Gaius Valerius Catullus (/kəˈtʌləs/; Latin: [kaˈtʊllʊs]; c. 84 – c. 54 BCE) was a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic who wrote chiefly in the neoteric style of poetry, which is about personal life rather than classical heroes. His surviving works are still read widely and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.
Catullus's poems were widely appreciated by other poets, significantly influencing Ovid and Virgil, among others. After his rediscovery in the Late Middle Ages, Catullus again found admirers. The explicit sexual imagery which he uses in some of his poems has shocked many readers. Indeed, Catullus's work was never canonical in schools, although his body of work is still frequently read from secondary school to graduate programs across the world, with his 64th poem often considered his greatest.
Gaius Valerius Catullus (Classical Latin: [ˈɡaː.i.ʊs waˈɫɛ.ri.ʊs kaˈtʊl.lʊs]) was born to a leading equestrian family of Verona, in Cisalpine Gaul. The social prominence of the Catullus family allowed the father of Gaius Valerius to entertain Julius Caesar when he was the Promagistrate (proconsul) of both Gallic provinces. In a poem, Catullus describes his happy homecoming to the family villa at Sirmio, on Lake Garda, near Verona; he also owned a villa near the resort of Tibur (Tivoli).
Catullus appears to have spent most of his young adult years in Rome. His friends there included the poets Licinius Calvus, and Helvius Cinna, Quintus Hortensius (son of the orator and rival of Cicero) and the biographer Cornelius Nepos, to whom Catullus dedicated a libellus of poems, the relation of which to the extant collection remains a matter of debate. He appears to have been acquainted with the poet Marcus Furius Bibaculus. A number of prominent contemporaries appear in his poetry, including Cicero, Caesar and Pompey. According to an anecdote preserved by Suetonius, Caesar did not deny that Catullus's lampoons left an indelible stain on his reputation, but when Catullus apologized, he invited the poet for dinner the very same day.
It was probably in Rome that Catullus fell deeply in love with the "Lesbia" of his poems, who is usually identified with Clodia Metelli, a sophisticated woman from the aristocratic house of patrician family Claudii Pulchri, sister of the infamous Publius Clodius Pulcher, and wife to proconsul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer. In his poems Catullus describes several stages of their relationship: initial euphoria, doubts, separation, and his wrenching feelings of loss. Clodia had several other partners; "From the poems one can adduce no fewer than five lovers in addition to Catullus: Egnatius (poem 37), Gellius (poem 91), Quintius (poem 82), Rufus (poem 77), and Lesbius (poem 79)." There is also some question surrounding her husband's mysterious death in 59 B.C., some critics believing he was domestically poisoned. Yet, a sensitive and passionate Catullus could not relinquish his flame for Clodia, regardless of her obvious indifference to his desire for a deep and permanent relationship. In his poems, Catullus wavers between devout, sweltering love and bitter, scornful insults that he directs at her blatant infidelity (as demonstrated in poems 11 and 58). His passion for her is unrelenting—yet it is unclear when exactly the couple split up for good. Catullus's poems about the relationship display striking depth and psychological insight.
He spent the provincial command year summer 57 to summer 56 BCE in Bithynia on the staff of the commander Gaius Memmius. While in the East, he traveled to the Troad to perform rites at his brother's tomb, an event recorded in a moving poem.
There survives no ancient biography of Catullus: his life has to be pieced together from scattered references to him in other ancient authors and from his poems. Thus it is uncertain when he was born and when he died. St. Jerome says that he died in his 30th year, and was born in 87 BCE. But the poems include references to events of 55 and 54 BCE. Since the Roman consular fasti make it somewhat easy to confuse 87–57 BCE with 84–54 BCE, many scholars accept the dates 84 BCE–54 BCE, supposing that his latest poems and the publication of his libellus coincided with the year of his death. Other authors suggest 52 or 51 BCE as the year of the poet's death. Though upon his elder brother's death Catullus lamented that their "whole house was buried along" with the deceased, the existence (and prominence) of Valerii Catulli is attested in the following centuries. T.P. Wiseman argues that after the brother's death Catullus could have married, and that, in this case, the later Valerii Catulli may have been his descendants.
Catullus's poems have been preserved in an anthology of 116 carmina (the actual number of poems may slightly vary in various editions), which can be divided into three parts according to their form: sixty short poems in varying meters, called polymetra, eight longer poems, and forty-eight epigrams.
There is no scholarly consensus on whether Catullus himself arranged the order of the poems. The longer poems differ from the polymetra and the epigrams not only in length but also in their subjects: There are seven hymns and one mini-epic, or epyllion, the most highly prized form for the "new poets".
