Sulpicia, a young woman connected to an important literary circle through her uncle, Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, may be the only extant female poet of the Augustan period. If so, it is likely that Ovid had privileged knowledge of a Roman woman’s poetic voice, as scholars have noted similarities between Ovid’s poetry and Sulpicia’s. We may see further correspondences between the Ovidian Byblis’s epistle and Sulpicia, which, I will argue, reflect the ‘sound’ of female-authored poetry, at least as a male poet hears and reproduces it. Whether Ovid is looking toward Sulpicia for a model of feminine Latinity, whether the pseudonymous Sulpicia is looking toward Ovid’s Byblis, or whether Ovid has written them both, Byblis’s epistolary verse constructs a believable female poetic voice. When compared to Sulpicia’s corpus, the subtle differences suggest multiple ways in which the writing voice of a woman may have expressed a sexual desire that is in tension with a self-identified femininity governed by pudicitia (sexual virtue), the late Republican and Augustan definition of a good Roman maiden and woman. I will argue that differences reveal cultural assumptions that construct the male ventriloquized Byblis and offer further evidence in support of Sulpicia’s identification as a genuine female writer.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 37-67
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.