OF the life of Propertius, unquestionably the greatest of Roman elegiac poets, very little is known in addition to the few facts that he himself relates. He was an Umbrian, and of the various places which have claimed him, Assisi probably has the strongest case. The year 50 B. C. may be given as an approximate date for his birth. He was a member of the Maecenas circle in Rome, but of all his literary contemporaries Ovid alone mentions him. In none of his poems do we find a reference to any event later than 16 B. C., and with some show of reason his death is generally placed about that time.
Five books of Elegies bear witness to his unusual powers. The first commonly known as the Cynthia, from the name of the woman who constitutes its principal theme, was published when he was only twenty. It shows extraordinary precocity on the technical as well as on the emotional side. In the second and third books the erotic element is still prominent, but Cynthia is no longer the poet's only thought. In the fourth and fifth books there is greater variety. National themes are introduced, and some poems dealing with the origins of Roman customs and institutions mark the first attempts by a Roman poet in the field of the aetiological elegy.
It is a somewhat disagreeable personality that Propertius' poems reveal. He seems to have been strangely selfcentred, gloomy, and morbid. No matter what his theme
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Publication information: Book title: Masterpieces of Latin Literature:Terence: Lucretius: Catullus: Virgil: Horace: Tibullus: Propertius: Ovid: Petronius: Martial: Juvenal: Cicero: Caesar: Livy: Tacitus: Pliny the Younger: Apuleius; with Biographical Sketches and Notes. Contributors: Gordon Jennings Laing - Editor. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin and Company. Place of publication: Boston. Publication year: 1903. Page number: 312.
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