The polymetra and the epigrams can be divided into four major thematic groups (ignoring a rather large number of poems that elude such categorization):
All these poems describe the lifestyle of Catullus and his friends, who, despite Catullus's temporary political post in Bithynia, lived their lives withdrawn from politics. They were interested mainly in poetry and love. Above all other qualities, Catullus seems to have valued venustas, or charm, in his acquaintances, a theme which he explores in a number of his poems. The ancient Roman concept of virtus (i.e. of virtue that had to be proved by a political or military career), which Cicero suggested as the solution to the societal problems of the late Republic, meant little to them.
However Catullus does not reject traditional notions, but rather their particular application to the vita activa of politics and war. Indeed, he tries to reinvent these notions from a personal point of view and to introduce them into human relationships. For example, he applies the word fides, which traditionally meant faithfulness towards one's political allies, to his relationship with Lesbia and reinterprets it as unconditional faithfulness in love. So, despite the seeming frivolity of his lifestyle, Catullus measured himself and his friends by quite ambitious standards.
Catullus's poetry was influenced by the innovative poetry of the Hellenistic Age, and especially by Callimachus and the Alexandrian school, which had propagated a new style of poetry that deliberately turned away from the classical epic poetry in the tradition of Homer. Cicero called these local innovators neoteroi (νεώτεροι) or 'moderns' (in Latin poetae novi or 'new poets'), in that they cast off the heroic model handed down from Ennius in order to strike new ground and ring a contemporary note. Catullus and Callimachus did not describe the feats of ancient heroes and gods (except perhaps in re-evaluating and predominantly artistic circumstances, e.g. poems 63 and 64), focusing instead on small-scale personal themes. Although these poems sometimes seem quite superficial and their subjects often are mere everyday concerns, they are accomplished works of art. Catullus described his work as expolitum, or polished, to show that the language he used was very carefully and artistically composed.
Catullus was also an admirer of Sappho, a female poet of the seventh century BCE. Catullus 51 is partly translates, partly imitates and transforms Sappho 31. Some hypothesize that 61 and 62 were perhaps inspired bylost works of Sappho but this is purely speculative. Both of the latter are epithalamia, a form of laudatory or erotic wedding-poetry that Sappho was famous for. Catullus twice used a meter that Sappho developed, called the Sapphic strophe, in poems 11 and 51, perhaps prompting his successor Horace's interest in the form.
Catullus, as was common to his era, was greatly influenced by stories from Greek and Roman myth. His longer poems—such as 63, 64, 65, 66, and 68—allude to mythology in various ways. Some stories he refers to are the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the departure of the Argonauts, Theseus and the Minotaur, Ariadne's abandonment, Tereus and Procne, as well as Protesilaus and Laodamia.
Catullus wrote in many different meters including hendecasyllabic verse and elegiac couplets (common in love poetry). A great part of his poetry shows strong and occasionally wild emotions, especially in regard to Lesbia. His love poems are very emotional and ardent, and can be related to even today. Catullus describes his Lesbia as having multiple suitors and often showing little affection towards him. He also demonstrates a great sense of humour such as in Catullus 13.
Catullus Dreams (2011) is a song cycle by David Glaser set to texts of Catullus. The cycle is scored for soprano and seven instruments. It was premiered at Symphony Space in New York by soprano Linda Larson and Sequitur Ensemble.
"Carmina Catulli" is a song cycle arranged from 17 of Catullus' poems by American composer Michael Linton. The cycle was recorded in December 2013 and premiered at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in March 2014 by French baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer and pianist Jason Paul Peterson.
Catullus 5, the love poem "Vivamus mea Lesbia atque amemus", in the translation by Ben Jonson was set to music (lute accompanied song) by Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger. Thomas Campion also wrote a lute-song using his own translation of the first six lines of Catullus 5 followed by two verses of his own. The translation by Richard Crashaw was set to music in a four-part glee by Samuel Webbe Jr. It was also set to music in a three-part glee by John Stafford Smith.
Finnish jazz singer Reine Rimón has recorded poems of Catullus set to standard jazz tunes.
The American composer, Ned Rorem, set Catullus 101 to music for voice and piano. The song, "Catallus: on the Burial of His Brother" was originally published in 1969.
The Icelandic composer, Johann Johannsson, set Catullus 85 to music. The poem is sung through a vocoder. The music is played by a string quartet and piano. Titled "Odi Et Amo", the song is found on Johannsson's album Englaborn.
Catullus 1 is traditionally arranged first among the poems of the Roman poet Catullus, though it was not necessarily the first poem that he wrote. It is dedicated to Cornelius Nepos, a historian and minor poet, though some consider Catullus's praise of Cornelius's history of the Italians to have been sarcastic.
