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Tot in Vno Corpore Formae: Hybridity, Ethnicity and Vertumnus in Propertius Book 4

  • Parshia Lee-Stecum (a1)


The opening poem of Propertius Book 4 famously contains a programmatic statement which presents not amor (love or desire)—the staple of Roman elegy through the 20s and into the 10s BCE—as the ruling theme of the collection, but Roman aetiology:

      Roma, faue, tibi surgit opus, date candida ciues
      omina, et inceptis dextera cantet auis!
      sacra diesque canam et cognomina prisca locorum.
      Rome, lend your support. This work arises for you. Citizens, grant bright
      omens—and may the bird of augury sing favourably!
      Of rites and days I will sing, and of the ancient names of places.

The focus on Roman origins in poem 1 itself specifically involves a comparison between the early history of Rome (the mythic past) and the poet's present (what we have come to know as ‘Augustan’ Rome). This comparison is introduced in the very opening lines of the poem:

      hoc quodcumque uides, hospes, qua maxima Roma est,
      ante Phrygem Aenean collis et herba fuit;
      atque ubi Nauali stant sacra Palatia Phoebo,
      Euandri profugae procubuere boues.
      fictilibus creuere deis haec aurea templa,
      nec fuit opprobrio facta sine arte casa.
      Whatever you see here, stranger, where now is great Rome,
      was hills and grassland before the coming of Phrygian Aeneas.
      Where the Palatine shrine of Naval Phoebus now stands,
      the cattle of Evander once lay down as refugees.
      These golden temples grew from clay gods,
      and there was no shame in an artless dwelling.

Anthropologists and sociologists have demonstrated the vital role which myths of origin, such as the poet here purports to represent, play in the formation, maintenance and expression of ethnicity in many cultures, ancient and modern. A.D. Smith even goes so far as to call such myths the sine qua non of ethnic identity. It seems reasonable to suggest, then, that the representation of Roman origins projects Roman identity. Indeed, some scholars have recently argued for this in the case of Propertius Book 4. What is more, as I will argue here, Propertius Book 4 accentuates the complexities inherent in the particular picture of Roman identity which Roman myth transmits, and dramatises them in such ways as to challenge the unitariness of that identity at the very moment of its assertion.



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1. ‘In many ways the sine qua non of ethnicity, the key element of that complex of meanings which underlie the sense of ethnic ties and sentiments for the participants, myths of origins and descent provide the means of collective location in the world and the charter of the community which explains its origins, growth and destiny.’ Smith, A.D., The Ethnic Origin of Nations (London 1987), 24 .

2. See, for example, Janan, M., The Politics of Desire: Propertius IV (Berkeley 2001 ), who argues that Book 4 addresses an ‘evident crisis in conceiving Romanitas’ (6).

3. Dench, E., Romulus’ Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian (Cambridge 2005), 14 .

4. Dench (n.3 above), 253: ‘[W]e would be very hard put to find even a remote match for the heavy emphasis on meeting, conflict, and mating between peoples that we have in the Augustan mythologies of Rome.’ For autochthony see, for example, Loraux, N., Born of the Earth: Myth and Politics in Athens (Ithaca 2000), 13–15. For single immigrant founders see Malkin, I., The Returns of Odysseus: Colonization and Ethnicity (Berkeley 1998), 2f. For Greek constructions of their origins more generally see Hall, J., Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge 1997), 40–51, and Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture (Chicago and London 2002), 30–36.

5. The Romans were certainly able to use their Trojan origins as an explicit weapon of imperialism, although at an early stage in their expansion this could also be used against them: see Bremmer, J. and Horsfall, N., Roman Myth and Mythography (London 1987), 21 .

6. See Gabba, E., Dionysius and the History of Archaic Rome (Berkeley 1991), 1–4, 18–20.

7. Dionysius is possibly targeting the vein of ‘Mithradatic Historiography’ exemplified by Metrodorus of Scepsis: see Gabba (n.6 above), 191f., and the works cited there.

