs mixed with them.

A table is prepared there,
laden with every food.
Acclaimed wine is abundant there,
and whatever delights you, dear one.

Sweet harmonies sound there,
and flutes blow above them.
A servant-boy and a well-trained servant-girl there
compose beautiful songs for you.

He strokes his guitar with a pick,
she composes a melody with her lyre,
and helpers bring platters
full of colored cups.

{ Iam, dulcis amica, venito
quam sicut cor meum diligo:
intra in cubiculum meum
ornamentis cunctis onustum.

Ibi sunt sedilia strata
atque velis domus parata
floresque in domo sparguntur
herbaeque fragrantes miscentur.

Est ibi mensa apposita
universis cibis onusta:
ibi clarum vinum abundant
et quiquid te, cara, delectat.

Ibi sonant dulces symphoniae,
inflantur et altius tibiae;
ibi puer et docta puella
pangunt tibi carmina bella.

Hic cum plectro citharam tangit,
illa melos cum lira pangit;
Portantque ministri pateras
pigmentatis poculis plenas. }[9]

These stanzas insistently invite the beloved to go to a place of abundance. However, understanding that men’s gender burden of provisioning women tends to demean men, the man asserts his human being and his human love beyond providing things:

Not pleasing so much to me is the feasting,
rather more the sweet conversation,
not the abundance of so many things,
as much as delightful intimacy.

Come right now, my chosen sister
and my delight beyond all others,
come beaming light of my eyes
and greater part of my soul.

{ Non me iuvat tantum convivium
quantum predulce colloquium,
nec rerum tantarum ubertas
ut dilecta familiaritas.

Iam nunc veni, soror electa
et pre cunctis mihi dilecta,
Lux mee clara pupille
parsque maior anime mee. }[10]

Not appreciating Christian understanding of incarnate love, the beloved woman prefers rustic solitude:

I have been alone in the woods
and delighted in hidden places.
I have often fled commotion
and avoided multitudes of people.

{ Ego fui sola in silva
et dilexi loca secreta:
Frequenter effugi tumultum
et vitavi populum multum. }

This woman has lived like the river nymph along the backs of the Po. In Versus Eporedienses, the man invites the woman, not into his room, but into a city. The city offers her far more riches that those of the man’s home in the earlier invitation poem.

Versus Eporedienses amplifies the earlier “Come soon, sweet beloved {Iam, dulcis amica, venito}” to comic incongruity. It offers the beloved everything in exaggeration. It’s the clowning charmer, intending to provoke giggles, outdoing the imploring gentleman. Versus Eporedienses doesn’t explicitly describe the results of its invitation. “Who wouldn’t know what followed {cetera quis nescit}?”[11] Of course the beautiful river nymph settled in the city with her charming-clown lover.

While not explicitly named, the city in Versus Eporedienses is best understood to be Pavia. Pavia was the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards, who ruled most of Italy from 568 to 774. After Charlemagne conquered the Lombards, subsequent emperors were crowned King of Italy in Pavia before they traveled to Rome to be crowned as Holy Roman Emperor. Pavia, politically the most important city in the medieval Po Valley, was then and there the most appropriate mythic successor to Troy.[12]

Pavia had a medieval reputation for beautiful, sexually eager women. Queen Eadburh of Wessex, characterized in the Life of Alfred {Vita Ælfredi} as sexually eager and pursuing sexual relationships even as an abbess, ended her life begging (and also perhaps working as a prostitute) in ninth-century Pavia. In his late-eleventh-century chronicle, Landulf Senior (Landulf of Milan) recited a learned saying: “Milan for clerics, Pavia for pleasures, Rome for buildings, and Ravenna for churches {Mediolanum in clericis, Papia in deliciis, Roma in aedificiis, Ravenna in ecclesiis}.”[13] Writing about 1163, the Archpoet proclaimed:

Who in the fire’s depths feels not the flame?
Who detained in Pavia, lives there without blame,
where Venus, beckoning youths to the game,
seduces with her eyes, her quarry set to tame?

Put down Hippolytus in Pavia today,
there’d be no Hippolytus the succeeding day.
To love, beneath the sheets, leads every single way.
Among all those towers, Truth hasn’t place to stay.

{ Quis in igne positus igne non uratur?
quis Papiae demorans castus habeatur,
ubi Venus digito iuvenes venatur,
oculis illaqueat, facie praedatur?

Si ponas Hippolytum hodie Papiae,
non erit Hippolytus in sequenti die.
Veneris in thalamos ducunt omnes viae,
non est in tot turribus turris Alethiae. }[14]

Versus Eporedienses isn’t primarily political mythology. Versus Eporedienses is mythology about how Pavia came to be the leading medieval city for beautiful women engaged in commercial sexual relations.

