Sulpicia Posted by on Apr 19, 2011 in Latin Language

It’s pretty rare to get a glimpse of the female perspective in ancient Roman poetry. One of the most famous female poets from ancient Rome is a poetess by the name of Sulpicia. We only have six poems by her; of which one of them is shown below:

inuisus natalis adest, qui rure molesto

(Birthday is here, I hate it.)

et sine Cerintho tristis agendus erit

(It will be melancholy without Cerinthus)

dulcius urbe quid est?

(What is sweeter than a city?)

an uilla sit apta puellae atque Arretino frigidus amnis agro?

(Is a farmhouse on a cold stream on the Arretine what a girl needs?)

iam, nimium Messalla mei studiose, quiescas;

(Now Messala, you’re too anxious about me, rest a bit)

non tempestiuae saepe, propinque, uiae

(Your excursions are often ill timed)

hic animum, sensusque meos, abducta relinquo,

(This is where I relinquish my heart, feelings; snatched away)

arbitrio quam uis non sinit esse meo.

(It won’t let me act as I wish)

“Cerintho” is the name of the paramour. Scholars believe that “Messalla” refers to Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, who was an uncle of Sulpicia and a general and poet in the reign of Augustus. Sulpicia’s poems are fixated around this man named “Cerintho”. Her poems continue to be discussed by modern scholars, because they give a possible insight into how upper class Roman women felt about love and desire and how they expressed these feelings into words. Some of the controversies about Sulpicia’s work centers around whether she deserves to be counted as an equal to great poets like Catallus. Some critics have labeled her work as amateurish, while others believe she doesn’t get enough credit. Whether amateurish or not, her poems are still studied and admired among us today!


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