Tag Archives: Ovid

Mapping: NEW and IMPROVED

We know that the Romans made maps.  We know what a few of them physically look like, and we know, indirectly, the general scheme of many others, through textual descriptions.  These are remarkable on their own, sharing with us the ancients’ visualization and understanding of their globe.  We also have a pretty good sense from engravings, ruins, and archaeology of what some parts of the empire looked like.  But we seem to be preoccupied with developing modern maps of the historical Roman Empire further, and having these available on the web.  There are tons of articles, sites, and blogs devoted to the exploration of how we piece together artifacts and archaeology, and how we visualize this information.  We can talk about Classics, we can blog about it, we can immerse ourselves in its words, and now we can take virtual tours of it!  Of course these are not exactly like wandering the streets of ancient Rome, but they are pretty close.  They allow us to be stunned by the size of the Pantheon, the height of Trajan’s column, and the sheer vastness of the empire and its connections. 

There are some cool projects that explore the connectivity of societies and geographical areas. (For a modern one, check this out.  I saw it on Lydia’s Facebook, but it came from NPR’s “Krulwich Wonders” series.)  It is really intriguing to think about geography in terms of the actual relationships between people and places, not the arbitrary borders drawn by the ruling global powers.  If you’ve ever taken a history or political science class, you should be familiar with the dilemmas presented when trying to match up the nation and the state (for example, Japan is easy, but Iraq is hard.).  For this reason, maps that are more than just visualizations of arbitrary and familiar borders are much more interesting.  

Considering this new form of mapping, I began to wonder about the purpose of maps. Begun as a way to travel (accurately and efficiently) and visualize vast areas of land and sea, maps were essentially a way to convey knowledge of places and their peculiarities.  Maps probably, then, began as an ancient form of the World Wide Web.  By that I mean that they were once the portable, accessible, understandable, and sometimes intuitive resource for passing along information and keeping track of it.  There were different ways to visualize this information (Peutinger table vs. google earth), find the information itself, and organize it all.  Some maps were specific; others were general.  Anyone could make and use a map (depending on the scale and desired level of accuracy, of course).  With arbitrary borders, maps were a way the empire, or whatever global power existed at the time, expressed this power.  Intentionally inaccurate maps were ways to manipulate the populace.  Just like the internet has grown in scope, complexity, and pertinence, so have maps.  Modern maps now present the ancient world AND every imaginable facet of the modern world (cell phone calls, flow of currency, etc.), in all kinds of ways-3-D, super detailed, you name it.  Each has evolved into a somewhat nebulous and entirely diverse collection, for which the world’s civilization is indebted.  And now, all these maps are accessible through the internet!

So, here is, in essence, a collection of the sites that lead me to these thoughts.  Pretty much my Top-Ten list for digital maps related to the Classical world, in no particular order, and likely with glaring omissions:    

Here is the Digital Roman Forum, the Rome Reborn project (of the university of Virginia), Aquae Urbis Romae (also from Virginia)and a site devoted to Trajan’s Column (part of the STOA project for digital humanities resources, started at the University of Kentucky, but now covering and encompassing a whole lot more! If this had been my starting point for this blog, I probably would have been so fascinated by everything they compile that I never would have completed a post. The Pleiades project is also through STOA.).  They are all incredible sites, and I really hope you check them out.  I had to share these three because of their sheer impressive collections of knowledge.  They also present some different ways of organizing and making this information searchable.  The Digital Roman Forum  (a project of UCLA) is searchable by geographical location, year, or keyword.  Other sites use only keywords, or only years.  This whole blogging project has made me think a lot about how we find, use, store, and share information with the internet as a primary tool.  If you had an unlimited supply of neurons and synapses, I would wager you’d spend many of them absorbing some of this information.  

This site has a very high quality set of images of the Peutinger table.  I think it’s fascinating!  I can’t get over it.  You should look at this site, and maybe you’ll get as excited as I am.  It is FANTASTIC.  Maybe it’s just a novel idea to me, maybe it’s just really cool and old, maybe this is just a cool site with great resources.  Check it out.  I’m obviously biased towards this site and the Peutinger Table, but that doesn’t make this resource any less valid.  

