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Political Poetics: the Bona Dea Episode in Propertius 4, 9


Berry, M, Political Poetics: the Bona Dea Episode in Propertius 4, 9, Latomus: Revue D'Etudes Latines, 70, (2) pp. 391-404. ISSN 0023-8856 (2011) [Refereed Article]

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The Bona Dea episode in Propertius 4,9 - the account of a thirsty Hercules' attempts to gain entry to the grove of Bona Dea in order to drink from the spring within (4, 9, 2If.) - unlike the preceding tale of Hercules' encounter with Cacus (4,9,1-20), is almost without precedent. Macrobius in his Saturnalia (1, 12, 27-28), seemingly citing Varro's (now lost) account as his source, offers the only other extant narrative and his version can be considered perfunctory at best, contains little detail, and is composed some four centuries later. Given the absence of other accounts, and thus the opportunity for comparative analysis, there are, accordingly, varied interpretations of this episode and diverse claims regarding its focus.

I offer a new politico-poetic interpretation, and argue that Hercules functions as an exemplar for Augustus and a symbol of Augustan authority - I suggest that by casting Hercules in such a role, Propertius offers a critique of Augustan moral legislation and poetic and sexual censorship.

My interpretation is based upon two premises: first, that Hercules functions as an Augustan paradigm in the opening episode of this elegy, the battle with Cacus - a claim that is based on the established connection between Hercules and Augustus, and by the careful alignment of Propertius' version with Virgil's account or the same event in Aeneid which casts Hercules in such a role; secondly, that the links between the two distinct episodes within 4, 9 are of such strength as to invite the reader to consider Hercules in this role in the Bona Dea episode, These claims have been made by others and need no elaboration here, but two points are important from our perspective: Hercules is established as an Augustan prototype by the time of Propertius' fourth book; and the most important contemporary example of Hercules' allegorical status is found in Virgil's account of Hercules' cont1ict with Cacus.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Bona Dea, Propertius, Hercules, Macrobius, Macrobiusarro, Cacus, Augustus, Virgil, Aeneid
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Literary studies
Research Field:Latin and classical Greek literature
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Berry, M (Dr Michael Berry)
ID Code:75655
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:History and Classics
Deposited On:2012-02-08
Last Modified:2017-11-20
Downloads:2 View Download Statistics

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