The poem alternates between humility and a self-confident manner; Catullus calls his poetry "little" and "trifles", but asks that it remain for more than one age. This understatement is likely deliberate; Catullus knows very well the quality of his poetry, and also the provocative form it has. He also calls his work "new"; the poems are recently made and therefore new, but they are also new as some of the first examples of Neoteric poetry in the Latin language.
The meter of this poem is hendecasyllabic, a common form in Catullus's poetry.Catullus 101
Catullus 101 is an elegiac poem written by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. It is addressed to Catullus' dead brother or, strictly speaking, to the "mute ashes" which are the only remaining evidence of his brother's body.
The tone is grief-stricken and tender, with Catullus trying to give the best gift he had to bestow (a poem) on his brother, who was taken prematurely. The last words, "Hail and Farewell" (in Latin, ave atque vale), are among Catullus' most famous; an alternative modern translation might be "I salute you...and goodbye".
The meter is elegiac couplet, which was usually employed in love poetry, such as Catullus' addresses to Lesbia. However, the elegy couplet was originally used by ancient Greek poets to express grief and lamentation, making it an entirely suitable form to express Catullus' mourning.Catullus 11
Catullus 11 is a poem by Catullus based on a poem of Sappho.Catullus 12
Catullus 12 is a poem by the Roman poet Catullus. In it, he chides Asinius Marrucinus for stealing one of his napkins, calling it uncouth and noting the disapproval of his brother, Pollio. Note the reversal of the praenomen and nomen in the first line. While "Asini Marrucine" could be translated simply as "Asinius Marrucinus", the inverted word order introduces the alternative meaning "Marrucinus [son] of a jackass". Napkins in Ancient Rome were handmade and therefore far more valuable than they are today; also, Catullus has a sentimental attachment to the napkins, as they were a gift from two close friends, Fabullus and Veranius. In comparison to Catullus' other invective poetry, this is relatively light: the main point of the poem could be to praise Pollio rather than to chide Marrucinus.
The meter of this poem is hendecasyllabic, a common form in Catullus' poetry.Catullus 13
Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me is the first line, sometimes used as a title, of Carmen 13 from the collected poems of the 1st-century BC Latin poet Catullus. The poem belongs to the literary genre of mock-invitation. Fabullus is invited to dine at the poet's home, but he will need to bring all the elements of a dinner party (cena) himself: the host pleads poverty. Catullus will provide only meros amores, "the essence of love", and a perfume given to him by his girlfriend, granted to her by multiple Venuses and Cupids, guaranteed to make Fabullus wish he were all nose.Catullus 16
Pēdīcābō ego vōs et irrumābō ("I will sodomize you and face-fuck you") is the first line, sometimes used as a title, of Carmen 16 in the collected poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 BC – c. 54 BC). The poem, written in a hendecasyllabic (11-syllable) meter, was considered so explicit that a full English translation was not published until the late twentieth century. The first line has been called "one of the filthiest expressions ever written in Latin—or in any other language, for that matter."Carmen 16 is significant in literary history as an artistic work censored for its obscenity, but also because the poem raises questions about the proper relation of the poet, or his life, to the work. Later Latin poets referenced the poem not for its invective, but as a justification for subject matter that challenged the prevailing decorum or moral orthodoxy. Ovid, Pliny the Younger, Martial, and Apuleius all invoked the authority of Catullus in asserting that while the poet should be a respectable person, his work should not be constrained or restricted.Catullus 2
Catullus 2 is a poem by Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 – c. 54 BCE) that describes the affectionate relationship between an unnamed "puella" (possibly Catullus' lover, Lesbia), and her pet sparrow. As scholar and poet John Swinnerton Phillimore has noted, "The charm of this poem, blurred as it is by a corrupt manuscript tradition, has made it one of the most famous in Catullus' book." The meter of this poem is hendecasyllabic, a common form in Catullus' poetry.This poem, together with Catullus' other poems, survived from antiquity in a single manuscript discovered c. 1300 CE in Verona, from which three copies survive. Fourteen centuries of copying from copies — the "corrupt manuscript tradition" mentioned above — left scholars in doubt as to the poem's original wording in a few places, although centuries of scholarship have led to a consensus critical version. Research on Catullus was the first application of the genealogical method of textual criticism.
