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3. Of this new school of poets the most prominent and interesting figure is Catullus. It is possible to know him personally as only now and then an ancient writer can be known to us, and yet he gives us but few definite biographical facts concerning himself, while still fewer are given by other authors of his own and later ages. But the little body of poems that constitute his extant works is so replete with his intense personality, and shows forth so unreservedly his every emotion, that the man stands out before us as does no other man of the age with the exception of two or three of its political leaders. And all this is true, even though we acknowledge, as we are bound to do, that in many questions of importance concerning his life we must be content with a working hypothesis instead of a series of established facts, and that the biographer, as the interpreter of the poems of Catullus, must be understood to be presenting probabilities and not certainties.

4. With regard to his full name we are left in some doubt. He refers to himself by name in his poems twenty-five times, but in each case only by the cognomen, Catullus, while the better manuscripts of his writings are inscribed simply Catulli Veronensis Liber . Yet there is no difficulty in ascertaining his gentile name from other writers. Varro (L. L. VII. 50), Suetonius (Iul.73), Porphyrio (on Hor. Sat. 1.10.19), Charisius (1.97), Jerome (T Chron. a. Abr.1930), all give it as Valerius. There are fewer references to his praenomen. Four of the later and interpolated manuscripts give it in their titles as Quintus, and until lately it was supposed that to this indication might be added the testimony of the elder Pliny (N H. XXXVII. 81) - Relying upon such authority Scaliger went so far as to emend c. 67.12 so as to bring in for the unintelligible words “qui te ”the praenomen of the poet in the vocative, “Quinte”; and his suggestion won the approval of even so keen a critic as Lachmann. But it is now universally conceded that the initial “Q.” prefixed to the word Catullus in the passage specified from Pliny is an interpolation, the best MS., the codex Bambergensis, containing only the cognomen without prefix. There is, moreover, positive evidence in favor of a different praenomen. Jerome (l.c.), in speaking of the birth of the poet, calls him in full C. Valerius Catullus, and Apuleius (Apol. 10), whose accuracy, however, in the matter of names is not above suspicion, calls him C. Catullus. In the face, then, of the testimony of interpolated manuscripts only, his praenomen must stand established as Gaius.

5. Concerning the birthplace of Gaius Valerius Catullus there is abundant testimony. The titles of the best MSS. of his works call him Veronensis, and Jerome (l.c.) declares him born at Verona. In this testimony concur his admirers among the poets of the centuries immediately following (e.g. Ov. Am. 3.15.7; Mart. I.61.1; X. 103.5; XIV. 195; Auson. Op. 23. 1); and his own writings furnish confirmatory evidence of the same fact. He calls himself (c. 39.13) Transpadanus; he possessed a villa at Sirnaio on the shore of Lacus Benacus near Verona (c. 31); he was acquainted with Veronese society (cc. 67, 100); and he spent part of his time at Verona (cc. 35, 68a).

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  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Catullus, Poems, 100
    • Catullus, Poems, 31
    • Catullus, Poems, 35
    • Catullus, Poems, 39
    • Catullus, Poems, 67
    • Catullus, Poems, 68
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 73
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 37.21
    • Apuleius, Apologia, 10
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.195
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