For similar reasons, this site with the Forma Urbis Romae fragments is interminable.  I didn’t mention in the last post, but it also talks about how researchers are using computer science algorithms to determine convergence between roads and fill in the missing areas of the map.  If you’ve been to Rome, I’m not sure you can fit algorithms to its roads, but they have apparently found it useful and are continuing to explore it.  

The Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations has some cool layering features.  I haven’t quite figured out how to utilize it fully, but it looks like a really vast valuable resource.  It is put out by Harvard, and maintained by various people there, so any extreme viewpoints are likely to be quashed.  

Stanford University’s ORBIS site allows you to fiddle around with itineraries and travel plans throughout the empire.  You can do it based on speed, mode of travel, and cost (which was the most important).  This site is super fun to mess around on and explore- and makes you feel even more like a Roman!

The Pleiades site is full of information, and presents some interesting ways of citing, categorizing, and approaching the gazetteer or atlas.  It is also community built, which makes for astounding diversity in the links it presents. You can also search the site in numerous ways: by place, category, name, etc. Super neat.

I ran across this Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, which combines numerous sources and mapping tools into one.  It seems to be some kind of “deep web” search tool, where one can discover other resources.  Think back to our first two Library sessions.  

And, finally, there is Lacus Curtius.  This post, and this blog, for that matter, would probably not be complete without what L.J. Swain, formerly of WMU’s Medieval Institute, calls “simply the dream of the web fulfilled.”  I think he sums it up pretty well.  I’ve gone down the deep dark hole of following the links every time I’ve looked at this site.  There is just so much information here.  I hope you enjoy it.  Heck, you might even be able to use it in your own blog!  


Source Notes:

Pleiades and ORBIS were mentioned on Sarah Bond’s post on PhDiva, but I found them when I was researching the last post.  I also found many of these sites by searching the Rogue Classicist Blog for “mapping,” “virtual ancient Rome,” and “ancient cartography.”  I came across Lacus Curtius and this site through a dogpile search for “ancient cartography” or “virtual ancient map.”  This also lead me to the “Rome Reborn” site, which presents a nice list of other resources, including the Digital Roman Forum, Aquae Urbis Romae, and Lacus Curtius. The site just linked had most of the other resources I found, including Orbis, the Electronic Cultural Atlas, and the Forma Urbis Romae site.   Because so many of these sites were from educational institutions and linked to each other they appear fairly reliable.  More searching for the names and reputations of these people and sites did not turn up anything alarming.  


The Patron-Client Relationship, It’s Cooler Than You Think.

“Patronage might be located conceptually between inequality and equality. Although the language of friendship was frequently used by both patrons and clients, it is not the friendship of equals; it is asymmetrical” (Andrew).

This post is a second installment to follow “V for Vendetta, R for Rebellion” which can be found further down in this same blog.


The painting shown above is called “Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts to Emperor Augustus” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. I think the title of the painting speaks for its relevance and shows how integral to daily life these relationships were.

So, the patron-client relationship was quite a bit more integral to Roman society than I originally thought. When we translate Catullus or Propertius, we talk about them in the context of their lives, and especially their social lives. So when we talk about Catullus’ res novae little circle and his lepidum novum libellum, we discuss them in the context of his circle of contacts and social life, but the ripple effect goes farther than that. I guess I just had this preconceived notion that to being in a patron-client relationship was kind of like an ancient Roman hipster thing, I never realized that the patron-client relationship was more than a small part of the society reserved for a select few artists and some influential men who liked to dabble in the arts. However, although I found information on the importance of the patron-client relationship in ancient Roman society, I also found many commentaries on different attitudes behind these relationships and aspects that can upset this relationship. It was these that I was most interested in with this post.

