I have a longer and shorter question for you. The shorter one is whether the /e/ sound in classical Latin is the same (not in length, but in the position of the mouth) in the diphthongs in the words "Graecus, aetas, horae" etc. and those without, e.g. "sero, edo" etc. Actually, the word "paene" has both of them. So is it like /'pene/?

The other one concerns Roman elegies. Could you write a sentence or two regarding the function of Venus in Tibullus' elegy 1.2? The speaker appears disappointed there because his beloved one has visited another man in that house and he calls for her by her door. Then later Venus appears and probably tries to calm him down and consolate him. So, does Tibullus want to achieve something particular in that? Is that part serious and emotionally heavy or is it meant to be more light-hearted and funny? Is it a satire depicting a social habit of that time and what is Venus all about? If you also happen to know a book from the previous century (e.g. that analyses a bit this elegy, let me know.

Thank you very much for your precious time!

ANSWER: Hello,

First of all, I have to point out that it would need more time to give you a complete answer. Anyway I'll try to be quite exhaustive.  

So, as for your question about the “e” sound in classical Latin, i.e. whether such a sound is pronounced in the same way  in the diphthongs as in the words "Graecus, aetas, horae" etc. and in e.g. the verbs  "sero, edo" etc. , where there is no diphthong, I have to tell you that the vowel “e” has the same pronunciation when there is the diphthong “ae” as well as when there is no diphthong.

So, for example in the word “aetates” (nominative and accusative plural of “aetas”, 3rd declension), where there is a diphthong as well a simple “e”, the Scholastic pronunciation is the same, i.e. /etates/, since the “e” is pronounced like the “e” in the English noun “question”.

Such a pronunciation of the ”e” remains the same either in the Classical pronunciation (i.e. the way we think Latin was spoken prior to around the third century AD) when  in “ae”  the vowels were probably pronounced separately (see e.g. “Ca-é-sar”  which became “ka-i-ser” in German)  or in Scholastic/Ecclesiastical Pronunciation (i.e. the way Latin has been spoken after  the 3rd. century AD ) where the diphthong  “ae” is pronounced “e”, just like the “e” in the English word “question”.

With regard to the role of Venus in  Tibullus Elegies, book 1, poem 2 (Adde merum vinoque novos conpesce dolores,….), which is an example of a “paraklausíthyron” [Greek  παρακλαυσίθυρον ( literally, “lover's complaint sung at his mistress's door”) composed of the prefix παρά, meaning “near”/at", the noun κλαῦσις meaning “weeping”,  and the noun  θύρα, meaning “door”], i.e. a lover’s serenade late at night at the closed door of the girlfriend, such a function  is to support and encourage the lover, i.e. Tibullus,  in his love affair with Delia (whose real name was probably  Plania), who sometimes appears as single, sometimes as married just like in this poem, where it is clear that it was the absence of her husband (see “Nec tamen huic credet CONIUNX tuus, line 44) on military service in Cilicia which gave Tibullus the opportunity to see her (see lines 44-72).

Here are some lines that emphasize the role of Venus as a goddess of love :”…fortes adiuvat ipsa Venus..”(“ Venus herself  favours the strong”, line 16); “Illa favet, seu quis iuvenis nova limina temptat, Seu reserat fixo dente puella fores; Illa docet molli furtim derepere lecto, Illa pedem nullo ponere posse sono, Illa viro coram nutus conferre loquaces Blandaque conpositis abdere verba notis… “(lines 17-22) where Tibullus tells of the help that Venus offers to lovers  and tells Delia to be bold, since Venus helps the brave.

That being stated, I have to tell you that:

1-you are wrong in thinking that “The speaker appears disappointed … because his beloved one has visited another man in that house and he calls for her by her door. Then later Venus appears and probably tries to calm him down and console him”. Delia in fact seems to be married.

2-Tibullus does not want to “achieve something particular in that part”, but simply to express his love and his complaint sung at his mistress's door, according to the “tópos” ( Greek , τόπος, meaning “ commonplace “ often used in Rhetoric) of the “paraklausithyron”.

3-Tibullus poem is  therefore serious and emotionally heavy just like other poems of his Elegies where he talks about Delia.

4-The poem is not a satire, but a lover's complaint sung at his mistress's door.

Lastly, I have to tell you that in there are some not so recent translations of Tibullus Elegies, but not a commentary that  analyses the Poem 2 in the book 1.

Here they are:

- “A poetical translation of the elegies of Tibullus” by J. Grainger , Published 1759
pag 24 ff.

-The elegies of Tibullus, with other tr. from Ovid, &c., by R. Whiffin
Published 1829

-The elegies of Tibullus : being the consolations of a Roman lover, done in English verse
by Williams, Theodore Chickering
Published 1905

Best regards,


[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: This is very clear, thank you, Maria! Also for the books. I might have thought about the witch in some verses and confused them with Delia. Apologies for my rush sentences.

So, regarding Venus, what about the verses 15-40 (tu quoque.. esse mari) and the distichs 79-80 (num Veneris magnae..) with the final two (at mihi parce..). I am supposed to comment on the function of Venus here by writing a couple of pages. What else can I cover in this function?

Thanks again!


In the verses 15-40 (tu quoque.. esse mari) and the distichs 79-80 (num Veneris magnae..) with the final two (at mihi parce..) the role of Venus is just to support and encourage Tibullus  in his love affair with Delia, as I’ve already said, so that Delia must be bold  and must try to  deceive her  keepers, for the goddess of love helps always the bold.

Venus  in fact suggests how  a young man  can enter the room of his girlfriend or a young woman can use furtive steps to see her boyfriend, though  such suggestions are addressed only to those who are bold, just like Tibullus who is wandering in the streets at night waiting for a Delia’s message of invitation  and ready to whisper wicked promises.
He therefore is willing to suffer from the cold and rain as well as the suspicions of the persons he meets with, provided that these persons do not dare to defy the rage of Venus, who is just born from blood and stormy sea and then is able to punish those who will reveal that he himself (i.e. Tibullus) is waiting for a Delia’s invitation [lines 15-40 (tu quoque.. esse mari)]

Also, Tibullus says that it is of no use to be in a purple  comfortable bed without  a lover since neither soft feathers  nor  embroidered  blankets could  send one to sleep, but he thinks that he did not offend Venus under any circumstance and therefore she, as a goddess of love, will definitely help him, since his mind is always consecrated to her [see the lines 79-82 (Nam neque tum plumae….Num Veneris magnae.. Et mea nunc poenas inpia lingua luit?) and  the final two verses (at mihi parce..)].

So, here’s in short the role of Venus  that you yourself  must  develop, of course, in a couple of pages,getting inspiration and suggestions from the Latin text.

Have a good work!



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