AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Mythology of Propertius

by Donnis Martin

Institution: University of Missouri – Columbia
Year: 1913
Record ID: 1500760
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10355/15582


It is seldom that the mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans is distinguished from their religion. This arises largely from the fact that the same supernatural beings figure in each. But mythology and religion represent the gods from quite different standpoints. In myth the gods become definite personal beings who do not inspire religious sentiment or suggest worship. But religion makes of them divine beings who must be revered and propitiated. Then in addition to the main divinities who figure in both mythology and religion, mythology includes many inferior beings, such as giants, centaurs, and satyrs, whom the ancients rarely or never worshiped. Propertius is not religious. He scarcely ever appeals to the divinities for help or speaks of them in a reverent tone. Bacchus and Apollo seem nearest to him as the divinities who inspire his song. But aside from these two gods there are only two instances in which he appeals to the divinities. Upon the occasion of Cynthia's dangerous illness he prays to Jupiter, Persephone, and Pluto that they may have mercy upon her. When Augustus is planning his expedition against the Parthians, the poet prays to Mars and Vesta that they may grant him success, and to Venus that she may give long life and safety to him as her descendant. But even in these instances the poet's appeal smacks of formality rather than of religious fervor. To be sure Propertius refers to the gods often but it is only to relate some myth about them and though sadly lacking in religion he is not wanting in mythology. So it is that we shall deal with his myths concerning the gods and heroes rather than with his conception of them as divinities.