The earlier Sulpicia is the only known woman from Ancient Rome whose poetry survives to this day. She lived in the reign of Augustus, and was probably the daughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus and a niece of Messalla, a politician and patron of literature. Her verses were preserved with those of Tibullus, and were for a long time attributed to him. They consist of six elegiac poems addressed to a lover called Cerinthus. Cerinthus was most likely a pseudonym, if not purely fictional; in the same style as Ovid's Corinna or Catullus' Lesbia. Cerinthus was for a long time thought to refer to the Cornutus addressed by Tibullus in two of his Elegies.
For a long time many academics regarded Sulpicia as an amateur author, notable for nothing but her gender. Recently her work has come to be seen more as genuine literature, especially since the 1970s.
The later Sulpicia lived during the reign of Domitian. She is praised by Martial (x. 35, 38), who compares her to Sappho, as a model of wifely devotion, and wrote a volume of poems, describing with considerable freedom of language the methods adopted to retain her husband Calenus's affection. An extant poem (70 hexameters) also bears her name. It is in the form of a dialogue between Sulpicia and the muse Calliope, and is chiefly a protest against the banishment of the philosophers by the edict of Domitian (AD 94), as likely to throw Rome back into a state of barbarism.
At the same time Sulpicia expresses the hope that no harm will befall Calenus. The muse reassures her, and prophesies the downfall of the tyrant. It is now generally agreed that the poem (the manuscript of which was discovered in the monastery of Bobbio in 1493, but has long been lost) is not by Sulpicia, but is of much later date, probably the 5th century; according to some it is a 15th century production, and not identical with the Bobbio poem.
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