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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Tibullus illustrated: Lares, genius and sacred landscapes
by Breen, Carolyn Clark, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 1998, 390; 9821099
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates in detail the rationales for Tibullus' rustic and humorous personae, which I identify as two--a modest farmer and a rural slave in books I and II respectively. I examine the cultural contexts (represented both in literature and in art) in which these personae have meaning, and show how the contexts give coherence to many disparate Tibullan topoi (the oppositions free-slave, domestic-public, rural-urban, real vs. ideal in women). I investigate in original directions: agricultural writers, Lares and Genius cult and its imagery, sacral-idyllic landscape painting.

The first, longest chapter offers historical background for the cult and analyzes references to Lares and Genius worship in Books I and II, which are the only two authentic books of the Tibullan corpus and form the parameters for this study. Chapter two examines ekphrastic aspects of Tibullus' dedicatory epigrams and rural vignettes, comparing them with contemporaneous paintings, including those from the House of Epigrams in Pompeii and from the Augustan Villa at Boscotrecase; it also defines ekphrasis and discusses Hellenistic theories on viewing art.

Chapter three addresses lararia paintings from Pompeii, where physical evidence shows a conflation of public and private worship. The fourth chapter introduces relief sculpture from Augustan Rome, and examines subjects and motifs from marble Lares Compitales altars, comparing them to the Ara Pacis and Cancellaria reliefs. Sculptural representations in the popular archaistic style, including deities relevant to the continuity of the Genius Augusti (e.g. Hercules, Iuventas, Spes), further complement Tibullan themes.

Related literary traditions, especially those of the agronomic writers including Xenophon and Hesiod, provide material for twin topics in chapter five: concepts of sacred landscape and boundaries, and rural versus urban values. Chapter six explores the interconnections between Messalla's family (past, present, and future) and the Roman tradition of triumphal painting. The conclusion readdresses basic questions posed in the introduction, exploring the traditional scholarly dilemmas and deciphering Tibullus' enigmatic attitudes toward the country (rura), toward Messalla and toward Augustan Rome from the socio-cultural perspective developed throughout the thesis. This final chapter also glances at the Panegyricus Messallae as well as bits of Sulpicia's poetry which invert Tibullan elegiac themes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Leach, Eleanor Winsor
School: The Johns Hopkins University
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 59/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies, Art History, Religious history, Ancient languages
Keywords: Genius cult, Roman Empire, painting
Publication Number: 9821099
ISBN: 978-0-591-72812-5
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