I learned that the patron-client relationship was very familial, genetic even. Patron-client relationships ran so deep in history and tradition that they were generational and thus genetic because they were passed on through generations in families. It supports a stratified patriarchial system that is consistent with the idea of paterfamilias which stated that the man was the head of the house and the women and children were beneath. In fact, lecture notes from a professor’s teaching that I found said that the “father in [the] family can be seen as a model for patron-client relationships”. In the same way, although both were benefiting from this symbiotic relationship, the patron had a higher standing in society and a greater level of control in the relationship. The idea that these paradigms were supported in areas throughout the culture is not surprising because this was an idea considered the norm and not only supported but enforced by the government. Catullus, Propertius and Ovid all subverted these social norms through their elegiac poetry in their own ways. For one specific example Propertius, among other elegiac poets, flips the roles of the man and the woman in the relationships so that the woman is dominant and the man is in the weakened and vulnerable state. This is the opposite of what the upstanding Roman man is supposed to be, and can provide a hidden metaphor for the influence of elegiac poetry on government and policy. The flipping of roles in elegiac poetry so the man was being ruled by the woman and by love, when in traditional society it was expected to be the other way around, could suggest that government could be ruled by the elegiac poet. I found an article that not only addressed this idea, but also included that this role reversal also “underscores Maecenas’ superior status” as patron. The author of this article also addresses the idea that Propertius makes the statement that elegiac and epic poetry are comparable and even the same in some situations. Ovid could be considered to do this, too when he writes in the meter to mimic “The Aenead” and compares love to war (Ovid 1.9).

the patron-client relationship was something that was used to rule the lower class, so when the lower class grew too numerous for the upper class to control through this relationship, especially in times of unhappiness or unrest and events like famines, there was the potential for an uprising from the larger lower class. In this way, the breakdown of the patron client relationship could definitely contribute to rebellion and may have been a spot of contention that caused a greater division between the plebeians and the patricians. For further information, see this article on the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica, my best friend.

The patron had a great deal of control over the client not only pertaining to their time and how they were to serve their patron, they also had great amounts of political influence. Because of this, patrons could use this to either influence the political environment for or against the person or belief system in power at the time. I found an article that talked about how this was cause for concern in the context of the philosopher Seneca. This article addressed the interesting idea that patronage was considered a sell-out by some because these artists or writers were taking money for their works and thus some people saw it as not truly art, but instead a form of propaganda. This caused “tension between the republican freedom of speech and the desirability of royal patronage”. This article also showed the role reversal of the patron and the client in the situation where many patrons were competing to support one specific artist and this moved the balance of power and the ability of choice to the client, which I thought was a very interesting idea.

I’m honestly not sure how all of these ideas fit together into the definition of the patron-client relationship as of yet. Right now they seem related by definition, but not exactly as if they relate to each other. I am interested to see where some or all of these paths lead.

I used Google’s advanced search to see what I could find. Interesting little tidbit, when I used Google advanced search, my first blog post was the second hit that came up! I don’t know if that says something about the small amount of research in this area or if I was using keywords that were too specific… hmm. I found the Hope library’s list of databases really helpful and I used the L’Année Philologique and the Project MUSE databases. I also wandered around in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review and the Encyclopedia Britannica Website, just for some funzies. I did find that I used a lot of the same keywords to search, and I wondered if this was limiting me, but I didn’t know what other keywords to use that would get me the desired results, so I guess I felt a little stuck there. 

Something interesting I did this time just to look at the nature of research technology was that when I found a page of results to a search, I not only looked at the results to look for articles related to my topic, but I looked at all the results and thought about how they were seemingly related. I also read through a majority of the list, instead of just staying within the first couple of pages. It was interesting to see the delineation from similar to not so similar.

By: Emilie O’Connor

Dear Propertius: Ancient Advice for the Modern Woman with Timeless Questions, Part 2

A Quick Recap: Two weeks ago I posted my first “Dear Propertius Letter,” an adaptation of Ovid’s Amores 1.1, “Love’s Victim.” [Scroll down the hopeadvancedlatin homepage if you would like to re-read the post, it is the third one from the bottom].

This Week: First, as promised I will supply Propertius’s response to the first letter in the form of a modern adaptation of Propertius 1.6. A discussion on why modern women should hang up their capes either permanently, or in the very least, periodically, will follow the poem. Enjoy!

Dear Currently Capeless Crusader,

Hold fast to your own dreams.