Lines 1-10 represent the preserved core of the poem. Lines 11-13 are denoted as "Catullus 2b" and differ significantly in tone and subject from the first 10 lines. Hence, these latter three lines may belong to a different poem. In the original manuscripts, these thirteen lines were combined with Catullus 3, which describes the death of Lesbia's sparrow, but the two poems were separated by scholars in the 16th century.Catullus 4
Catullus 4 is a poem by the ancient Roman writer Catullus. The poem concerns the retirement of a well-traveled ship (referred to as a "phaselus", also sometimes cited as "phasellus", a variant spelling). Catullus draws a strong analogy with human aging, rendering the boat as a person that flies and speaks, with palms (the oars) and purpose.
The poem is complex, with numerous geographic references and elaborate litotic double negatives in a list-like manner. It borrows heavily from Ancient Greek vocabulary, and also uses Greek grammar in several sections. The meter of the poem is unusual — iambic trimeter, which was perhaps chosen to convey a sense of speed over the waves.
Scholars remain uncertain whether the story of the construction and voyages of this phasellus (ship, yacht, or pinnace), as described or implied in the poem, can be taken literally. Professor A. D. Hope in his posthumous book of translations from Catullus is one translator who takes it so. His introduction calls the phasellus “his yacht, in which he [Catullus] must have made the return voyage [from Bithynia]” and the translation ends
Until she made landfall in this limpid lake. /
But that was aforetime and she is laid up now . . .
However Hope also left, in his final collection of poetry Aubade, a much freer translation, adaptation, or erotic parody, in which the phasellus seems to be, in effect, a phallus. This version says that the phasellus
claims that in his hey-day with mainsail and spanker / He outsailed all vessels;
and the ending becomes:
At his last landfall now, beyond all resurgence, /
View him careened upon a final lee-shore; /
. . . Sing for the captain who will put to sea no more!
Among a number of other interpretations, Catullus 4 has also been interpreted as a parody of epic poetry, or the boat as a metaphor for the Ship of state.Catullus 49
Catullus 49 is a poem by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–c. 54 BC) sent to Marcus Tullius Cicero as a superficially laudatory poem. Like the majority of Catullus' poems, the meter of this poem is hendecasyllabic. This is also the only time Marcus Tullius Cicero is ever mentioned in any of Catullus' poems.Catullus 5
Catullus 5 is a passionate ode to Lesbia and one of the most famous poems by Catullus. The poem encourages lovers to scorn the snide comments of others, and to live only for each other, since life is brief and death brings a night of perpetual sleep. This poem has been translated and imitated many times.
The meter of this poem is hendecasyllabic (11 syllables), a common form in Catullus' poetry.Catullus 51
Catullus 51 is a poem by Roman love poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 – c. 54 BC). It is an adaptation of one of Sappho's fragmentary lyric poems, Sappho 31. Catullus replaces Sappho's beloved with his own beloved Lesbia. Unlike the majority of Catullus' poems, the meter of this poem is the sapphic meter. This meter is more musical, seeing as Sappho mainly sang her poetry.
Catullus is not the only poet who translated Sappho’s poem to use for himself: Pierre de Ronsard is also known to have translated a version of it.Catullus 64
Catullus 64 is an epyllion or "little epic" poem written by Latin poet Catullus. Catullus' longest poem, it retains his famed linguistic witticisms while employing an appropriately epic tone.
Though ostensibly concerning itself with the marriage of Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis (parents of the famed Greek hero Achilles), a sizeable portion of the poem's lines is devoted to the desertion of Ariadne by the legendary Theseus. Although the poem implies that Theseus and Ariadne were in love, in reality the text never explicitly states that Theseus even looked at Ariadne. Told through ecphrasis, or the depiction of events on inanimate objects, the bulk of the poem details Ariadne's agonized solace. Her impassioned vituperations and eventual discovery by the wine-god Bacchus are some of the included plot events.
The poem relies heavily on the theme of nostalgia as Catullus reflects on what he believes are better times in Roman history. He wrote the poem during a time of civil war in Rome, even referencing brothers' blood being drenched in brothers' blood in line 399. He looks back on the wedding of Peleus and Thetis as a time where Gods may come to a wedding, unlike the modern times he lived in.
The meter of the poem is dactylic hexameter, the meter of epic poetry, such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.
The work is often cited as Catullus' masterpiece, with Charlotte Higgins considering it one of the greatest literary works ever written.Catullus 85
Catullus 85 is a poem by the Roman poet Catullus for his lover Lesbia.
Its declaration of conflicting feelings "I hate and I love" (in Latin, Odi et amo) is renowned for its force and brevity.
The meter of the poem is the elegiac couplet.
– u u / – – / – u u / – – / – u u / – u
Ōd'et a / mō. Quā / r'id faci / am for / tasse re / quīris.
