In 1917 Marcel Duchamp exhibited in the Society of Independent Artists of New York hisgroundbreaking work:
. This piece was the first urinal to be presented in a museum
and to be called “art”, becoming thus one of t
he most influential expressions of the Dadaisticmovement. The Dadaists were famous by their constantly trying to provoke a reaction amongtheir contemporaries and break with the notion of art depending on background factors, anidea nourished by previous movements such as the Realism. Even though Dadaism developedduring a century of wars and bloodshed, it can hardly be seen as an attempt to change thesociopolitical situation, rather their objective was the reformation of their artistic milieu.
Propertius’ background is somehow similar. He produced his
and 26BC,four years after the battle of Actium, the last of the frequent in the past century civil conflicts. Ithas been suggested that it was precisely the loss of manpower during the successive Civil Warsand the absence of the previous generation, campaigning for a long time, which produced amoral vacuum. Thus elegy and its topsy-turvy interpretation of social and amorous interactionswas entirely the product of social and political evolution, the idle and rich nobility was totallyuninvolved and unconcerned with warfare and concentrated on luxury and indulgence. How
does that theory explain Propertius’ attack on the pursuit of excess and extravagance in poem
2, where he defines his ideal lover as someone who has no chrematistic interests
, or in poem8B, in which love defeats gold and pearls. The elegiac poet cannot be inserted in an entirelymaterialistic or self-indulgent society, for love flees comfort and endures hardships.
Wyke is on the right track when she points out towards the poet slighting “
the duties of being acitizen and a soldier of the Augustan patria in favor of being a faithful lover and a slave to his
Nevertheless he does not criticize citizens who do not follow his way but evenexpresses his admiration towards his friend Tullus, who has chosen rather the opposite path, as
the poet says in 6.21: “
tu patrui meritas conre anteire securis,/et vetera oblitis iura refer sociis.”
Propertius does not question following the traditional
for it is noble for a malecitizen to serve his country, he sets himself apart from the rest of contemporary males by hisunconventional practices which he tries to legitimise. There is indeed an inversion of roles in
Propertius, Book I.
His tu semper eris nostrae gratissima vitae/taedia dum miserae sint tibi luxuriae
Wyke (2002) P171