Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Petrain

Committee Members

Joel Allen

Ronnie Ancona

Subject Categories

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Classical Literature and Philology


Tibullus, Shame, Honor, Competition, Elegy, Ethics


My dissertation explores the ethics of shame and honor at the end of the Republic to offer new perspectives on Tibullus’ work and Roman elegy. By situating Tibullus’ corpus within his contemporaries’ aristocratic discourse on honor, my research argues that the elegiac narrator is not alien from the heroic self-assertion and pursuit of vengeance, typical of the honor-seeking elites of Roman antiquity. In my reading, Tibullus, while clad in elegiac non-conformity, is deeply committed to his contemporaries’ honor-driven ethos and, therefore, wary of the policing gaze of his fellow Romans. Albius Tibullus was an elegist and a citizen of equestrian rank, who lived in the second half of the first century BCE and wrote erotic narratives in the first person. As such, he engaged with questions of reputation, and the proper shaping of a free, male persona, at a time when societal values and structures were undergoing conflicting redefinitions. Thus far no exhaustive scholarly work has been written on the relevance of shame and honor in Tibullus’ elegy. This hermeneutic perspective can provide constructive avenues of inquiry both for the literary and the social historian, as “the Mediterranean honor model has proved useful for understanding the emotions Romans express in their literature, and so helps us interpret that literature, as well as Roman manner, customs, and law.”[1]

[1] Lendon 2011: 378-9.