Leave your cape—that yolk of expectations—

at home from time to time. Instead,

arm yourself with this speech:

I’d go toe to toe with the toughest of CEOs,

sisters, while raising a gaggle of children,

conquering a mountain of dirty laundry,

creating a gourmet dinner,

and standing up for our rights.

But the former Superwoman called,

crying, sighing, begging, and pleading.

She wants her title back.

Her soul is inflamed with jealousy for me.

Should I refuse her request, she swears, there is no Justice.

Not for one minute can I stand such complaints.

For my own doubled, tripled, and quadrupled

workload has made me sick and tired.

What’s the point of keeping up with the Joneses

if at night I’m too tired to do anything else but sleep?

Sisters, continue to strive for that illustrious role

if it will make you happy

then I support your quest to “have it all.”

I, however, have relinquished my full claim.

Now I’m only a part-time quadruple threat.


If not “having it all” is a sin,

Let me utterly lose my soul to shame.

I am forever indebted to the women

who aided in the creation of this title—

But I am not fit for glory, not born to lead our League.

But sisters, whether you march

on Washington, or storm a Bastille,

remember, that while I am no longer a Superwoman

I am still your devoted sidekick,

living under the same patriarchal rule.



Women, it has been proven over and over again that the extra little tail on our set of chromosomes does not indicate that we are mythological beings with super powers. Now, this does not mean that we are weak creatures created only for the purpose of serving and picking up after men. It just means that our bodies have limits. TRANSLATION: it is physically impossible for us to do it all so that we may have it all all of the time.  I suggest that we all take off our individual capes…just for a while…and place one, massive, all-encompassing, uniting cape over the shoulders of all women (and any men that want to join in on the fun). In doing so, women will no longer have to undertake the Herculean task of becoming Superwoman and “having it all” on their own. Instead, they can work as one unit. This will allow women to focus on doing what they are best at—for example, some of us are excellent teachers, but struggle to understand legalese. Together, sisters, we can have it without having to do it. Don’t be afraid to become a part-time double, triple, or quadruple threat. It won’t make you any less of a woman or any less of a feminist. And remember, we can accomplish so much more together than we will ever achieve as individuals struggling to become the mythological being: Superwoman.

[Where I Found my Information: For this post I relied primarily upon my prior knowledge of historical events, famous sayings, and popular culture. Because some of my readers my not be as well versed in the areas I am, I provided several links to websites that explain what the phrase “Keeping up with the Jonses means” and why I got the phrases, “Hold fast to your dreams” (Langston Hughes) and “sick and tired” (Fannie Lou Hamer). In order to find these sites, I used Google. The bulk of my original research for this poem was on Superwoman and comic book characters. In order to find reliable sources, I used the search engine Ixquick.com. While I looked at many sites, I found Elliot S! Maggin’s Unofficial Superwoman biography to be the most comprehensive source of information on the history of the Superwoman character. I believe that this site is reliable because it is copyrighted, associated with D.C. Comics, and Maggin worked as a writer for D.C. comics at one time. I could not find his C.V., but he does have a bio page on IMDb.]

Maddy Northuis

Afternoon Delight

DISCLAIMER: This blog post reflects absolutely no research and is entirely devoid of all academic rigor (for this, check out William Turpin’s essay a great place to start).There is also no argument, so it should not be used as a model. The only point I wish to make here is that we find some elements of Ovid’s poem in modern pop-culture sensibilities.

Amores 1.5 stands as a unique poem not only in Ovid’s corpus, but even in the entire genre of Latin elegiac for two main reasons. First, it is one of only two poems that describes, as Will Batstone puts it, “a successful sexual encounter.” Whereas the other poem, Propertius 2.15, praises the “night that shines” for the poet, Ovid’s scene resembles a midsummer afternoon’s dream.  But the second point, and the real reason for this post, is this:  the poem comes closest to modern sensibilities about eroticism by focusing on the physical sensations of love rather than its emotional or psychological effects.

So this got me thinking: can we find any elements of Ovid’s poem in the “modern” world and how do we handle these themes? I want to talk about two here:

1. The Afternoon Delight

Even just mentioning this phrase calls to my mind the 1976 hit by the Starland Vocal Band wherein male and female voices sing about the pleasures of the afternoon tryst. The video  opens (more or less) with a man and woman staring lovingly into each others eyes as they sing about their rising libidos. 

