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Date of birth and of death.

6. The year of his birth and that of his death are stated by Jerome in his edition of the Chronicles of Eusebius, probably on the authority of the De Poetis of Suetonius. Under date of the year of Abraham 1930 (= B.C. 87) Jerome says, “Gaius Valerius Catullus scriptor lyricus Veronae nascitur”, and under that of 1960, or, according to some MSS., 1959 (= B.C. 57,or 58), he says, Jerome, Chronicles of EusebiusCatullus XXX. aetatis anno Romae moritur” . There is nothing to contradict Jerome's date for the birth of the poet, but unfortunately for our belief in his entire accuracy, a number of the poems of Catullus were clearly written later than B.C. 57, - some of them at least as late as the end of the year 55 B.C., or the beginning of the year 54 (e.g. cc. 11, 29, 53, 113). Jerome is, therefore, certainly wrong about the date of the poet's death, and hence about at least one of the two other statements, the date of his birth and his age at death. The only scrap of evidence from other sources on these points is the vague statement of Ovid that Catullus died young ( Am. III.9.62obvius huic [in Elysio] hedera iuvenalia cinctus tempora cum Calvo, docte Catulle, tuo” ).

7. The poems of Catullus himself furnish us, however, with some good negative evidence concerning the date of his death. It probably occurred in the year 54 B.C. In the first place, there are no poems that clearly must have been written later than the close of the year 55 B.C., or the earlier months of the year 54, nor any that are even capable of more ready explanation, if a later date for their composition be supposed. The remark about the consulship of Vatinius (c. 52), which did not take place till the end of the year 47 B.C., forms no exception to this statement (cf. Commentary), and the prosecution of Vatinius by Calvus, mentioned in c. 53, may well have taken place in 56 B.C., instead of in the fall of 54. Furthermore, c. 11, which was surely written toward the close of 55 B.C., shows a decided change in the feeling of Catullus toward Caesar, and accords well with the statement of Suetonius (Iul. 73), that after Catullus had angered Caesar by his epigrams concerning him and Mamurra, a reconciliation with the poet took place, apparently at his father's house at Verona. It is hardly credible that if Catullus lived during the exciting years that followed 55 B.C., the only indication of his new feeling toward Caesar should be the reference in c. 11, and that this was followed by silence. Such neutrality was not the fashion among the young friends whom Caesar was constantly winning to himself from the ranks of his political opponents. There seems, indeed, to be an indication in c. 11 that Catullus might be expecting some post under the great commander. But the most satisfactory conclusion is that death came within a short time after the close of 55 B.C., and anticipated all hoped-for activities (cf., however, § 50).

8. Whether Jerome is wrong in one or in both of his other statements, remains, and must always remain, in doubt. All known facts concerning Catullus harmonize well with the hypothesis that he was born in 87, and died in 54 B.C., at the age of thirty-three, or that he was born in 84, and died in 54, at the age of thirty; but nothing more definite can be said about the matter.

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    • Catullus, Poems, 11
    • Catullus, Poems, 113
    • Catullus, Poems, 29
    • Catullus, Poems, 52
    • Catullus, Poems, 53
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 73
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