Augustan love elegance

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The Augustan love energy is a subspecies of elegy poetry specific to Latin literature . Its name comes from the fact that it had its brief flowering during the reign of Emperor Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) and its main focus was love - unlike the Greek elegies . Their characteristic meter is the elegiac distich , a combination of hexameter and pentameter .

History of origin

Elegiac poetry already existed among the Greeks. In the 7th century BC Chr. Wrote Callinus , Tyrtaios and Archilochus elegies, shortly after Solon and Mimnermus (Solon possibly later). With them, the topics were widely spread: the call to struggle, war , peace , political events, eros , death , enjoyment of life and philosophical ideas were the most important. In the 3rd century BC Callimachus , who had a great influence on the Roman poets and whose Aitia ("cause stories") are written in elegiac distiches , lived in the Hellenistic era .

It was only in the hands of the Roman poets that elegiac poetry concentrated on the theme of "love".

The first Roman poet of elegance was Gallus . Only a few fragments have survived; they already show the characteristics which distinguished the elegies of the later poets. However, the authenticity of these fragments is still controversial in research.

The three great elegists of Rome were Properz , Tibullus and Ovid . Her elegiac works have been preserved; Tibullus' editions also contain two books of poetry, the authenticity of which is doubtful.


In a society in which a free, distinguished man sought his life's work in politics or the military, a retreat into private life and a focus on love were unusual. Perhaps the social upheavals in the last decades before the new era favored this tendency.

Three features characterize the Augustan love strategy:

  • Love as a permanent state ( foedus aeternum ): The lover strives for a relationship similar to that of marriage with his beloved; it is therefore not about an erotic short-lived adventure, but about "true love". Often the motive arises that the beloved is present when the lover, sick or old and gray, is dying.
  • Love as a way of life ( militia amoris ): The lover places his activity, his everyday life and his occupation on an equal footing with the life of a politician or soldier. He wants his place in society to be accepted as well. The conquest of the beloved is also a kind of war for the lover, whereby the description of the conquest often takes pictures from the military field.
  • Love as slave service ( servitium amoris ): The lover submits to his beloved, whom he often addresses as mistress (domina), even though he is socially higher than the woman, who mostly comes from the free class.

The provocative character of elegiac poetry is unmistakable. A life for love, even subordination to women, would have been completely unthinkable for a Roman from the upper class. We can assume that this poem must have seemed at least partially comical to the ancient, educated reader, since the first-person speaker behaves in a similarly unsuitable or clumsy manner as characters from the comedy . This closeness is underlined by the fact that the same types appear in elegy and comedy , e.g. B. the matchmaker or rival.


  • Michael von Albrecht : History of Roman Literature. From Andronicus to Boëthius. Taking into account their importance for the modern age (= German 30099). Volume 1. 2., edited edition. Deutsche Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-423-30099-X .
  • Niklas Holzberg : The Roman love strategy. An introduction. 2nd, completely revised edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-15041-4 .