Versus Eporedienses probably contributed to making the women of Pavia famous. Following classical precedents, its poet promises his beloved woman immortality:

Any who desires to give herself to me lives in my praise.
She will be immortal, unless my Muse perishes.
My Muse cannot die or age in a thousand years.
She will continue to endure, nor will what she has loved disappear.
Homer’s verse lives, deserving to be commonly known in recitation,
and makes Nireus, whom he has honored, into a god.
Your Lycoris, O Horace, lives perennially,
nor can she die who, through your verse, is made famous in public talk.
Take careful note of why Corinna is recognized:
Ovid made her live when he put her name on everyone’s lips.
In order to endure forever, take care to place yourself under me.
If you so resolve, you will be made eternal by poetry.

{ Laude mea uiuit mihi se dare queque cupiuit,
Inmortalis erit, ni mea Musa perit.
Musa mori nescit nee in annis nulle senescit,
Durans durabit nec quod amauit abit.
Quod decet ore teri uiuit dictamen Omeri
Et facit esse deum quem coluit Nereum.
Perpetuis horis tua uiuit, Flace, Liquoris,
Nec ualet illa mori carmine fama fori.
Perspicue signa quare sit nota Corinna:
Viuere Naso facit quando per ora iacit.
Vt semper dures, mihi te subponere cures,
Quod si parueris, carmine perpes eris. }[15]

Lycoris and Corinna were more like living women than the never-named river nymph of Versus Eporedienses. Yet compared to the love poetry of Horace and Ovid, Versus Eporedienses contains much more realia. Versus Eporedienses creates love myth for a real city. The beautiful, unnamed river nymph that the poet invites into Pavia replaces the war-inciting Helen that Paris brought into Troy. Unlike the destroyed Troy, many women reproducing across generations made Pavia a preeminent place of pleasure. Love conquers war in Versus Eporedienses’s translatio of Troy.

*  *  *  *  *

Read more:


[1] Kretschmer (2020) p. 22. Versus Eporedienses has survived in only one manuscript: Ivrea, Biblioteca capitolare 85. Id. p. 13. Kretschmer, the leading scholar of the poem, has described it as:

written in 150 leonine elegiac distichs around the year 1080 and attributed to an otherwise unknown Wido of Ivrea

Kretschmer (2021) p. 108, with omitted footnote describing the attribution to Wido of Ivrea as “highly hypothetical.” Distinguishing aspects of the poem:

an early example of metrical love poetry, descriptio puellae, poet’s pride, a unique poetical expression of the economic and cultural growth of the eleventh century, and a prime example for showing the use of the classics at the dawn of the renaissance of the “long twelfth century”.

Kretschmer (2020) p. 22.

[2] Versus Eporedienses vv. 1-4, Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Kretschmer (2020) pp. 26-7. That Latin text is also available in Kretschmer (2021) pp. 126-33. Kretschmer’s Latin text is a revised version of Dümmler (1872) pp. 94-102.

Subsequent quotes from Versus Eporedienses are similarly sourced. In addition to lineating Kretschmer’s English translation, in some cases I’ve made insubstantial changes in accordance with my sense of a pleasing and easily read English translation. Where I’ve made particularly substantial changes to Kretschmer’s translation, I’ve noted and explained those changes.

The subsequent quotes from Versus Eporedienses are vv. 5-8 (At last I approached…), 9-12 (And having become like a mute…), 18 (You outshine Juno…), 22 (she feared talking…), 25-30 (If you want to know about my lineage…), 37-40 (If picking flowers…), 45-8 (A spring of fresh water…), 181-4, 221-2, 229-32 (Since you please the crowd…), 291-300 (Any who desires to give herself to me…).

[3] Kretschmer (2020) p. 52, note to v. 8, “Et uix continui quod sua non minui.” Kretschmer translated that verse as, “and hardly restrained myself from violating her privacy.” The qualification “privacy” is a reasonable interpretation in context.

Nonetheless, considering other possibilities for the violation seems to me important. Kretschmer’s note itself suggests sexual assault. More generally, ambiguity was an aspect of play in medieval Ovidian love poetry. Kretschmer (2015). That aspect of play is also evident in the Iliac Tablets from about Ovid’s time. Squire (2014). In behavioral reality, primate males rarely rarely sexually assault females, and women rape men about as often as men rape women.