8. As the plural ἔθνη, (‘peoples‘) perhaps suggests, ‘Greekness’ was itself not necessarily as unitary as Dionysius’ formulation here makes out.

9. It is likely Book 4 was first circulated some time after 16 BCE: see Butler, H.E. and Barber, E.A., The Elegies of Propertius (Oxford 1933), xxvi–xxviii, and Camps, W.A., Propertius: Elegies Book IV (Cambridge 1965), I.

10. For discussions of the Aeneid’s construction of collective identity, and especially the role of Italian identities within this (an issue which, as I will argue, looms large in Propertius Book 4), see Toll, K., ‘The Aeneid as an Epic of National Identity: Italiam laeto socii clamore salutant ’, Helios 18 (1991), 3–14, and Making Roman-ness and the Aeneid ’, CA 16 (1997), 34–56. Toll argues that ‘Vergil took care to make Roman-ness an open category, one no single person could expound or circumscribe’ (‘Making Roman-ness’, 34). For the Aeneid as ‘the imagination of Roman unity, the construction of a new Roman subjectivity into which non-Roman Italians will have been blended’ and ‘a great poem that will incarnate the (new) national identity’, see Johnson, W.R., ‘Imaginary Romans: Vergil and the Illusion of National Identity’, in Spence, S. (ed.), Poets and Critics Read Virgil (New Haven and London 2001), 3–16, at 12.

11. For analysis of the rape of the Sabine women as a myth of ethnic amalgamation, see Dench (n.3 above), 20–25 and 253.

12. See Johnson (n.10 above), 13. The image of the body used in connection to ethnic amalgamation here (as well as the idea of ‘mixing’) finds an interesting echo in Florus’ late second century CE epitome of Livy (in the context of the Social War): quippe cum populus Romanus Etruscos, Latinos Sabinosque sibi miscuerit et unum ex omnibus sanguinem ducat, corpus fecit ex membris et ex omnibus unus est (‘For, since the Roman people has mixed in itself Etruscans, Latins and Sabines and traces one blood from them all, it has made a body from all these limbs and is one people [made] from all of them’, Florus 2.6.1); see Dench (n.3 above), 236 n.40. The language of ‘oneness’ which Florus’ reworking of Livy employs also has affinities with one model of Roman ethnicity presented in Propertius Book 4, as my following discussion will seek to demonstrate.

13. I follow here the transposition first proposed by Passerat in the seventeenth century and accepted by Barber, E.A. (ed.) Sexti Properti Carmina (Oxford 1960 ), although it is possible that the anachronism which this amendment seeks to avoid is original and programmatic. On temporal inversion and anachronism elsewhere in the book, see Miller, P.A., Subjecting Verses: Latin Love Elegy and the Emergence of the Real (Princeton 2004), 205–07.

14. Notwithstanding possible confusion in the Roman use of the term Seres between the Chinese and peoples of Central Asia (see Uhlig, H., Die Seidenstrasse: antike Weltkultur zwischen China und Rom [Bergisch Gladbach 1986], 71 , citing Pliny the Elder), no direct contact between the Romans and the Chinese is recorded before the middle of the second century CE: Robert, J.-N., De Rome à la Chine: sur les routes de la sole au temps des Césars (Paris 1993), 7–11. Like the Parthians, the existence of the Seres presents a potential challenge to Augustan claims of universal domination: Robert, 15 and 105–46. For Roman imaginings of the Seres, see Robert, 78–94.

15. Sericus, which Butler and Barber describe as ‘the least unsatisfactory correction of the meaningless readings of the MSS’ (Butler and Barber [n.9 above], 338), was first suggested by Beroaldus in 1487. Persicus was conjectured by Dousa the Younger (1680), and Neuricus (a branch of the Getae) by Jacob (1827).

