n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - What the poet saw : Octavian's triple triumph, 29 B.C.
Jeremiah Markland's conjectures at Propertius 3.11.52-53

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Most commentators assume that the lines 'Bracchia spectavi sacris admorsa colubris / et trahere occultum membra soporis iter' refer to the poet's own presence at Augustus' triumphal procession in 29 BC and that the object of his gaze is the tableau (attested in Plutarch's 86.6 and Dio 51.21.8) depicting the death of Cleopatra. The notion of the poet's actually 'seeing' the effect of the poison, tracing its course up the arms of an effigy, is difficult to understand, as many have noted; also, the first-person intrusion into a sequence of apostrophes disrupts the logical structure and diminishes the impact of the 'Cleopatra vignette'. Moreover, 1. 52, 'accepere tuae Romula vincla manus', contradicts historical evidence. Cleopatra killed herself rather than process in chains.

Jeremiah Markland's long-neglected conjectures, 'spectasti' for 'spectavi', in line 53 (adopted only by Goold in the 1990 Loeb edition) and 'nec cepere' for 'accepere' in line 52 (in no other edition), are not only paleographically plausible, but also make better sense in the context and more clearly define Propertius' stance in relation to contemporary attitudes.


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