– u u / – u u / – / – u u / – u u / –
Nesciō, / sed fie / rī / sen ti' et / ex cru ci / or.Latin obscenity
Latin obscenity is the profane, indecent, or impolite vocabulary of Latin, and its uses. Words deemed obscene were described as obsc(a)ena (obscene, lewd, unfit for public use), or improba (improper, in poor taste, undignified). Documented obscenities occurred rarely in classical Latin literature, limited to certain types of writing such as epigrams, but they are commonly used in the graffiti written on the walls of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Among the documents of interest in this area is a letter written by Cicero in 45 BC (ad Fam. 9.22) to a friend called Paetus, in which he alludes to a number of obscene words without actually naming them.
Apart from graffiti, the writers who used obscene words most were Catullus and Martial in their shorter poems. Another source is the anonymous Priapeia (see External links below), a collection of 95 epigrams supposedly written to adorn statues of the fertility god Priapus, whose wooden image was customarily set up to protect orchards against thieves. The earlier poems of Horace also contained some obscenities. However, the satirists Persius and Juvenal, although often describing obscene acts, did so without mentioning the obscene words.
Medical, especially veterinary, texts also use certain anatomical words that, outside of their technical context, might have been considered obscene.Latin poetry
The history of Latin poetry can be understood as the adaptation of Greek models. The verse comedies of Plautus are considered the earliest surviving examples of Latin literature and are estimated to have been composed around 205-184 BC.
The start of Latin literature is conventionally dated to the first performance of a play in verse by a Greek slave, Livius Andronicus, at Rome in 240 BC. Livius translated Greek New Comedy for Roman audiences, using meters that were basically those of Greek drama, modified to the needs of Latin. His successors Plautus and Terence further refined the borrowings from the Greek stage and the prosody of their verse is substantially the same as for classical Latin verse.The traditional meter of Greek epic, the dactylic hexameter, was introduced into Latin literature by Ennius (239-169 BC), virtually a contemporary of Livius, who substituted it for the jerky Saturnian meter in which Livius had been composing epic verses. Ennius moulded a poetic diction and style suited to the imported hexameter, providing a model for 'classical' poets such as Virgil and Ovid.The late republic saw the emergence of Neoteric Poets, notably Catullus—rich young men from the Italian provinces, conscious of metropolitan sophistication, and looking to the scholarly Alexandrian poet Callimachus for inspiration. Catullus shared the Alexandrian's preference for short poems and wrote within a variety of meters borrowed from Greece, including Aeolian forms such as hendecasyllabic verse, the Sapphic stanza and Greater Asclepiad, as well as iambic verses such as the choliamb and the iambic tetrameter catalectic (a dialogue meter borrowed from Old Comedy).Horace, whose career crossed the divide between republic and empire, followed Catullus' lead in employing Greek lyrical forms, identifying with Alcaeus of Mytilene, composing Alcaic stanzas, and also with Archilochus, composing poetic invectives in the Iambus tradition (in which he adopted the metrical form of the Epode or 'Iambic Distich'). Horace was a contemporary of Virgil and, like the epic poet, he wrote verses in dactylic hexameter, but in a conversational and epistolary style. Virgil's hexameters are generally regarded as "the supreme metrical system of Latin literature."Lesbia
Lesbia was the literary pseudonym used by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 82–52 BC) to refer to his lover. Lesbia is traditionally identified with Clodia, the wife of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer and sister of Publius Clodius Pulcher; her conduct and motives are maligned in Cicero's extant speech Pro Caelio, delivered in 56 BC.List of poems by Catullus
This article lists the poems of Catullus and their various properties.
Catullus' poems can be divided into three groups:
the polymetrics (poems 1–60)
the long poems (poems 61–68)
the epigrams (poems 69–116)Pholisora catullus
Pholisora catullus, the common sootywing or roadside rambler, is a butterfly of the family Hesperiidae. It is found from the central parts of the United States, south to central Mexico. Strays may colonize up to southern British Columbia, northern Michigan, southern Quebec and southern Maine. It is not found on peninsular Florida.
The wingspan is 25–33 mm. There are two generations with adults on wing from May to August in the northern part of its range and from March to November in Texas.
The larvae feed on Chenopodium album, Amaranthus and Celosia species. Adults feed on flower nectar from various flowers, including dogbane, marjoram, oxalis, white clover, common milkweed, peppermint, cucumber and melon.Poetry of Catullus
The poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus was written towards the end of the Roman Republic. It describes the lifestyle of the poet and his friends, as well as, most famously, his love for the woman he calls Lesbia.
The poems (Carmina) of Catullus
|Unusual poetic meters|
Ancient Rome topics
|Lists and other|