16. For discussion of this see DeBrohun, J.B., Roman Propertius and the Reinvention of Elegy (Ann Arbor 2003), 102–04.

17. These names may have recalled specific figures for Propertius’ Roman audience. The most famous Archytas was a fourth century BCE mathematician from Tarentum, referred to briefly by Horace (Odes 1.28). The Alexandrian astronomer Conon (mid-third century BCE) is mentioned in the poetry of Catullus (66.7) and Virgil (Ecl. 3.40), both of which draw on Alexandrian poetic references. Horos would most probably recall the Egyptian god of that name. But for the appropriateness of the Greek and Latin etymologies of Horos’ name, see DeBrohun (n.16 above), 20.

18. It is ultimately unclear whether Cinara, Arria and the twins, Lupercus and Gallus, are mythic figures or more contemporary Romans: see, for example, Butler and Barber (n.9 above), 329f., who go so far as to assert that ‘[t]hey are clearly friends and relatives of Propertius’. The names of the twins evoke both a ‘Romulean’ and a ‘foreign’ priesthood. The twins are thus suggestive of a cultural hybridity which echoes that of Horos himself. The parallel with the twin founders of Rome, reinforced again by the name Lupercus (with its connection to the Lupercal and the wolf which suckled the twins), might also represent the sons of Arria as failed versions of Romulus and Remus.

19. On the problematic placement and reading of this couplet, which is often transposed to the earlier section of the poem spoken by ‘Propertius’, see Camps (n.9 above), 62f., and Butler and Barber (n.9 above), 329.

20. Interestingly, in poem 3, the letter from a wife to her husband on campaign, both husband and wife are given very Greek names, Lycotas and Arethusa, while it is clear both are in fact very Roman (although see Wyke’s suggestion that the names themselves ‘[do] not encourage any easy identification of the scenario envisaged in the letter with particular events at Rome’: Wyke, M., The Roman Mistress: Ancient and Modern Representations [Oxford 2002], 92 ). Butler and Barber go so far as to suggest that they are pseudonyms for the Aelia Galla and Postumus of Propertius 3.12: Butler and Barber (n.9 above), 337. At the least, the names recall the Hellenised milieu of pastoral poetry, as well as Greek names given to elegiac mistresses.

21. See Sherwin-White, A.N., The Roman Citizenship (Oxford 1973), 159–73; Nicolet, C., Space, Geography, and Politics in the Early Roman Empire (Ann Arbor 1980), 42 ; Crawford, M., ‘How to Create a Municipium: Rome and Italy after the Social War’, in Austin, M., Harries, J. and Smith, C. (eds.), Modus Operandi: Essays in Honour of Geoffrey Rickman (London 1998), 31–46, at 31–40.

22. There is evidence that reference to foundation myths was one of the strategies of ethnic distinction employed at the time of the Social War. This is suggested by the coinage minted by the allies at this time which in some cases juxtaposed a wolf and bull in conflict. For these coins, see Briquel, D., ‘Le taureau sur les monnaies des insurgés de la Guerre Sociale: à la recherche d’un symbole pour l’Ttalie’, REL 74 (1996), 108–25, at 111f. For the role of the bull in the ‘Sacred Spring’ myth of Samnite origins, as well as one version (that of Hellanicus of Lesbos in the fifth century BCE) which suggests a mythic etymological link between the bull and Italia, see Briquel, 117–25; Dench, E., From Barbarians to New Men: Greek, Roman, and Modern Perceptions of Peoples from the Central Apennines (Oxford 1995), 185 ; and Sacred Springs to the Social War: Myths of Origins and Questions of Identity in the Central Apennines’, in Cornell, T. and Lomas, K. (eds.), Gender and Ethnicity in Ancient Italy (London 1997), 49 .

23. See Sherwin-White (n.21 above), 154f.; Nicolet (n.21 above), 44–47; Dench (n.3 above), 132.

24. Cicero himself had earlier asserted the legal impossibility of holding ciuitas of Rome and of another state simultaneously (Pro Balbo 28–30). The Pro Balbo was written around 56 BCE; De Legibus was probably published around 44 BCE.