The song, as well as what it commemorates, has made its way into the pop culture consciousness. It makes a humorous appearance in the buddy flick Anchorman, in which Will Ferrell leads an a capella version of the song. The characters use its playful, physical eroticism  both to highlight their virility and to recast that eroticism in light of the male bond. The slipperiness between “buddy movie” and the Rom-Com is a natural part of this scene.

The humor of the “Afternoon Delight” takes an incestuous turn in the short-lived, but soon to be revived, sitcom “Arrested Development.” The song lends its name to a season 2 episode of the series, in which straight man Michael unknowingly performs a karaoke duet of the tune with his niece Maeby. As Michael sings the lyric, “the thought of rubbin’ you is getting so exciting,” he realizes that he’s made a huge mistake. The incest taboo is integral to the Arrested Development bag of tricks, and the “afternoon delight” brings particular comedic power: incest is the sort of thing that happens behind closed doors, not in the “light of day” nor on public display (hence the power of the karaoke scene).

Although we may appreciate the familiarity of the “afternoon delight” scene in Ovid’s poem, modern readers tend to feel discomfort when the poem takes a semi-violent turn. The poet describes Corinna resisting, which he depicts as not-so-serious given that she “fights like one who wouldn’t want to win.” But even still,  for us “no means no,” and any deviation from that is certainly a betrayal.

Or is it?

2. No doesn’t always mean no?

It is important that modern readers remember that in the world of Roman erotic poetry, there was a place–whether you agree with it or not–for pretend sexual violence and for slippage over  “consent.” Remember that Corinna is playing a role here too: she is scantily clad, her is hair down, and has come to Ovid’s bedroom.

But this, too, isn’t totally foreign to us. Fire, a sultry number originally written by Bruce Springsteen with the hope that Elvis Presley would record it, exhibits the theme of feigned resistance. This Youtube video of one Springsteen performance has attracted over 10 million hits. It features the shouts of young women throughout the song as well as a lively debate in the comments section about whether viewers would rather “be” Springsteen’s guitar, microphone, or tight jeans (I recommend reading the comments as the video plays). Here there is universal recognition, it seems, that the song as well as the sentiments it expresses are as hot as the title. If you still feel uncomfortable with “no doesn’t always mean no,”  the Pointer Sisters recorded a version of the track as well.  Released in 1979, this version recasts the song from the perspective of the resisting woman.  In this version, the female narrator is definitely playing hard to get. And lest you think that the song was a phase in the 70s and 80s, Glee recorded its own version too.

What Ovid really wants in poem 1.5 is uncomplicated sex in the afternoon, Ovid concludes with a wish that he get “more afternoons like this!” In the literary and musical tradition, it seems, he certainly got his wish. 


The R-Rated Blog Post: What Do We Really Mean by Our Words?

I am interested in how we translate those tricky swear words, innuendos, and inappropriate puns that we find throughout the elegiac poets. Poets like Catullus, Propertius, and Ovid often write what many of today’s society would consider wildly inappropriate poetry, yet their language and topics are meaningful, elegant, and packed with power. Those familiar with Catullus will think of poem 16, in which Catullus opens with probably the most crude line of poetry I have ever read: “Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.” I’ll let you search for its meaning yourself. However, the vulgarity of this poem is part of its brilliance. The implications of how we judge someone based upon their words would be lost without it.

So we can see the brilliance in the Latin, but then how do we make that come across in an English translation? This leads me to the question of what we mean by the “swear words” we use. Why use them at all? What, for instance, does the word fuck really mean? In order to translate vulgarity from another language into own, shouldn’t we first understand the words in our own language that we want to translate them into?

Let’s start with one of the most commonly used, yet one of the most offensive words (by many standards, like the MPAA who rates films): fuck. The MPAA description of ratings says that “a motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context.” The power over who can see a film, how it will be marketed, and how the film as a whole will be perceived can rest on a single word. Wow. Language holds an incredible amount of power, yet how often do we carelessly throw around words like this? (This blog post would already be given an R-rating!)

