Lucretius and the Origins of Roman Love Elegy

Erin McKenna Hanses, Fordham University


This doctoral dissertation, “Lucretius and the Origins of Roman Love Elegy,” treats each of the Latin elegists—Tibullus, Sulpicia, Propertius, Ovid—as a direct respondent to Lucretius’ Epicurean poetry, and in particular to his diatribe against love (4.1030-1287). Each elegist employs Lucretius’ own diction, at times to perform the cares of love Lucretius describes, and often to undermine the Epicurean’s stance against love entirely. While Tibullus ultimately cedes to the Lucretian vision of amor as a failed student of Epicureanism, Sulpicia, Propertius, and Ovid each offer a unique solution to the tension between love and Epicurean ataraxia. Sulpicia styles herself as a female voice in the Epicurean discourse on love by making learned allusion to both Lucretius and Philodemus, and promotes the possibility of mutual pleasure as alternative to the anxieties of amor. Propertius performs the role of tortured lover that Lucretius eschews, yet uses the language of bitterness and sweetness in Lucretius’ simile of the honeyed cup to style love itself as the bitter but necessary component for a happy life. Ovid in the Amores similarly demonstrates the pain of romantic love Lucretius warns of, but later, as the self-proclaimed teacher and then doctor of love in his didactic works, employs Lucretius’ own didactic tactics to bring readers to his side and convince them that love’s dangers can in fact be overcome. In the end, this study offers both particular analyses of how individual elegists engage with Lucretian diction and thought and a broad look at the deep influence Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura exerted onto the pages of Roman love elegy.

Subject Area

Classical studies|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Hanses, Erin McKenna, "Lucretius and the Origins of Roman Love Elegy" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10822516.