Sulpicia and the Appendix Tibulliana

Sulpicia and the Appendix Tibulliana

The Appendix Tibulliana contains various elegies that were transmitted under Tibullus’ name in the manuscripts, but in fact are of different authorship. Two of the authors are named (Lygdamus and Sulpicia) while the rest (some poems about M. Valerius Messalla  Corvinus and others about Sulpicia) are from unknown authors.

The one thing all authors in the Appendix seem to share is literary patronage under Messalla.

Lygdamus

Nothing about Lygdamus is known at all, and his elegies (1–6 in the Appendix) tell us nothing worthwhile. Like other elegists, he writes about a beloved, whom he calls Neraea.

Sulpicia

Sulpicia was an elegist in the first century BCE.

Life

Very little is known of her life. She was the daughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus, an eminent lawyer and contemporary of Cicero (famous, in fact, for his consolation letter to Cicero after the death of Tullia), and also the niece of Messalla Corvinus, the second most important literary patron in the Augustan Age after Maecenas (his other clients included Ovid and Tibullus).

Works

While a consensus has yet been reached, a majority of scholars see elegies 13–18 in the Appendix Tibulliana as actually authored by Sulpicia and not by Tibullus or anyone else, though some remain skeptical. These are various love elegies on her lover, Cerinthus (whom a few scholars think might be a Hellenized pseudonym for the Cornutus in Tibullus’ poems).

Additionally, elegies 8–12 are written about Sulpicia, though there is debate whether this was a friend of hers (dubbed the amicus Sulpiciae, Latin for “friend of Sulpicia”) or possibly by her herself. The paucity of evidence prevents final conclusions.

Lately, interest in Sulpicia has shifted from the novelty of a Roman woman writing poetry to her talents as a poet in her own right.

Texts Online

Latin: PHI Latin Texts
English: Poetry in Translation (Sulpicia’s Garland • Sulpicia’s Verses)

 Articles on Sulpicia

  1. Matthew S. Santirocco 1979. “Sulpicia Reconsidered.” Classical Journal 74.3: 229–239.
  2. Alison Keith 2006. “Critical Trends in Interpreting Sulpicia.” The Classical World 100.1: 3–10.