According to dictionary.com, its definition is as follows:

verb (used with object):, 1. to have sexual intercourse with. 2. Slang. to treat unfairly or harshly.
verb (used without object): 3. to have sexual intercourse. 4. slang. to meddle (usually followed by around  or with  ).
interjection: 5. Slang. (used to express anger, disgust, peremptory rejection, etc., often followed by a pronoun, as you  or it.  )

That doesn’t quite cover it, does it? There are so many more colorful and vibrant uses of this four-letter word that I’m sure you are already thinking of which doesn’t even come under this definition. In The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got that Way Bill Bryson states that this simple word “can be used to describe a multitude of conditions and phenomena, from making a mess of something (fuck up), to being casual or provocative (fuck around), to inviting or announcing a departure (fuck off), to being estimable (fucking-A), to being baffled (I’m fucked if I know), to being disgusted (fuck this), and so on and on and on.”

The online slang dictionary gives a few more examples, most of which come under generalized definitions of “an exclamation.” However, a lot of them seem to be blacked out. Other definitions include “to disregard, to take advantage of, to deceive, to kid.”

Yourdictionary.com gives the clinical “fuck is defined as an offensive curse word used to express anger,” and “fuck is an offensive curse word that is defined as to meddle with or to have sexual intercourse.” Venturing into Urban Dictionary with words like this is always risky, but they provide a much more rounded picture. Cave: Users included graphic descriptions, videos, and images. According to a few entries the definitions varies between expressing dismay, inquiry, or aggression, and to merely form an English superlative. With all its meanings, you can even create an entire sentence with few other words!

If nothing else, researching these definitions highlights how versatile vulgar language can be. There are so many definitions and implications, so how do you choose one? Let alone get it to mean the same things as the ancient poet meant by their words, many of which were probably just as versatile?

– Radha Deitenbeck

N.B. I used dogpile.com to find my links. I searched for “catullus 16,” “motion picture ratings,” and “definition of fuck.” The last search led me to the two colloquial dictionaries which I didn’t know existed and are good supplements to the well-known Urban Dictionary. Part of the trouble with these colloquial dictionaries is that anyone can post what they would like to them; there is no “authority check” prior to posting. However, with this subject, that is perfect. The connotations of these words exist in the minds of those in culture who use them. Those are precisely the people whose opinions I want when trying to ascertain what we mean when we curse.

Roses are red, sheep are purple, honey is green, and nothing is blue?

Surely, when one studies the classics throughout one’s life, and is affronted with innumerable differences between one’s own society and those of the ancients, there should be the comfort of knowing that some things never do change. One such notion is that of color. Obviously, throughout all the ages of man, color has remained the same- after all, it is what it is, no one can actively change it. 

Continue reading

Dear Propertius: Ancient Advice for the Modern Woman with Timeless Questions, Part 1

For my project I want to explore the concept of having it all as it pertains to women. Currently, I understand this phrase to mean being able to hold down a job and raise a family. As a woman and a feminist, I feel as though I must attempt to have it all because so many women fought for so many years in the hopes that my generation could have it all.  But, I do not want what others have defined as having it all. Yes, I want a family and I would like to pursue a career, but I do not think it is possible to be a full time parent, a full time employee, a full time wife, and a full time friend. If I were to strive to have it all, I fear I would only feel exhausted, unhappy, and unfulfilled. Even though I do not think it is possible to have it all, I do believe that there are multiple ways to participate in all of these aspects of life—each individual just needs to discover a way to imperfectly balance their interests, relationships, and responsibilities.