[4] Regarding intertextuality in the Versus Eporedienses (VE), Kretschmer summarized: “Ovid permeates the VE.” Kretschmer (2020) p. 101. In addition to many textual echoes of Ovid, Kretschmer has documented in Versus Eporedienses textual borrowings from Virgil, Juvenal, Lucan, and possibly Martial, Statius, and Horace as well. Id. Appendix 1. Versus Eporedienses engages intricately with the matter of Troy. On references to Troy, Kretschmer (2013) p. 46. On the distinctiveness of intricate engagement with Trojan myth in eleventh-century European literature, Tilliette (1999) pp. 3-7.

Giovini (2012) perceives “grotesque and parodic {grotteschi e parodici}” elements in Versus Eporedienses. Kretschmer perceives playfulness but not parody. Kretschmer (2020) pp. 20-1. Ernst Robert Curtius called Versus Eporedienses a “charming idyll {reizende Idyll}.” Cited in id. p. 16, n. 15.

[5] Kretschmer (2016).

[6] Even within the “proud poet {dichterstolz}” section (vv. 281-300) of Versus Eporedienses, the poet takes care to disclaim pride:

By no means do I exalt myself, although Apollo yields to me,
he begrudges me and yields, since Minverva has granted the knowledge.

{ Me minus extollo, quamnis mihi cedit Apollo,
Inuidet et cedit, scire Minerua dedit. }

Versus Eporedienses vv. 287-8.

[7] Kretschmer (2016) p. 41.

[8] In Versus Eporedienses v. 184, Kretschmer interpreted sinum as the accusative singular of sinus and translated “asylum.” I think the accusative singular of sinum (“drinking vessel”) is a better choice in the context of lavish provisioning.

Both vv. 181 and 229 are at paragraph marks in the manuscript, as indicated in Kretschmer’s edition of the Latin text. Kretschmer (2020) pp. 34, 38. These two verses present contrasting relations to crowds while reasoning to the same action: enter the city. About the Shrewd Envoy {De nuntio sagaci}, an Ovidian poem that dates about the same time as Versus Eporedienses, shows similar sophistic reasoning in encouraging love.

[9] “Come soon, sweet beloved {Iam, dulcis amica, venito}” st. 1-5, Latin text from Dronke (1984) p. 235, my English translation, benefiting from those of id. p. 219, Gray (2013) pp. 375-6, Ewing (2002), and Ziolkowski (1998). The poem has survived in two different versions: the receptive-woman version (MS. Paris, BnF lat. 1118, fol. 247v) and the desperate-man version (MS. Vienna 116, fol. 157v; and Cambridge Songs 27). Dronke (1984), Appendix, provides Latin text for both, as does Ziolkowski (1998). On the Cambridge Songs generally, id. The two versions don’t differ much in the first five stanzas, but in the subsequent stanzas the two versions differ considerably. I have quoted from the desperate-man (Vienna) version, which dates to the tenth century. Dronke prejudicially calls that version the “seducer” version.

[10] “Iam, dulcis amica, venito” (desperate-man / Vienna version) st. 6-7, sourced as above. The subsequent quote is similarly from “Iam, dulcis amica, venito,” st. 8. For the conclusion of this poem, see my post on how to argue nicely about sex with your boyfriend.

[11] Ovid, Amores 1.5.25. Lacking sufficient appreciation for men’s comic, earthy love-play, Peter Dronke judged that “explorations of love are subordinate to the virtuosity of the grammaticus” in Wido’s Versus Eporedienses:

In his three hundred leonine verses a young prince proposes to a princess descended from Troy, offering her every delight and luxury of which Wido had ever heard or read — in the Song of Songs, in the Cyclops’ proposal to Galatea (Metam. XIII. 789ff.), in the Christian visions of paradise, in Pliny, Martianus Capella, and the encyclopedists. His ‘paradise of dainty devices’ occupies three-quarters of ther poem, which ends not only in praises of the girl but in a rodomontade of self-praise. Wido’s passion is not love at all, but learned and exotic language. The motifs of spring and love provide only a flimsy casket for a concoction which is delightful and unique.

Dronke (1965) vol. 1, p. 243 (first quote), p. 243, n. 1 (second, extended quote). Similarly, Giovini (1996) p. 44, as cited in Kretschmer (2016) p. 36, n. 11.

[12] Kretschmer observed:

Lombard centres of power surrounding the Po such as, for instance, the city of Pavia, would aspire to represent a nova or secunda Roma.

Kretschmer (2020) p.17 (notes omitted; one points out that Henry IV aspired to be crowned in Pavia, and Holy Roman Emperors before him were). The Holy Roman Emperors were crowned in Pavia with the Iron Crown. That crown has survived to the present.

