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Albius Tibullus (German Tibull ; * at 55 BC.. ; † 19 / . 18 BC. ) Was a Roman elegists the Augustan .



Tibullus came from a wealthy Roman knightly family . Ovid mentions a sister and mother who survived the poet. The lack of mention of the father suggests that he died early. Tibullus's friendship with Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus and his participation in his campaign to Aquitaine in 31 BC can be assured . BC, which mentions a brief vita (possibly from the lost parts of the writing De poetis des Suetonius ). Tibullus must have been around 19/18 BC. Because an obituary by the poet Domitius Marsus is also valid in 19 BC. Virgil and Tibullus who died . The epigram also testifies that Tibullus died young.


The lyrical ego of the elegies initially rejects Messalla's request to accompany him on a campaign to the East, because he is held back by the longing for a peaceful life and the love for a certain Delia. In the end he decides to travel with him, but has to stay on Kerkyra , sick on the way . When he returns, he finds his mistress married to a richer man. He loses his beloved boy Marathus to an older, equally wealthy rival. He experiences further love entanglements with a new lover named Nemesis .

How much of this is autobiographical must remain open. In older research, biographical data were taken from the literary work, the fictional nature of which was not sufficiently taken into account. More recent research takes a much more cautious stance. It is entirely possible that the poet's life circumstances were incorporated into his work, but there is no evidence that could be used to distinguish between reality and fiction. The portrayal of own poverty could actually go back to a land expropriation of the poet in the course of the Roman civil war , but since since Catullus the passionate and often unhappily loving "poor devil" from whose point of view the events are experienced and to whom the poet lends his name, belongs to the permanent inventory of Roman love poetry, no reliable conclusions can be drawn about the life of the poet without further supporting sources.


Along with Properz and Ovid, Tibullus is one of the three surviving poets of the Augustan love affair , of whose "founder" of the genre in Rome, Gallus , only a few fragments have survived. A lover appears in each of the elegies of all three poets: with Properz a Cynthia, with Ovid a Corinna and with Tibullus a Delia. While the love poems of Properz and Ovid are addressed only to these women, in some of the poems of Tibullus a young lover named Marathus appears. The first-person speaker breaks with Delia at the end of the first book; in the second book there appears a new lover named Nemesis.

Two books of poetry by Tibullus have come down to us. The first comprises ten elegies, the second six; both were probably published during his lifetime. Books 3 and 4 can still be found in current Tibullus editions, but their authenticity is doubtful; they are therefore often referred to as the Appendix Tibulliana ("Appendix to Tibullus"). The third book is by an imitator who calls himself Lygdamus . The fourth book is dominated by a long elegy addressed to Messalla and a wreath of poetic love letters from a young girl named Sulpicia to her lover.

Illustration by Otto Schoff for the modern book edition of Tibullus Marathus Elegies

While Properz and Ovid have always valued the rich variety of themes and the many excursions into the world of mythology , Tibullus hardly ever delves into the world of gods and myths. His themes are the turmoil of complicated love relationships, the longing for a simple, peaceful life in the country and the obligation to the patron Messalla, whose belligerent habitus the speaker rejects as well as the pursuit of wealth and fame. Descriptions of rural idylls in some poems bring the work close to Virgil's Eclogues .

Compared to the obviously artistic language and conceptual order of Properz and Ovid, Tibullus seems to write rather simply and associatively. One word seems to be enough to get him from one thought or topic to another. He avoids remote terms and is content with a limited vocabulary. Because of this and with his emphatic invocations, interjections and repetitions, his depictions of love afflictions appear as natural, spontaneous expressions and outbursts. On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent how skilfully the verses are forged and the contrast between the verse and the seemingly spontaneous expression.

In addition, Tibullus was the first to name Rome the Eternal City , as far as we can prove , an Antonomasie , which then became the distinctive name of honor.


Tibullus' themes and verses appeared and appear to some people, especially in modern times, to be all too banal and monotonous. In his day, however, the poet was highly regarded in Rome. The scholar Quintilian, for example, writes about the Roman elegy: “Tibullus appears to me to be its purest and most elegant representative. There are also people who prefer Properz. Ovid is more cheeky, Gallus rougher than these two. ”In the last few decades, voices have increased again in research that emphasize how much art and humor there is in Tibullus' verses.

Well-known older German translations of Tibullus' works come from Johann Heinrich Voß (Heidelberg 1811), Lachmann (Berlin 1829), Dissen (Göttingen 1835, 2 vols.), Haupt (5th edition, Leipzig 1885), Lucian Müller (that 1870 ), Bährens (das. 1878), Hiller (das. 1885). Teuffel (Stuttgart 1853 and 1855), Binder (2nd edition, Berlin 1885), Eberz (Frankfurt 1865) and Christian Gottlob Heyne (1755) provided further translations.

Editions and translations


Overview representations




  • Sebastian Lamm: Augustus in the mirror of the poet Tibullus. Analysis, presentation and interpretation of Tibullus' writings with regard to the interrelationship between state and poetry. Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-86664-167-2 .

Web links

Wikisource: Tibullus  - sources and full texts
Wikisource: Albius Tibullus  - Sources and full texts (Latin)


  1. Albius Tibullus: The Book of Marathus. Elegies of love for boys. German adaptation by Alfred Richard Meyer. Gurlitt, Berlin 1928 (with 5 etchings by Otto Schoff).
  2. Tibullus, carmen 2,5,23 f: "Romulus aeternae nondum formaverat urbis / moenia." ("Romulus had not yet built the walls of the eternal city.")
  3. "Cuius mihi tersus atque elegans maxime videtur auctor Tibullus. sunt qui property malint. Ovidius utroque lascivior, sicut durior Gallus. “ Institutio oratoria X 1, 93.