25. As Dench (n.3 above), 132, puts it, ‘There is a sense of struggle here.’

26. Young, R., Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race (London and New York 1995), 18 .

27. It is tempting to hear a direct verbal echo of duas patrias in the duas partes of the river here.

28. As Ann Vasaly has demonstrated, the use of topography to reinforce and extend argument is a common Ciceronian technique: Vasaly, A., Representations: Images of the World in Ciceronian Oratory (Berkeley 1993), especially 30–33, where she discusses Cicero’s explicit emphasis in the section which follows De Legibus 2.2 of the meanings which landscape can hold. See also Jenkyns, R., Virgil’s Experience: Nature and History: Times, Names and Places (Oxford 1998), 93–97, on Cicero’s representation of landscape in this section of De Legibus.

29. Although see n. 19 above for the problematic nature of lines 87f.

30. See La Penna, A., L’integrazione difficile: un profllo di Properzio (Turin 1977), 91f.; Fox, M., Roman Historical Myths: The Regal Period in Augustan Literature (Oxford 1996), 149–53; Newman, J.K., Augustan Propertius: The Recapitulation of a Genre (Hildesheim and New York 1997), 272 ; Viarre, S., ‘Le livre IV des élégies de Properce est-il sérieux?’, in Defosse, P. (ed.), Hommages à Carl Deroux, I: Poésie (Brussels 2002), 507–14, at 508.

31. For discussion of this see Sullivan, J.P., Propertius: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge 1976); 71–73; La Penna (n.27 above), 99; Stahl, H-P., Propertius: ‘Love’ and ‘War': Individual and State under Augustus (Berkeley 1985), 260–76; Newman (n.30 above), 275; Janan (n.2 above), 102–04; Wyke (n.20 above), 83–85; DeBrohun (n.16 above), 22–28.

32. This distinction has frequently led editors to dislocate the ‘Propertius’ and ‘Horos’ sections into separate poems: la and lb. On this ‘desire to establish two self-consistent and freestanding speaking subjects’ and its effacement of the poem's ‘deconstruct[ion of] the oppositions between epic and elegy, between the Roman and Callimachean, and between the poet's Imaginary self-projection as an elegist and his interpolation by the Symbolic structures and institutions of the Augustan state’, see Miller (n.13 above), 186.

33. See, for example, Boucher, J-P., Études sur Properce: problèmes d’inspiration et d’art (Paris 1965), 148 ; Pillinger, H.E., ‘Some Callimachean Influences on Propertius, Book 4’, HSCP 73 (1969), 171–99, at 174f.; Miller, J.F., ‘Callimachus and the Augustan Aetiological Elegy’, ANRW 2.30.1 (1982), 371–417, at 382; Fox (n.30 above), 164f. and 180f.; Wyke (n.20 above), 95–99; DeBrohun (n. 16 above), 22–24 and 33–70.

34. Propertius is unique among Roman writers in this: compare Livy 1.11.6–9. But see also Hubbard, M., Propertius (London 1974), 119–24, and Brenk, F., ‘Tarpeia among the Celts: Watery Romance from Simylus to Propertius’, in Deroux, C. (ed.), Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History 1 (Brussels 1979), 166–74, at 166, for discussion of similar treatment by a Greek poet, Simylus, mentioned by Plutarch (Rom. 17).

35. A hybridity of genres (the amatory and aetiological) has been extensively observed (as Paul Allen Miller states of 4.3, ‘Propertius has managed the difficult feat of combining a variety of genres to create a new hybrid unlike anything seen in elegy’s past’: Miller [n.13 above], 194; see also nn.28 and 30 above). See Stahl (n.31 above), 266f., for a brief summary of earlier scholarly approaches to this mixed program; and O’Neill, K., ‘Propertius 4.2: Slumming with Vertumnus?’, AJP 121 (2000), 259–77, at 273, for 4.2’s exemplification of this mixture. Some scholars have also drawn attention to a dissolution of gender binaries within the poems, which could be seen as a hybridisation of conventional categories: see Janan (n.2 above), 102f.; Wyke (n.20 above), 178–85. On the issue of ethno-cultural hybridity, W.R. Johnson has located a ‘conflicted hybridity’ in Book 4, especially poem 1, which includes Roman/Umbrian identities (see Johnson [n.10 above), 11); Janan (n.2 above) has given close attention to ‘the problem of identity’ (16), and specifically Roman identity, in Book 4 (see especially Janan [n.2 above], 19–32 and 57–68); and Pinotti, P., ‘Properzio e Vertumno: anticonformismo e restaurazione Augustea’, in Vivona, S. (ed.), Colloquium Propertianum (tertium): Atti: Assisi, 29–31 Maggio 1981 (Assisi 1983), 75–96, esp. 80f. and 92f, has discussed the theme of Etruscan/Roman ‘assimilation’, ‘fusion’ and ‘politico-ethnic syncretism’ in 4.2 with some suggestions about how this might relate to Augustan policy.