Medieval Pavia’s city gates featured an inscription, dated to about 1100, that has the classical sophistication of Greek epigram:

Whoever enters now, may that one kneel and say:
“You who are passing over, touching the door’s threshold, say this:
‘Second Rome, hail, imperial capital of the world,
you conquer Thebes in war, Athens in thought.
The peoples fear you, the mighty bow to you.'”

{ Quisquis nunc intrat deflexo poplite dicat,
Dic prope qui transis, qui porte limina tangis:
Roma secunda, uale, mundi caput imperiale.
Tu bello Thebas, tu sensu uincis Athenas.
Te metuunt gentes, tibi flectunt colla potentes. }

From Opicinus de Canistris, Book in Praise of the Citizens of Pavia {Liber de laudibus ciuitatis Ticinensis}, or In Praise of Pavia {De laudibus Papiae}, dated 1330, with Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Kretschmer (2020) p. 18. Pavia’s city leaders probably were too modest to proclaim Pavia’s sexually exuberant and eagerly receptive women on its city gates.

By about 1200, Pavia was proverbial for wealth according to French verse. In the lai Horn {Cor}, Queen Guinevere vehemently asserts that she’s loyal to her husband King Arthur:

On earth there is no man so rich,
not even the King of Rome,
that I would love him
for all the gold of Pavia,
nor any emir or count.

{ sour cel n’ad si riche houme,
nent li roi de Roume,
que jeo amase mie
pur tout le or de Pavie,
në amirail, ne counte. }

Cor, vv. 359-63, Old French text from Dubin (1974) p. 79, English translation (modified slightly) from Burgess & Brook (2016) p. 127. After the horn had shamed all the other knights of his court just as it had shamed him, King Arthur declared:

The man who gave me this horn
gave me a great gift.
By the faith I owe
to all those whom I see here,
I would not give it away
for all the gold of Pavia.

{ qui cest corn me dona
graunt doun me presenta;
par la foi que jeo doi
a tous ceus ke ci voi,
jeo nel doroie mie
pur tout le or de Pavie }

Cor, vv. 461-6, sourced as previously.

[13] Landulf of Milan, Historia Mediolanensis 3.1, cited in Morgan (2018). More than a millenium earlier, Catullus seemed to refer to civic rivalry in amorous opportunities between Verona and Rome:

Therefore, when you write that it’s shameful that Catullus is in Verona,
while here all the best-regarded persons
warm their cold limbs in a deserted bed,
that, Manlius, isn’t shameful, it’s more like wretched.

{ quare, quod scribis Veronae turpe Catullo
esse, quod hic quisquis de meliore nota
frigida deserto tepefactet membra cubili,
id, Manli, non est turpe, magis miserum est. }

Catullus 68.27-30, Latin text from Fitzgerald (1995) p. 202 (which presents textual and interpretive issues), my English translation benefiting from that of id.

[14] Archpoet’s Confession, “Deep inside me I’m ablaze with an angry passion {Estuans intrinsecus ira vehementi},” st. 8-9, Latin text from Raby (1959), English translation (modified slightly) by A. S. Kline. The Archpoet probably wrote this poem about 1163.

Later reference also attest to Pavia’s association with beautiful women readily available for non-marital sex. The Romance of the Rose {Roman de la Rose}, vv. 1619-20 (Guillaume de Lorris’s part, composed about 1230), associates Pavia with envy and lasciviousness. In the fourteenth century, Eustache Deschamps’s ballade “Voyage des princes en Lombardie” refers to Pavia as a city where one can find warmly receptive, beautiful young women. The wealthy knight January enjoyed decades of non-marital sex with women in Pavia according to Chaucer’s late fourteenth-century Merchant’s Tale, vv. 1245-50. In the sixteenth century, Girolamo Cardano visited Pavia and wrote:

I lingered indeed next to an ancient temple of the blessed Mary of Loving. I believe that the town was once dedicated to Venus.

{ Habitabam enim iuxta templum antiquissimum beatae Mariae Venereae: credo oppido quod Veneri olim esset dicatum. }

Pavia in medieval Latin commonly was written Papia. Paphian was epithet for Venus, honored in the city of Paphos. Given that p was commonly confused with ph in medieval Latin, Pavia might have been connected with Venus etymologically. For these reference and this etymological analysis, Brown (1970).

[15] For Versus Eporedienses, vv. 299-300:

Vt semper dures, mihi te subponere cures,
Quod si parueris, carmine perpes eris.

Kretschmer has in English translation:

In order to live on forever, make sure that you submit yourself to me, and if you obey, you will be everlasting in poetry.

