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LIFE OF TIBULLUS.
The little that we know of the personal history of Tibullus is derived almost exclusively from the following sources:-1. Notices with regard to himself, scattered here and there in his writings. 2. A meagre “Vita Tibulli” prefixed to his poems in the MSS., the work of some old grammarian who may have drawn his account from trustworthy
3. Horace addresses Epist. I. iv. and C. I. xxxiii, to a poet whom he calls Albius, and whom the learned have, with one accord, believed to be Albius Tibullus, although this can scarcely be proved. These two pieces contain some particulars of which, in the absence of more precise documents, we are glad to avail ourselves. 4. An epigram by Domitius Marsus, a contemporary, which will be quoted at full length below, decides the period of his decease. 5. Ovid frequently mentions Tibullus, and has left us a most exquisite elegy on his death, but this, as well as numerous allusions in the works of the classics, yield but little information with regard to his career.
ALBIUS TIBULLUS (his prænomen is unknown) was a Roman knight, the representative of an ancient and wealthy family, distinguished by the beauty of his person, a contemporary of Horace and Virgil. He gives us to understand that he was in possession of a
1 The following are the principal passages in which Tibullus indicates the antiquity of his family, and contrasts the wealth of his ancestors with his own scanty
At mihi contingat patrios celebrare Penates
Reddereque antiquo menstrua tura Lari.-I. ifi. 33.
Cursarem vestros quum tener ante pedes.
small portion only of the estates of his forefathers, but whether this diminution of fortune was caused, as some think, by the confiscations of the triumviri, in which so many Italian estates were involved, or, as others would have it, by his own extravagance, or by unknown circumstances, we cannot determine. The first supposition gains a shade of probability from the fact, which is certainly remarkable, that the name of Augustus, celebrated with such persevering and fulsome adulation by the other great poets of the day, is nowhere to be found in the writings of Tibullus;—the second idea is supported in some degree by the recklessness with which he declares himself ready to sacrifice all that was left of his hereditary lands to gratify the demands of his mistress,
Quinetiam sedes iubeat si vendere avitas
Ite sub imperium, sub titulumque, Lares.-II. iv. 53.
although this, after all, may be nothing more than a poetical hyperbole.
At an early period he attached himself to the person of the famous M. Valerius Messala Corvinus, and enjoyed through life his patronage and friendship. He formed one of his retinue during a campaign against the tribes of Aquitania, the glories of which are commemorated in one of his most spirited elegies, and was accompanying his protector on an Asiatic mission, when he was attacked by illness and obliged to remain behind at Corcyra, an incident which forms the theme of another beautiful poem. 2
After his recovery he seems to have returned home, and to have passed the rest of his life in the neighbourhood of Pedum, a small town
Nen pudeat prisco vos esse e stipite factos,
Sic veteris sedes incoluistis avi.-1. X. 15.
Non ego divitias patrum fructusque requiro
Quos tulit antiquo condita messis avo.-1, i. 41.
Nunc agna exigui est hostia parva soli.-1. i. 18.
Remark that many critics believe that the poem from which the last passage is quoted is not the work of Tibullus.
1 Bk. I, vii. 2 Bk. I. iii.
of Latium, on the skirts of the Apennines, between Præneste and Tibur. He occasionally speaks of his poverty, but that he understood by this term a moderate competence, as contrasted with the overgrown fortunes of many of his noble countrymen, is sufficiently evident from his own expressions,
Me mea paupertas vitæ traducat inerti,
Dum meus assiduo luceat igne focus.
Rusticus, et facili grandia poma manu.
Præbeat, et pleno pinguia musta lacu, &c.—I. i. 5.
Nay, if we can trust the statement of Horace, we shall form a still more favourable estimate of his circumstances.
Non tu corpus eras sine pectore. Di tibi formam,
He died while yet in the prime of life, and his eyes were closed by the hands of his mother and sister."
The period of his decease is determined by an epigram of Domitius Marsus, a contemporary poet,
Te quoque Virgilio comitem non æqua, Tibulle,
Mors juvenem campos misit ad Elysios.
Aut caneret forti regia bella pede.
