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Review - Erotic Love Poems of Greece and Rome

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The Bottom Line

If you need a refresher on the history of classical erotic poetry or if you've never tried reading ancient love poetry, Stephen Bertman's introduction should provide the momentum to (re-)read the ancient lyric poets.
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  • Background provided for authors and specific poems
  • Covers entire Classical period
  • Explains complex ideas like meter simply
  • Explains problems of translation
  • Provides modernized versions of the poems when necessary


  • There could always be more


  • Cited Greeks
    • Homer
    • Mimnermus
    • Sappho
    • Theognis
    • Anacreon
    • Ibycus
    • Euripides
    • Apollonius of Rhodes
    • Moscus
    • Bion
  • Cited Romans
    • Catullus
    • Vergil
    • Horace
    • Propertius
    • Tibullus
    • Sulpicia
    • Ovid
    • Martial
  • Selections from the Greek anthology and Pompeiian graffiti.
  • Glossary and timeline of erotic poets provided.

Guide Review - Review - Erotic Love Poems of Greece and Rome

Men in Mesopotamia invented writing and used it to create erotic poetry, but it wasn't until the invention of the alphabet and a system that nourished individuality that erotic poetry could flourish. Thus it was the Greeks who first created personal poetry. Stephen Bertman provides a quick survey of the relevant facets of ancient history and the backgrounds for the individual Greek and Roman writers of erotic poetry, from Homer all the way through the Pervigilium Veneris (probably from the fourth century A.D.).

Bertman doesn't just discuss the genre's history but he also explains stylistic elements, like the use of contrasts in Catullus -
    "symptomatic of the poet's passionate condition is the simultaneous existence of opposing internal forces over which he has no control."
This ties in with later discussion of Ovid -
    "Ostensibly the description of an assignation ..., the poem is also an elaborate exposition on duality."
and an earlier discussion of what motivates a writer to pin down his emotions in the form of a poem: Bertman suggests that the fixed form of the poetry put some elements of control into what is otherwise potentially a tumultuous emotional life.

Erotic Love Poems in Greece and Rome is very short -- only 129 pages including index, and so, it only covers representative samples from each of the authors.
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