Catullus (/kəˈtʌləs/, (Latin
pronunciation: [kaˈtʊlːʊs]; c. 84 – 54? BC) 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. He greatly
influenced Ovid, Horace, Virgil, and 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.
2.1 Sources and organization
2.2 Intellectual influences
2.4 Musical settings
2.5 Cultural depictions
3 See also
5 Further reading
6 External links
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
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.
Catullus at Lesbia's by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
It was probably in
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
not relinquish his flame for Clodia, regardless of her obvious
indifference to his desire for a deep and permanent relationship. In
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 BC 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.
Bithynia within the Roman Empire
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 BC. But the poems include references to events of 55 and 54
BC. Since the Roman consular fasti make it somewhat easy to confuse
87–57 BC with 84–54 BC, many scholars accept the dates 84 BC–54
BC, supposing that his latest poems and the publication of his
libellus coincided with the year of his death. Other authors suggest
52 or 51 BC as the year of the poet's death. Though upon his elder
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
Main article: Poetry of Catullus
Catullus et in eum commentarius (1554)
Sources and organization
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
poems to and about his friends (e.g., an invitation like poem 13).
erotic poems: some of them (50 and 99) are about his homosexual
desires and acts, but most are about women, especially about one he
calls "Lesbia" (which served as a false name for his married
girlfriend, Clodia, source and inspiration of many of his poems).
invectives: often rude and sometimes downright obscene poems targeted
at friends-turned-traitors (e.g., poem 16), other lovers of Lesbia,
well-known poets, politicians (e.g., Julius Caesar) and rhetors,
condolences: some poems of
Catullus are solemn in nature. 96 comforts
a friend in the death of a loved one; several others, most famously
101, lament the death of his brother.
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
Cicero suggested as the solution to the societal
problems of the late Republic, meant little to them.
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
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.
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 BC, and is the source for much of what we know or infer about
Catullus 51 follows
Sappho 31 so closely that some believe the
later poem to be, in part, a direct translation of the earlier poem,
and 61 and 62 are certainly inspired by and perhaps translated
directly from lost works of Sappho. Both of the latter are
epithalamia, a form of laudatory or erotic wedding-poetry that Sappho
had been famous for but that had gone out of fashion in the
Catullus twice used a meter that Sappho
developed, called the Sapphic strophe, in poems 11 and 51. In fact,
Catullus may have brought about a substantial revival of that form in
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
Theseus and the Minotaur, Ariadne's abandonment,
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.
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 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.
Catulli Carmina is a cantata by
Carl Orff to the texts of Catullus.
"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
Catullus 5, the love poem "Vivamus mea
Lesbia atque amemus", in the
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
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.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October
Catullus was the main protagonist of the historical novel Farewell,
Catullus (1953) by Pierson Dixon. The novel shows the corruption of
the Roman society.
Codex Vaticanus Ottobonianus Latinus 1829
Poetry of Catullus
^ The bust was commissioned in 1935 by Sirmione's mayor, Luigi
Trojani, and produced by the Milanese foundry Clodoveo Barzaghi with
the assistance of the sculptor Villarubbia Norri (N. Criniti & M.
Arduino (eds.), Catullo e Sirmione. Società e cultura della Cisalpina
alle soglie dell'impero (Brescia: Grafo, 1994), p. 4).
^ a b c d e "Gaius Valerius Catullus". www.BookRags.com. Retrieved
September 13, 2014.
^ M. Skinner, "Authorial Arrangement of the Collection", pp. 46–48,
in: A Companion to Catullus, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.
Suetonius Divus Iulius 73".
^ Howe, Jr., Quincy (1970). Introduction to Catullus, The Complete
Poems for American Readers. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
pp. vii to xvii.
^ M. Skinner, "Introduction", p.3, in: A Companion to Catullus,
^ T.P. Wiseman, "The Valerii Catulli of Verona", in: M. Skinner, ed.,
A Companion to Catullus, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
^ McMurtry, Chris (August 19, 2014). "New Release: Linton: Carmina
Catulli". RefinersFire. Archived from the original on October 8, 2014.
Retrieved October 8, 2014.
^ "LINTON: Carmina Catulli". www.operanews.com.
^ "Priape, Lesbie, Diane et caetera - Forum Opéra".
^ Dixon, Pierson. "Farewell, Catullus" – via Biblio.com.
^ Reine Rimón and her Hot Papas jazz band; Gregg Stafford; Tuomo
Pekkanen; Gaius Valerius Catullus, Variationes iazzicae Catullianae
(in Latin), retrieved 2013-10-07
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
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Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: The Poetry of Gaius Valerius
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Catullus at Perseus Digital Library
Works by Gaius Valerius
Catullus at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Catullus at Internet Archive
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
Catullus translations: Catullus's work in
Latin and multiple (ten or
more) modern languages, including scanned versions of every poem
Latin and English
Catullus translated exclusively in English Translated by A. S. Kline
Catullus Online: searchable
Latin text, repertory of conjectures, and
images of the most important manuscripts
Latin text, concordances and frequency list
Catullus purified: a brief history of Carmen 16 by Thomas Nelson
Catullus 5, read by Robert Sonkowsky
A Translation of Catullus’s ‘Ad Sirmium Insulam’ Translated by
The poems (Carmina) of Catullus
Unusual poetic meters
List of poems by Catullus
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