Now the death of Virgil happened, as is well known, B. C. 19. Tibullus, moreover, was still iuvenis, that is, not more than forty-five years
it may be, much younger. The date of his birth cannot be so easily ascertained. In the fifth elegy of the third book, we find these lines,
Natalem primo nostrum videre parentes
Cum cecidit fato consul uterque pari,
that is, on the day when the consuls, Hirtius and Pansa, fell at the battle of Modena, which was fought towards the close of the month of April, B.C. 43. But several circumstances render it highly probable that
i See Ovid. Amor. Ill. ix, which is contained in the present collection.
this couplet has been interpolated, or if not, that the whole piece is the work of some other author.
1. The second of the above lines is to be found in Ovid. Trist. IV. x. 6.
Editus hic ego sum; nec non ut tempora noris,
Cum cecidit fato consul uterque pari.
where he is speaking of his own nativity. Now it is very unlikely that Ovid, if he had borrowed the line from Tibullus, (the Tristia were written more than thirty years after the death of the latter) would have failed, either here or elsewhere, to make some allusion to a coincidence so remarkable. On the contrary, however, when Ovid takes occasion! to enumerate the principal Elegiac poets of the Augustan era, he expressly states that disparity of age had prevented him from being the friend of Tibullus, that the successor of Tibullus, in his own department, was Propertius, while he himself came next to the latter in order of time.
2. Tibullus, according to his own statement, accompanied his patron Messala, in an expedition against the tribes of Aquitania. He took an active part in the toils, and claimed a share in the honors of the campaign.
Non sine me est tibi partus honos, Tarbella Pyrene
Testis, et Oceani litora Santonici;
Carnoti et flavi cærula lympha Liger.-I. vii. 9.
But we learn from the Capitoline Fasti that on the 25th of September, B.C. 27, a triumph was celebrated by Messala for his victories in Gaul; the war itself could not, therefore, have been carried on later than B.C. 28, and if Tibullus had been born, B.C. 43, he would have been only fifteen years old.
3. Horace, in the fourth epistle of the first book, thus addresses Tibullus:
Albi, nostrorum sermonum candide iudex,
Now, if we suppose this to have been written during the very year when Tibullus died, it is little probable that Horace, who had then reached the age of forty-six, and was in the zenith of his reputation,
1 Trist. IV. X. 51. contained in the present collection.
would have testified so much respect for the opinion of a youth, his junior by upwards of twenty years. Again in the 33d Ode of the first book, he endeavours to console his friend for the loss of Glycera, who had deserted him for a younger lover; but if Tibullus was only twentyfour when he died, the circumstance of age could scarcely have had any concern with the loss of his mistress.
After considering these difficulties, the first of which seems quite insurmountable, we shall be justified in carrying back the birth of Tibullus several years. We know from Ov. Trist. IV. x. 51, seqq. that Gallus, Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid distinguished themselves, in succession, as Elegiac poets. Of these, Gallus was born B. C. 66, Ovid B.C. 43, we may therefore conjecture that Tibullus saw the light about B.C. 59, the year in which Livy came into the world, or B.C. 58, the year in which Cicero went into exile; but it is impossible to arrive at any certain conclusion.
WORKS OF TIBULLUS.
THE works usually attributed to Tibullus, consist of thirty-seven pieces, divided into four books, the whole of which are written in Elegiac Verse, with the exception of a Panegyric on Messala, in Hexameters. The amatory poems in the first book express the passion of the poet for a lady whom he addresses under the feigned appellation of Delia, but whose real name, as we learn from Apuleius, was Plania, or perhaps Plautia;'_in the second book Delia is superseded by Nemesis, who, in her turn, gives way to Neæra in the third. The fourth commences with the Panegyric mentioned above, and the remainder is occupied with the loves and correspondence of an enamoured pair, distinguished as Sulpicia and Cerinthus. In addition to Delia, Nemesis, and Neæra, we find in Horace allusions made to a Glycera, as a faithless mistress of our poet. Many lengthened discussions have been maintained upon the question whether the four fair ones are to be considered as real distinct personages, or as one, or perhaps two individuals addressed under different names. These investigations which, at best, must be considered as mere learned trifling, have, as might be expected, led to nothing
1 Apuleius in Apolog. (p. 279. Elmenh.) The reading, however, is doubtful. Tbe words are "Accusent......et Tibullum, quod ei sit Plania (al. Plautia, al. Flavia) in animo Delia in versu.'
2 These pieces are probably the “Epistolæ Amatoriæ" mentioned in the “ Vita Tibulli."