In order to find my own imperfectly balanced ratio, I have not read the latest self-help manuals or read Kim Kardashian’s article in Cosmopolitan, Get What You Want: the Money, the Man, the Baby.” Rather, I have immersed myself into the worlds and works of three Roman elegiac poets: Catullus (c.a. 84 B.C.- c.a. 54 B.C.), Propertius (50-45 B.C.- 15 B.C.), and Ovid (43 B.C.-17/18 A.D.).  Upon scanning this list, my readers will have noticed by now that something is missing: women. Choosing to study men’s works does not make me any less of a feminist. I believe that men and women are equal, and therefore, a man’s work can be just as insightful to me as a woman’s (plus, if I may adapt Virginia Woolf, “If Catullus had a sister, her works won’t be found in a library”). [click here to read Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister” from A Room of One’s Own]

I have chosen to focus on the works of these men for two reasons. First, their poems are beautiful and have several possible meanings. Second, these men wrote poetry that was labeled by their contemporaries as res novae, new things or revolution (the Romans hated res novae because they posed a threat to traditional Roman values). Within their poems they both praise their “charming little volumes” of revolutionary poetry, and struggle with their decision to disregard society’s expectation for them to become politicians and model upper class citizens.

Like these men, I too want to create a path for my life that differs from what society expects. In order to determine how to do this, I have decided to use their poems as templates and funnels with which I can sift through my thoughts and feelings. I have decided to model this journey of self-exploration on the modern day advice column.

Below is an adaptation of Ovid ‘s poem 1.2:  “Love’s Victim.” I have transformed it into what I am calling a “Dear Propertius letter.” The response, an adaptation of Propertius’s poem, 1.6, will be published in the next post.

Dear Propertius,

How do I describe this problem that has no name?

I am told it’s not hard for women to discover happiness.

After enduring the 9 to 5 grind, we just need to stay on top

of the housework and remember that weariness is natural.

But, try as I might, I can’t persuade happiness to infect me.

Surely, it resides in me, but it must be dormant.

I’m told happiness hasn’t festered within me

because I haven’t remained committed to “having it all.”

Should I try again: to refuse might cause my happiness to palliate?

“Don the Cape!” my sisters say, “being Superwoman eases the burden.”

I’ve seen capes provide comfort and security,

but can’t they also become like shackles?

If I take up this yolk again, will I receive less

tongue-lashings than those that evade it?

Will I still be considered a wild stallion,

or will I become a domesticated horse?

The League oppresses reluctant Heroes more severely

than those who willingly accept this Herculean feat.

Look, I confess I’m a recent convert to my sisters’ cause:

I’m still learning how to uphold its scales of Justice.

I don’t want to fight with my sisters, I want to fight for them,

I come in peace, why can’t they see my flag?

Perhaps my mind, freshly captivated,

mistook the cape for an ill-fitting straight jacket?

Still, this phantom feeling inhibited my Conscience,

robed me of Shame, and resulted in Mania.

Can I be expected to overcome men with this diagnosis?

Take away the pseudo-straight jacket and I’m naked.

Regardless, I still want to be a part of their sacred triumph,

but I can’t fill the Full-Time Superwoman position.

What do I do?


The Currently Cape-less Crusader

Instead of praising my own “charming little adaptation” and begging the gods to let it last for more than a generation, I will leave you with this final thought. Before you dismiss my little exercise as nothing but a self-absorbed woman’s feeble attempt to ask for and then take her own advice (yes, I know I am writing both the questions and the answers…so what), dust off your copy of Latin Love Elegy. As you re-read these witty, tragic, and magical poems, look for modern day parallels. Perhaps you’ll realize that if you just insert a modern word here or there and rephrase this or that, these ancient texts can be transformed into a modern self-help book—a source of Ancient Advice for Women and Men with Timeless Questions.

[Where I found my information: I learned about the majority of the movements, authors, and concepts mentioned in this post in various classes, such as my Freshman english composition course.  In order to find the websites that I have provided links to in this post, I used the search engine Dogpile. Using this engine, I searched for websites that provided biographical information on Catullus, Propertius, Ovid, and Virginia Woolf, contained information on the concept of “having it all,” and offered an opinion on whether or not it is possible for women today to truly have it all. While it was relatively easy to find a reliable source of information on the four authors, I had a more challenging time finding valid sources the discuss topics related to “having it all.” I did not find any articles written by men, so I had to provide only the opinions of women. I also used Dogpile to find an article on Kim Kardashian and her belief that she can have it all. In order to ensure that my classmates and any other readers will be led to reliable information when they click on these links, I linked to pages hosted by reputable sites, such as The Harvard Gazette and the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.]

Maddy Northuis