36. ‘What we are calling a hybrid construction is an utterance that belongs, by its grammatical (syntactic) and compositional markers, to a single speaker, but that actually contains mixed within it two utterances, two speech manners, two styles, two “languages”, two semantic and axiological belief systems’: Bakhtin, M., The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, tr. Emerson, C. (Austin 1981), 304 . For intentional and organic hybridity, see esp. 359–61.

37. ‘[O]rganic hybrids…are pregnant with potential for new world views, with new “internal forms” for perceiving the world in words’: Bakhtin (n.36 above), 360.

38. ‘Intentional semantic hybrids are inevitably internally dialogic (as distinct from organic hybrids). Two points of view are not mixed, but set against each other dialogically…[and] cannot of course be unfolded into a distinct, rounded-off dialogue with its own individual semantics: essential to it is a certain elemental, organic energy and openendedness’: Bakhtin (n.36 above), 360f.

39. Hardie, P., ‘Augustan Poets and the Mutability of Rome’, in Powell, A. (ed.), Roman Poetry and Propaganda in the Age of Augustus (London 1992), 59–82, at 74f. Compare discussions of the ancient city of Rome or the Roman ritual calendar as historical palimpsests: see Edwards, C., Writing Rome: Textual Approaches to the City (Cambridge 1996), 42f.; Beard, M., ‘A Complex of Times: No More Sheep on Romulus’ Birthday’, PCPS 33 (1987), 1–15, at 7f.

40. See Hardie (n.39 above), 75, who describes the Vertumnus statue as ‘the principle of mutability frozen in the perfection of a work of art’.

41. Etruscan and Sabine communities still exist outside Rome after this ‘absorption’ (see, for example, Livy 1.14–15, 30–31; 2.6, 9–16, 18, 26, 31, 42–51, 53, 64; 3.26, 29–30, 38, 61–63; 4.17–19, 30–34; 5.1, 15–22; 6.2–3, 9–10; 7.17, 19–20; 9.29, 32–33, 35–37, 39–40; 10.3–5, 10–11, 18, 21, 30–31, 37, 45–46 for continued conflict between Rome and these communities).

42. Surviving accounts leave the eventual fate of Evander’s Arcadian community unclear. Readers may have assumed that they too were absorbed into the eventual Latin/Trojan community, or that they declined and disappeared like previous inhabitants of Latium (on which see Virg. Aen. 8.314–32). Servius (ad Aen. 8.21) reports accounts that an Arcadian presence was maintained on the Palatine at least into the reign of Evander’s son, which may suggest the existence of fuller treatments of the Arcadians’ fate now lost to us.

43. Other Roman authors differ over the etymology of Luceres. Cicero (Rep. 2.14) and Varro (LL 5.55) support the derivation from Lucumo/Lycmon, while Livy (1.13.8) states that the name’s origin is uncertain: Lucerum nominis et originis causa incerta est. As Cornell points out, apart from the interpretation offered by Florus (2.6.1), no source explicitly states that the original members of the tribes were ethnically determined, just that the names of the tribes were taken from those of the leaders of the three ethnic groups: Cornell, T., The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c.1000–264 BCE) (London and New York 1995), 14 .

