Sulpicia (satirist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sulpicia was an ancient Roman poet who was active during the reign of the emperor Domitian (r. AD 81–96). She is mostly known through two poems of Martial;[1] she is also mentioned by Ausonius, Sidonius Apollinaris, and Fulgentius.[2] A seventy-line hexameter poem and two lines of iambic trimeter attributed to Sulpicia survive; the hexameters are now generally thought to have been a fourth- or fifth-century imitation of Sulpicia.[3]


Sulpicia was married to a man named Calenus, to whom Martial praises her faithfulness.[4] Martial's epigram 10.38 suggests that they were married for at least 15 years.[5] The poem seems to suggest that the marriage between Calenus and Sulpicia was over when it was written; Holt Parker argues that it was written as a poem of consolation after Sulpicia's death,[6] though Amy Richlin suggests that it might instead have been written about Sulpicia and Calenus having divorced instead.[5]


Sulpicia seems to have written poetry that was erotic or satirical.[3] She is the only woman known from antiquity who was associated with a comic genre.[7] Judging by the surviving testimonia on Sulpicia, she openly discussed her sexual desire for her husband; this outspoken centring of female sexual desire is extremely unusual amongst ancient women poets.[8] By contrast with the male love poets of ancient Rome, however, Sulpicia portrays her desire only within the context of her marriage.[9]

Two lines of iambic trimeter attributed to Sulpicia are quoted by a scholiast on Juvenal.[10] The quotation mentions Calenus, identifying the Sulpicia named by the scholiast with the satirist.[11] These lines are generally accepted as the only surviving fragment of Sulpicia's poetry.[12]

A seventy-line hexameter poem on the expulsion from Rome of Greek philosophers by Domitian was for a long time attributed to Sulpicia.[1] The poem was preserved in an anthology from the early fifth century.[13] The only manuscript known to have survived antiquity, preserved at Bobbio in northern Italy, is now lost; the modern text of the poem derives from four copies of a transcript made of the manuscript in the late fifth century.[14] The poem, known as the Sulpiciae Conquestio (Sulpicia's Complaint) was first printed in 1498, and its authorship remained unquestioned until the second half of the 19th century.[15] In 1868, J.C.G. Boot argued that the poem was a 15th century composition; in 1873 Emil Baehrens was the first to suggest it was a work of late antiquity.[16] Modern scholars generally consider that the work was not by Sulpicia, and was composed in the fourth or fifth century AD.[1]

Martial compares Sulpicia's poetry, along with her conduct, favourably to Sappho.[4] Her poetry seems to have continued to be known and well thought of into the fifth century – she is mentioned alongside Plato, Cicero, Martial, and Juvenal by Ausonius and Sidonius Apollinaris.[17]


  1. ^ a b c Merriam 1991, p. 303.
  2. ^ Parker 1992, p. 92.
  3. ^ a b Richlin 1992, p. 125.
  4. ^ a b Merriam 1991, p. 304.
  5. ^ a b Richlin 1992, p. 128.
  6. ^ Parker 1992, pp. 94–5.
  7. ^ Richlin 1992, p. 126.
  8. ^ Parker 1992, pp. 92–3.
  9. ^ Parker 1992, p. 94.
  10. ^ Parker 1992, p. 89.
  11. ^ Parker 1992, pp. 90–1.
  12. ^ Hallett 2013, p. 87.
  13. ^ Butrica 2006, p. 70.
  14. ^ Butrica 2000.
  15. ^ Butrica 2006, pp. 71–2.
  16. ^ Butrica 2006, p. 72.
  17. ^ Richlin 1992, p. 132.

Works cited[edit]

  • Butrica, J. L. (2000). "Sulpiciae Conquestio".
  • Butrica, J. L. (2006). "The Fabella of Sulpicia ("Epigrammata Bobiensia" 37)". Phoenix. 60 (1/2).
  • Hallett, Judith (2013). "The Fragment of Martial's Sulpicia". In Churchill, Laurie J.; Brown, Phyllis R.; Jeffrey, Jane E. Women Writing Latin From Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Europe. Volume 1: Women Writing Latin in Roman Antiquity, Late Antiquity, and the Early Christian Era. New York: Routledge.
  • Merriam, Carol U. (1991). "The Other Sulpicia". The Classical World. 84 (4).
  • Parker, Holt (1992). "Other Remarks on the Other Sulpicia". The Classical World. 86 (2).
  • Richlin, Amy (1992). "Sulpicia the Satirist". The Classical World. 86 (2).

External links[edit]