BA Ancient History and Archaeology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Roman Love Elegy

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE30272
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Roman love elegy flourished within a relatively short period of time, beginning with the four books of Cornelius Gallus (probably known as Amores), perhaps all published by the early 30s B.C., and ending with the second edition of Ovid’s three books of Amores, perhaps published in c. 7 B.C. (although the poet had been writing Amores poems since c. 26-25 B.C.). Gallus’ work has almost entirely vanished, but this course gives you the opportunity to read a substantial proportion of the surviving elegiac corpora, specifically the works of Propertius, Tibullus and Ovid. We shall focus especially on the creation of the poetic persona of the writer (typically a young élite male Roman in the throes of an early and all-consuming love affair), and on the complex characterisation of his beloved, who is usually given a pseudonymous name (Cynthia, Delia or Corinna, respectively). We shall also explore key issues of intertextuality and of poetic form (the poems themselves take a variety of forms including soliloquy, direct address of the beloved or of friends and rivals, narrative (including mythological narrative), and dramatic monologue.


Pre-requisite: none

Anti-requisite: this course cannot be combined with CAHE20272 Roman Love Elegy.


  • To engage in a thorough and careful reading of the elegies of Propertius and Tibullus, and the Amores of Ovid, to lead to knowledge of, and critical thought about, Roman elegiac poetry.
  • To analyse generic and thematic features of the set texts within the elegiac tradition, and to explore its relationship with the wider history of subjective love poetry
  • To gain a thorough understanding of the works’ engagement with their socio-cultural context. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • thorough knowledge of a selection of the poems of Propertius, Tibullus and Ovid (Amores)
  • understanding of key generic and literary issues, and also of the socio-cultural background necessary to engage with the set texts
  • knowledge and understanding of the place of Roman Love Elegy within a longer tradition of subjective love poetry, both earlier and later in Graeco-Roman antiquity

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will have/be able to:

  • develop critical acumen and the ability to evaluate primary texts and secondary scholarship; 
  • develop analytical skills and an ability to apply evidence to problems and use it to build logical arguments; 
  • improve written and oral expression of ideas. 

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will have/be able to:

  • gain experience reading and writing about ancient texts of different kinds;
  • develop enhanced essay writing skills;
  • articulate ideas and contribute to group discussions  

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will have/be able to:

  • assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence;
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • present results in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship;
  • construct an argument in written and oral form
  • use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources;
  • engage in critical discussion.

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine a large amount of often difficult information, an ability to see both sides of an argument, the ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, the ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on coursework (with the opportunity to discuss in Office Hours)

Formative and summative

Written feedback on exam


one-to-one oral feedback on request


Recommended reading

H.H. Gardner, Gendering Time in Augustan Love Elegy (Oxford, 2013)

B. Gold, A Companion to Roman Love Elegy (Blackwell, 2012):

E. Greene, The Erotics of Domination: Male Desire and the Mistress in Latin Love Poetry (Baltimore, 1998)

S.L. James, Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in Roman Love Elegy (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 2003)

P.A. Miller, Subjecting Verses: Latin Erotic Elegy and the Emergence of the Real (Princeton, 2003)

T.S Thorsen, The Cambridge Companion to Latin Love Elegy (Cambridge 2013)

M. Wyke, The Roman Mistress (Oxford, 2002)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

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