44. The classic expression of the traditional Roman farmer/soldier ideology is Cato Agr. praef. 4.

45. Propertius elsewhere characterises the mitra as Punic (Sidoniae…mitrae, 2.29.15) and, in another reference to the Bacchic mitra, as Lydian (Lydia mitra, 3.17.30). Servius associated the mitra with Phrygians and Lydians: Servius ad Aen. 4.216.

46. See Goold, G.P., ‘Noctes Propertianae’, HSCP 71 (1966), 59–106, at 78f.

47. The reading sub petaso was suggested by Smyth, W.R., ‘Propertius IV, ii.37’, CR 62 (1948), 14 , for the manuscript readings of suppat hoc and suppetat hoc.

48. The Vicus Tuscus ran behind the Temple of Castor and Pollux. For its association with Etruscan refugees, see Livy 2.14, Dionysius of Halicarnassus 5.36, Varro LL 5.46, and Tacitus Ann. 4.65. The area also seems to have had associations with prostitution: see O’Neill (n.35 above), 263f.

49. Ov. Fast. 3.381–2; Plu. Num. 13.2.

50. Alternatively, this might be connected with a tradition that Mamurrius was eventually exiled from Rome, reported in the sixth century CE by John Lydus Mens. 3.29 and 4.36. Mamurrius’ name might actually suggest Mamertine origin.

51. ‘[H]e speaks not as an Etruscan, but as a naturalized Roman citizen’, Butler and Barber (n.9 above), 336; ‘patria lingua: he must mean Latin, not Etruscan, as he has derived his name from Latin uertere; he speaks as a naturalized Roman’, Camps (n.9 above), 76. See also Suits, T.A., ‘The Vertumnus Elegy of Propertius’, TAPA 100 (1969), 475–86, at 486; Richardson, L., Propertius: Elegies I-IV (Norman 1977), 427 ; Pinotti (n.35 above), 92f.

52. But on the difficulty of interpreting paterna signa here, see Shackleton Bailey, D.R., Propertiana (Cambridge 1956), 229 , and Butler and Barber (n.9 above), 334, who prefer Housman’s emendation, regna, for the sake of clarity. For the interpretation of these lines as meaning indicia patris uel patriae (and the phrase’s relationship to sepulchral inscription) see Suits (n.51 above), 481 and n.24, who traces this reading back to Paley (1872). This reading is followed by Camps (n.9 above), 72.

53. ‘He can be taken as an emblem of the elegist’s new role; his versatility, his changes of persona, his interest in aetiology, and his concurrent natural tendency to refer to early Roman history all demonstrate the ways in which the elegist’s role can be extended to include Rome’: Fox (n.30 above), 158. Newman (n.30 above), 276, characterises Vertumnus as ‘not far from his creator’. See also Marquis, E., ‘Vertumnus in Propertius IV, 2’, Hermes 102 (1974), 491–500, at 500. Certainly the Etruscan god embellished by (possibly) Oscan art at the centre of Rome would seem to parallel the Umbrian poet employing Greek (Callimachean) artistic principles to sing of Rome and Romanness.

54. I am indebted to the anonymous referee for this observation. The possible similarities of the Latin and Etruscan (and possibly other Italic) versions of the god’s name might further emphasise the linguistic and cultural overlap which patria lingua evokes here.

55. Bhabha, H.K., The Location of Culture (London and New York 1994), 89 . For the location of the colonising gaze in Book 4, see Spencer, D., ‘Propertius, Hercules and the Dynamics of Roman Mythic Space in Elegy 4.9’, Arethusa 34 (2001), 259–84, at 267, on 4.9, where ‘Hercules appropriates the landscape through his colonizing gaze’.

56. Bhabha (n.55 above), 86.

57. Compare Johnson’s suggestion that 4.1 articulates the poet’s own alienation: ‘his complex feelings of becoming both Roman and not Roman, of becoming both himself and not himself’, Johnson (n.10 above), 9.

58. For concerns that such an approach ‘risks the reduction of “colonialism” to a cross-cultural monolith’, see Webster, J., ‘Necessary Comparisons: A Post-Colonial Approach to Religious Syncretism in the Roman Provinces’, WorlArch 28 (1997), 324–38, at 324f. On universalising approaches to the study of ‘empires’, see Dench (n.3 above), 84–86. See also Antonaccio, C., ‘Hybridity and the Cultures within Greek Culture’, in Dougherty, C. and Kurke, L. (eds.), The Cultures within Greek Culture (Cambridge 2003), 57–76, at 60, on the application of the notion of hybridity to ancient Greek material cultures.

59. Dench (n.3 above), 11: ‘It is inevitable, and indeed often desirable, that our experience of the present should inspire the questions we ask of the past. But when we come to answer them, we should both have some awareness of the socio-specific nature of our own concerns and, indeed, those of the theoretical models that we invoke.’ See also the very similar sentiments of Lewis, Bernard, History—Remembered, Recovered, Invented (Princeton 1975), 96 , cited in the Introduction to Cornell, T. and Lomas, K. (eds.), Gender and Ethnicity in Ancient Italy (London 1997), 18 .

60. Bhabha (n.55 above), 115.

61. J.B. DeBrohun’s observation that ‘Vertumnus is never required to have two identities at the same time’ (DeBrohun [n.16 above], 172), but rather swaps and changes, abandoning the last form to assume the next, suggests a further complication for any reading of an assimilative model of identity here. This might emphasise distinctiveness and separation of individual identities as much as Vertumnus’ claim to possess many forms in one body emphasises cohesion and unity.

62. Young (n.26 above), 3.

63. That Book 4 does challenge such a monolithic view of Roman identity is suggested by Edwards (n.39 above), 57: ‘Propertius’ Elegies, in particular those of book 4, open up fissures in the solid, confident Roman identity projected both by Augustus’ building projects and (at least on some readings) by Virgil’s epic.’ For a reading of 4.9 as ‘destabilis[ing] all programmatic models of Romanness’ and ‘undermin[ing] the viability of all attempts to impose a monolithic version of Roman experience’, see Spencer (n.55 above), 260.

64. Opus is used of the collection itself at 4.1.67. For 4.2 and Vertumnus as representative of the collection, see Pinotti (n.35 above), 95f.; Deremetz, A., ‘L’élégie de Vertumne: l’’œuvre trompeuse’, REL 64 (1986), 116–49, at 141–49; Fox (n.30 above), 157f.; Glock, A., ‘Funktionen von Aitiologie: Properz 4, 2’, in Batsch, C., Egelhaaf-Gaiser, U. and Stepper, R. (eds.), Zwischen Krise und Alltag: Antike Religionen in Mittelmeerraum/Conflit et normalité: religions anciennes dans l’espace méditerranéen (Stuttgart 1999), 197–220, at 216f.; O’Neill (n.35 above), 273, who writes that ‘Vertumnus…represents the variety of narrators, and therefore the book’; Wyke (n.20 above), 84 and 179; Janan (n.2 above), 15, who argues that ‘Elegy 4.2 exemplifies the aetiological elegy as form par excellence’; DeBrohun (n.16 above), 172 and 183, who sees Vertumnus as ‘the representative of Propertius’ new book’ (172). For a reading of Vertumnus as ‘the personification of Augustan verse’ more generally, as well as a specific ‘personification of Book IV’, see Shea, C., ‘The Vertumnus Elegy and Propertius Book IV’, ICS 13 (1985), 63–71.

65. Appropriately enough, then, this image of the statue with ‘many natures’ itself has a multiplicity of applications.

66. Newman (n.30 above), 265, sees this ‘intruded spectator’ as part of ‘a variety of “estrangement”’ generated by the themes of time and change in 4.1.

67. See Johnson’s suggestion that Propertius ‘knows, too, that…the people of Rome, both the old and the new, are Romans now in name only. They are all hybrids now.’ Johnson (n.10 above), 12.

Tot in Vno Corpore Formae: Hybridity, Ethnicity and Vertumnus in Propertius Book 4

  • Parshia Lee-Stecum (a1)


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