Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Just Say Yes: A Woman's Passion vs. an Asexual Man, Propertius, IV.5.1-10

Trigger Warning: inappropriate sexual behavior, shaming a woman for her sexual behavior, inappropriate sexual behavior with an asexual person

In this poem, Propertius insults an unnamed woman for her manipulative and lusty behavior. Note that her asexual and unwilling target [coded with the mythological name Hippolytus] is seen as a conquest:

terra tuum spinis obducat, lena, sepulcrum,
    et tua, quod non uis, sentiat umbra sitim;
nec sedeant cineri Manes, et Cerberus ultor
    turpia ieiuno terreat ossa sono!
docta uel Hippolytum Veneri mollire negantem,
    concordique toro pessima semper auis,
Penelopen quoque neglecto rumore mariti
    nubere lasciuo cogeret Antinoo.
illa uelit, poterit magnes non ducere ferrum,
    et uolucris nidis esse nouerca suis.

--Propertius, Eleg.IV.5.1-10

May thorns cover your grave, you little hussy,

And may your ghost still feel insatiable lust:

May your spirit never be at rest, and

May Cerberus rattle your wicked bones with his unending barking!

You who knew how to seduce a chaste Hippolytus,

You who loom ominously over consenting lovers,

Who would even force Penelope to abandon hopes of her husband’s return

And marry the lusty Antinoos.

If she wanted to, this woman could make a magnet not attract iron,

And make a winged mother bird abandon her nest.

Name:  Sextus Propertius
Date:  50 – 15 BCE
Works:  Elegies

Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans

  Propertius was an Italian-born Roman lyric poet whose love poetry provides insight into the mores of Augustan Rome. Like Catullus and Tibullus, Propertius used a pseudonym for the object of his attention; many of his love poems were addressed to “Cynthia.”
Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE