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Roman Responses to Greek Women Poets

Judith P. Hallett

Propertius (1st c BCE) 2.3.21: "When [my beloved Cynthia] tries lyric poems on the Aeolian lyre, she is sufficiently learned to play something fit for Aganippe's harp, and when she compares what she's written to ancient Corinna and doesn't think the poems of Erinna are equal to her own."

Ovid (1st c BCE) Amores 1.5: "Behold, my Corinna comes, dressed in a tunic wrapped around her, with her divided hair falling over her white neck, just as the notorious Semiramis is said to have gone into her bedchamber."

Tristia 4.10. 59-60: "Corinna, whom I called by a name not her own, sung throughout the entire city, had inspired my talent."

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Catullus (1st c BCE) 5: "Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love"

35: "I forgive you, girl more learned than the Sapphic muse"

51: He seems to me to be equal to a god, he if it may be, seems to surpass the very gods, who sitting opposite you again and again gazes at you and hears you sweetly laughing. Such a thing takes away all my senses, alas! For whenever I see you, Lesbia...

See Apuleius (2nd century AD) Apologia 10: "Thus in the same way they would accuse C. Catullus because he allegedly used the name Lesbia for Clodia, and Ticidas similarly because he reputedly wrote the name Perilla for she who was Metella, and Propertius, because he supposedly uses the name Cynthia and hides Hostia, and Tibullus, because he is said to have cherished Plania in his heart, Delia in his poetry."

Ovid, Heroides 15 (Sappho to Phaon): "My eyes no longer take please in the hundred other women whom I have loved not without reproach...Lesbian women, both those about to marry and those married,... my love for whom has made me infamous."

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3. 328 ff.: "let the Muse of Callimachus and Philetas and of old drunken Anacreon be known to you, let Sappho be known, for who is more sexually playful than she?"

Remedia Amoris 761: "Sappho certainly made me more attractive to my mistress"

Tristia 2.365 "What did Sappho of Lesbos teach girls, if not to love?[or, what did she teach if not to love girls?]"

Tristia 3.7. 19 ff.(to his poetic protegee Perilla): "Thus if the same fire still lives in your heart, only the poet of Lesbos will surpass your work."

Martial (late 1st c CE) 7.69 "Sappho the loving woman would praise [Canius' fiancee Theophila] composing poetry, Theophila is more chaste than Sappho and Sappho is not more learned."

10.35 "Let all women read Sulpicia who desire to please one man; let all husbands read Sulpicia who want to please one bride....With Sulpicia as your fellow student or as your teacher, Sappho, you would be more learned and sexually respectable; but hard-hearted Phaon, if he saw Sulpicia at the same time and with Sappho, would haveloved Sulpicia."