Sulpicia & the Appendix Tibulliana

The Appendix Tibulliana contains various elegies that were transmitted under Tibullus’ name in the manuscripts, but in fact differ in authorship. Two of the authors are directly named (Lygdamus and Sulpicia) while the rest (some poems about Messalla and others about Sulpicia) are from unknown authors.

The one thing all authors in the Appendix seem to share is literary patronage under Messalla.


Nothing about Lygdamus is known at all, and his elegies (1–6 in the Appendix) do not hint about his life. Like other elegists, he writes about a beloved, whom he calls Neraea, and who may or may not even exist.


Sulpicia was an elegist in the first century BCE.


Very little is known of Sulpicia’s life. It is often presumed that she was the daughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus, an eminent lawyer and contemporary of Cicero (famous, in fact, for his consolation letter to Cicero after the death of Tullia), and also the niece of Messalla Corvinus, the second most important literary patron in the Augustan Age after Maecenas (his other clients included Ovid and Tibullus). She likely would have been born in the middle of the first century CE.


While a consensus has yet been reached, a majority of scholars see elegies 13–18 in the Appendix Tibulliana as actually authored by Sulpicia and not by Tibullus or anyone else, though some remain skeptical. These are various love elegies on her lover, Cerinthus (whom a few scholars think might be a Hellenized pseudonym for the Cornutus in Tibullus’ poems).

Additionally, elegies 8–12 are written about Sulpicia. There is debate whether this was a friend of hers (dubbed the amicus Sulpiciae, Latin for “friend of Sulpicia”) or possibly by her herself. The paucity of evidence prevents final conclusions, though it would have been unique and perhaps even strange to write poems about oneself in the third person.

Lately, interest in Sulpicia has shifted from the novelty of a Roman woman writing poetry to her talents as a poet in her own right.

Sulpicia Online

Latin: PHI Latin Texts
English: Poetry in Translation (Sulpicia’s Garland • Sulpicia’s Verses)

Further Reading

  1. Matthew S. Santirocco 1979. “Sulpicia Reconsidered.” Classical Journal 74.3: 229–239.
  2. Alison Keith 2006. “Critical Trends in Interpreting Sulpicia.” The Classical World 100.1: 3–10.

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