The three sections of this chapter offer readings of the major mythological passages in the first three poems of Propertius’ first book, each of which has important programmatic significance for the way the poet deploys myth. In the first, Milanion establishes the polemic with Virgil as a major theme of Propertius’ project, while also demonstrating his technique of playing upon the subtle differences between alternative versions of a myth. In the second, Propertius thematizes the use of myth as poetic ornament, both articulating and exemplifying a technique by which exempla that appear to be thrown together casually are constructed with consummate care. In the third, the mapping of myth onto the characters of elegy proves to be unstable and evades the control of the narrator, flipping to reveal Cynthia’s perspective.
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