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For other uses, see Sulpicia (disambiguation).

Sulpicia was the name of two Roman women reputed in antiquity as poets.

Sulpicia I[edit]

The earlier Sulpicia is the only known woman from Ancient Rome whose poetry survives to this day.[1] She is said to have lived in the reign of Augustus and have been probably the daughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus and a niece of Messalla Corvinus, an important patron of literature. Her verses were preserved with those of Tibullus in the third book of elegies, the Appendix tibulliana,[2] and were for a long time attributed to him. They consist of six elegiac poems (3.13-18) addressed to a lover called Cerinthus. Cerinthus was most likely a pseudonym, in the style of the day (e. g. Catullus' Lesbia, Ovid's Corinna). Cerinthus has sometimes been thought to refer to the Cornutus addressed by Tibullus in two of his Elegies, probably an aristocratic Caecilius Cornutus. Recent criticism has tended away from attempting to identify Cerinthus with an historical figure in favour of noting the literary implications of the pseudonym.[3]

For a long time many academics regarded Sulpicia as an amateur author, notable for nothing but her gender. This view was challenged by Santirocco in an article published in 1979,[4] and subsequently the literary merit of this collection of poems has been more fully explored.[5]

Some critics [6][7] have challenged the view that the poems attributed to Sulpicia were authored by a woman; Hubbard suggests the content of the poems is too risqué to have been penned by an aristocratic woman in Rome, while Habinek and Holzberg both suggest that the poems are too sophisticated to have been written by a woman.[8] In an overview of Sulpician criticism, Alison Keith described the logic of Hubbard's article as "tortuous" and also highlights problems in Holzberg and Habinek's attempts to efface female authorship.[9] In contrast, Hallett argues for increasing the numbers of poems attributed to Sulpicia to include poems 8-12 from the Corpus Tibullianum, which had previously been attributed to the amicus Sulpiciae (friend of Sulpicia).[10]

Sulpicia II[edit]

The later Sulpicia lived during the reign of Domitian and was apparently married to a man named Calenus. She is praised by Martial (x.35, 38), who compares her to Sappho, as a model of wifely devotion and as the writer of poems that teach "girls to please one husband and husbands to please one wife."[11] Two lines of iambic trimeters attributed to Sulpicia survive in the scholia to Juvenal:

{si me} cadurc{i} restitutis fasciis
nud{a}m Caleno concubantem proferat
Me -
the linen, the slinging restored -
naked, making love with Calenus.
--John Quinn[12]

The fragment seems to confirm the characterization in Martial: sexually explicit poetry about marital love.[13][14][15]

An extant poem of 70 hexameters also bears her name. It is in the form of a dialogue between Sulpicia and the muse Calliope, and is a protest against the banishment of the philosophers by the edict of Domitian (CE 94), which, she complains, is an annulment of Roman history. At the same time Sulpicia expresses the hope that no harm will befall Calenus. The muse reassures her, and prophesies the downfall of the tyrant.

It is now generally agreed that the poem (the manuscript of which was discovered in the monastery of Bobbio in 1493, but has long been lost) is not by Sulpicia, but is of much later date, probably the 5th century; according to some it is a 15th-century production, and not identical with the Bobbio poem.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Pearcy, L.T., “Erasing Cerinthus: Sulpicia and her audience”, The Classical World, v.100, n.1 (Fall 2006) 31-36.
  4. ^ Santirocco, M. S. 1979. "Sulpicia Reconsidered." CJ 74.3: 229-39.
  5. ^ An overview of Sulpician criticism until 2006 can be found in Keith, Alison - "Critical trends in Interpreting Sulpicia", The Classical World, Vol. 100, No. 1 (Fall, 2006), pp. 3-10
  6. ^ Thomas K. Hubbard (2004). "The Invention of Sulpicia". The Classical Journal, Vol. 100, No. 2 100 (2): 177–194. JSTOR 4132992. 
  7. ^ Niklas Holzberg (1998). "Four Poets and a Poetess or a Portrait of the Poet as a Young Man? Thoughts on Book 3 of the Corpus Tibullanium". The Classical Journal, Vol. 94, No. 2 94 (2): 169–191. JSTOR 3298209. 
  8. ^ T. Habinek, The Politics of Latin Literature (Princeton 1998); N. Holzberg, "Four Poets and a Poetess or A Portrait of the Poet as a Young Man? Thoughts on Book 3 of the Corpus TibullianumT CJ 94 (1999).
  9. ^ Keith, Alison - "Critical trends in Interpreting Sulpicia", The Classical World, Vol. 100, No. 1 (Fall, 2006), pp. 3-10
  10. ^ Hallett, J., “The eleven elegies of the Augustan Poet Sulpicia”, Churchill, L.J., and Brown, P.R., Women writing Latin: From Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Europe, vol. 1 (New York, 2002) 45-65.
  11. ^ X.351-4
  12. ^
  13. ^ C.U. Merriam. "The Other Sulpicia". Classical World. Vol. 84, No. 4 (March - April 1991), pp. 303-305
  14. ^ H. Parker. "Other Remarks on the Other Sulpicia." Classical World. Vol. 86, No. 2. pp. 89-95.
  15. ^ A. Richlin. "Sulpicia the Satirist" Classical World. Vol. 86, No. 2. pp. 125-140


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Stevenson, Jane: Women Latin Poets. Language, Gender, and Authority, from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 2005), especially ch. 1: "Classical Latin Women Poets" (31-48)

External links[edit]

Poems of Sulpicia I:

Poetry attributed to Sulpicia II: