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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 Three. Sites of Seduction: Seeing and Being Seen in the City of Rome 59


CHAPTER THREE SITES OF SEDUCTION Seeing and Being Seen in the City of Rome ∢ Like other Roman poets, Horace compares his writings to physical monuments. He claims that his Odes are more lasting than the monu- ments themselves (Carm.3.30.1–2): exegi monumentum aere perennius regalique situ pyramidum altius.1 But Roman poets not only monumen- talized their poetry—they also poetized the urbs, making it an integral part of their elegies. It is of course not surprising that during the Augustan age the poets dealt at all with the urbs. The augmentation of the city of Rome after all was a central component of the reign of Augustus and his plan of urban and cultural revitalization. Suetonius (Aug. 28.3) and Cassius Dio (56.30.3) both tell that upon his death Augustus left Rome, once a city of bricks and earth, as a city of marble.2 Suetonius further speaks of Augustus wanting to improve the city since it was not worthy of an empire.3 In his Res Gestae, Augustus himself details the success of his extensive building pro- gram, including the creation and restoration of a number of porticoes, temples, and theaters.4 The city was “adorned” with new and restored monuments, both by Augustus and the leading men of Rome encour- aged by him.5 It was under Augustus that the cityscape came to have a visual homogeneity and that a true urban identity was established. Observ- ers should have even been able to link the buildings at sight, since the use of marble...

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