Original Research - Special Collection: Marianne Dircksen Festschrift

Augustus Scriptus: Referencing the ‘real’ in Propertius

Johan Steenkamp
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 2 | a2510 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i2.2510 | © 2019 Johan Steenkamp | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 June 2019 | Published: 21 November 2019

About the author(s)

Johan Steenkamp, Department of Ancient Language and Text Studies, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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The main aim of this article is to understand how Augustus is written into life in the story-world of Propertius. It traces the development of the character in the story-world over time with due regard to the parallel historical narratives that were told about the historical Augustus. The investigation proceeds from a content analysis of the incidence of references (overt and oblique) to Augustus Caesar in the extant text of Propertius. This approach assumes that quantitative data, that is, frequency of incidence, spatial or temporal dimensions of incidence and the location of a reference in the broader context, are important indicators of meaning. The investigation presents its content analysis and the interpretation of this analysis. The investigation also relies to a certain extent on narratological analytical concepts, because Augustus is written into life by the Propertian text as a character which exists, to a certain extent at least, in a narrative. The investigation concludes that Augustus is not a fully developed character in the Propertian texts. Nevertheless, Augustus is revealed to be a distant ruler mostly associated with military authority and wealth; at some instances, he is regarded as a messianic figure, which is also present in other poets. Most notably, the content analysis reveals a consistent engagement between the speaker in the Propertian poems and the power wielded by Augustus.


Augustus; Propertius; content analysis; Latin poetry; elegy.


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