Kretschmer (2020) p. 43. For v. 299, id. p. 100 observes: ‘mihi te subponere cures: note the double entendre (literally “make sure you place yourself under me = lie under me”).’ I use the more literal translation to bring out the sexual innuendo. I also invoke the relational connotations of curare as “to take care.” In v. 300, I interpret parueris as a variant / metrical elision of paraveris, which seems to me to make much better sense in context. For the concluding clause, my translation “you will be made eternal by poetry” attempts to bring out reproductive sex as a form of poetry making a person eternal through biological descendants.

Nireus (Nereus), a Greek man fighting in the horrible violence against men of the Trojan War, gained from Homer’s verse fame not for his exploits in battle, but for being the second-most beautiful man in the Greek camp. On Nireus’s beauty, Iliad 2.673-4, and subsequent citations given in Kretschmer (2020) p. 99.

[images] (1) Beach Boys performing “California Girls” on the The Jack Benny Show on Nov 3, 1965, with a short skit with Bob Hope and Jack Benny. Via YouTube. (2) The Beatles performing “Back in the U.S.S.R.” from their 1968 eponymous studio album (White Album). The recording was remastered and incorporated into this video in 2018. Via YouTube.


Brown, Emerson. 1970. “The Merchant’s Tale: Why Was Januarie Born ‘Of Pavye’?” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen. 71 (4): 654-658.

Burgess, Glyn S., and Leslie C. Brook, trans. 2016. Twenty-Four Lays from the French Middle Ages. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Dronke, Peter. 1965. Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Dronke, Peter. 1984. The Medieval Poet and His World. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

Dubin, Nathaniel Edward. 1974. The Parodic Lays: a critical edition. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Washington.

Dümmler, Ernst, ed. 1872. Anselm der Peripatetiker nebst andern Beitragen zur Litteraturgeschichte Italiens im eilften Jahrhundert. Halle: Buchhandlung des Waisenshauses.

Ewing, Thor. 2002. “Iam, Dulcis Amica.” Historical Arts. Online.

Fitzgerald, William. 1995. Catullan Provocations: Lyric Poetry and the Drama of Position. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Giovini, Marco. 1996. “Quod decet ore teri – Giovenale e il mito delle Eliadi nei Versus Eporedienses (XI sec.).” Maia – Rivista di letterature classiche. 48: 39-50.

Giovini, Marco. 2012. “Il flatus vocis d’amore come delirio di onnipotenza verbale: i Versus Eporedienses.” Bollettino di Studi Latini. 42 (1): 64-83.

Gray, Eric. 2013. “Come Be My Love: The Song of Songs, Paradise Lost, and the Tradition of the Invitation Poem.” PMLA. 128 (2): 370-385.

Kretschmer, Marek Thue. 2013. “The Elegiac Love Poems Versus Eporedienses and De Tribus Puellis and the Ovidian Backdrop.” The Journal of Medieval Latin. 23: 35-47.

Kretschmer, Marek Thue. 2015. “The Play of Ambiguity in the Medieval Latin Love Letters of the Ovidian Age.” Pp. 247-263 in Christian Høgel and Elisabetta Bartoli, eds. Medieval Letters: Between Fiction and Document. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 33. Brepols: Turnhout.

Kretschmer, Marek Thue. 2016. “Amores 3.6 and the Versus Eporedienses.” The Journal of Medieval Latin. 26: 31-42.

Kretschmer, Marek Thue. 2020. Latin Love Elegy and the Dawn of the Ovidian Age: A Study of the Versus Eporedienses and the Latin Classics. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers.

Kretschmer, Marek Thue. 2021. “Two Poems in Search of an Author: A Note on the Versus Eporedienses and the Novus Avianus Astensis.” Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch. 56 (1): 108-133.

Morgan, Llewelyn. 2018. “Hippolytus > Priapus.” Lugubelinus (online), Feb. 14.

Raby, Frederic James Edward, ed. 1959. The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Squire, Michael. 2014. “Figuring Rome’s Foundation on the Iliac Tablets.” Ch. 6 (pp. 151-189) in Naoíse Mac Sweeney, ed. Foundation Myths in Ancient Societies: Dialogues and Discourses. Philadelphia, PA: De Gruyter.

Tilliette, Jean-Yves. 1999. “Troiae ab oris: Aspects de la révolution poétique de la seconde moitié du xi e siècle.” Latomus. 58 (2): 405-431. (cited by page numbers in online version)

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 1998. The Cambridge songs (Carmina Cantabrigiensia). Tempe, Ariz: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies.