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Elegiac Eyes

Vision in Roman Love Elegy


Stacie Raucci

Elegiac Eyes is an in-depth examination of vision and spectacle in Roman love elegy. It approaches vision from the perspective of Roman cultural modes of viewing and locates its analysis in close textual readings of Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid. The paradoxical nature of the Roman eyes, which according to contemporary optical theories were able to penetrate and be penetrated, as well as the complex role of vision in society, provided the elegists with a productive canvas for their poems. By locating the elegists’ visual games within their contemporary context, Elegiac Eyes demonstrates how the elegists were manipulating notions that were specifically Roman and familiar to their readership.


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Chapter One. Spectacular Poetics: Re-Viewing the Elegiac Triumph 9


CHAPTER ONE SPECTACULAR POETICS Re-Viewing the Elegiac Triumph ∢ “Militat omnis amans et habet sua castra Cupido.” This opening line of Amores 1.9, in which Ovid declares that every lover is a soldier and Cupid has his own camp, encapsulates the elegiac trope known as militia amoris.1 Like other elegists, Ovid appropriates the traditional language of war to express the continuous struggles for dominance between the poet, his puella, and Amor himself. When, as they often did, the elegists incorporated the motif of a triumphal procession, they highlighted those aspects of the triumph that best served the elegiac agenda.2 Since the elegists were engaged in a poetics of appropriation, it is advantageous to study the elegiac triumph not in isolation, but within its cultural context. Previous scholarship on the Roman triumph has mostly been concerned with items such as determining the route of the procession, the role of the triumphator, or the origin of the ritual.3 Recently, however, numerous scholars have moved the research on the triumph in two new, and intimately related, directions. First, they have drawn attention to the inherently visual nature of a triumphal procession.4 In antiquity, the triumph was a most complex spectacle. The triumphing general, captured peoples, and the other representa- tions of a successful military campaign were put on display in the streets as part of a loud and vivid parade. Second, as Ida Östenberg has recently noted, thanks to the “trend of ritual and performance ELEGIAC EYES 10 studies,” new questions have been raised...

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