In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Corpus Tibullianum, Book 3

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Textual Tradition
  • The Poems of Lygdamus
  • The Sulpicia Cycle / Sulpicia’s Garland
  • The Concluding Poems

Classics Corpus Tibullianum, Book 3
Robert Maltby
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 March 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0236


Book 3 of the Corpus Tibullianum consists of a number of discrete sections, composed at different periods and probably assembled as a book in the course of the 2nd century CE. This collection was then added to the two genuine books of Tibullus by the end of the 4th century, when echoes from poems 3.19 and 3.7 are quoted alongside passages from the genuine Tibullus in the poems of Ausonius and Avienus. The different sections of Book 3 are as follows: poems 1–6 (Lygdamus), composed after Ovid’s late works, probably at the end of the 1st century CE; poem 7 (Panegyricus Messallae), perhaps from the 2nd century CE; poems 8–12 (Sulpicia Cycle), immediately after Ovid’s late works, around 20 CE; poems 13–18 (Sulpicia), from the end of the 1st century BCE; poem 19 (Pseudo-Tibullus), written after Ovid’s Tristia and Remedia, a little later than 2 CE; and poem 20, a concluding epigram of uncertain date, perhaps early 1st century CE. The dating and authorship of these various sections are still subject to scholarly discussion, but the above account represents an emerging consensus. How these poems by different authors were collected together remains a mystery. All can be connected in some way or another with Tibullus’s patron Messalla Corvinus, his niece Sulpicia, or themes found in the chief poet of his circle, Tibullus. The ultimate source may have been the archives of the family of Messalla. The collection will have begun with the Sulpicia poems, written in Messalla’s lifetime, to which will first have been added the closely related Sulpicia Cycle. Lygdamus seems to have known both these sets of poems and probably came next, and finally would have come the Panegyricus Messallae, the only hexameter work in the collection, probably written as a school exercise long after the death of its addressee. The pseudo-Tibullan poem 19, and the short closing epigram, poem 20, could have been added when the final collection was put together. Whoever put together the collection in its final form showed much skill in the order of arrangement of the poems, highlighting correspondences between the various sections.

General Overviews

The best modern overviews of the composition of Book 3 are provided in Tränkle 1990 (cited under Texts and Commentaries; pp. 1–6) and in Navarro Antolín 1996 (pp. 25–30), De Luca 2009 (pp. 16–20), and Fulkerson 2017 (pp. 1–59) (all three cited under Texts and Commentaries on Specific Poems). Holzberg 1998–1999 presents the thesis, now generally rejected, that the whole book was put together by a single author, posing as Tibullus. Maltby 2010, focusing on the style and meter of the various sections, agrees broadly with the conclusions found in Tränkle 1990 (cited under Texts and Commentaries). The latest introductory discussion of the book and its structure is Knox 2018. Heyworth 2018 on place and meaning compares two authors of Book 3, Lygdamus and Sulpicia, with Tibullus and, in doing so, provides a useful introduction to the book and its relation to genuine Tibullus.

  • Heyworth, Stephen J. 2018. Place and meaning in Tibullus, Lygdamus and Sulpicia. In Life, love and death in Latin poetry. Edited by Stavros Frangoulidis and Stephen Harrison, 69–84. Berlin: De Gruyter.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110596182-005

    This informative discussion of the use made by place as a means of exploring their emotional attachments provides a good overview of Lygdamus and Sulpicia and their relation to Tibullus. While Tibullus sees the countryside as the ideal background to his affair with Delia, Lygdamus tends to dream about his problematic affair with Neaera from the safety of his own bed, whereas Sulpicia sees Rome as the center of her elegiac world. These different approaches to elegy reveal three different and separate literary personae.

  • Holzberg, Niklas. 1998–1999. Four poets and a poetess or a portrait of the poet as a young man? Thoughts on Book 3 of the Corpus Tibullianum. Classical Journal 94.2: 169–191.

    Proposes the thesis, which can now be discounted on metrical and stylistic grounds, that the whole of Book 3 was composed by a single author, posing as the young Tibullus, perhaps in the late 1st century CE. The discussion is still useful for its observations on correspondences between the structure of Book 3 and Tibullus’s first book.

  • Knox, Peter. 2018. The Corpus Tibullianum. In A short companion to Tibullus. Classica et Mediaevalia 22. Edited by Hans-Christian Günther, 135–160. Nordhausen, Germany: Traugott Bautz.

    A useful and succinct introduction to the poems of Book 3, discussed in five sections: Lygdamus (1–6), Messalla Panegyric (7), anonymous poems on Sulpicia and Cerinthus (8–12), Sulpicia (13–18) and two miscellaneous poems (19, 20). It contains a good discussion of how the book may have been put together as a whole and analyzes in broad terms the main characteristics of the different parts.

  • Maltby, Robert. 2010. The unity of Corpus Tibullianum Book 3: Some stylistic and metrical considerations. In Papers of the Langford Latin Seminar. Vol. 14, Health and sickness in ancient Rome: Greek and Roman poetry and historiography. Edited by Francis Cairn and Miriam Griffin, 319–340. ARCA 50. Cambridge, UK: Francis Cairns.

    A succinct account of the problems and possible solutions of the dating and authorship of the various sections of Book 3, on the basis of metrical and stylistic grounds. A useful starting point for further research in this area.

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