Early Lyric Poetry at Rome.

1. The beginnings of lyric poetry among the Romans reach back to the prehistoric period of the city, and were as rude and shapeless as was the life of her people. Amid the rough farmer-populace of the turf-walled village by the Tiber the Arval Brethren and the Salii chanted their rude litanies to the rustic deities, - for even then religion was a prime cause in moving men toward poetry. In roughly balanced Saturnian verses men spoke regret and panegyric for the dead and praises for the valorous deeds of the living. The mimetic passion and rude wit of the Roman led him also into boisterous personal satire and into epigram more pungent than polished. But until the last few decades of the Republic these products of the Muse are either anonymous or connected with names well-nigh forgotten, and the remnants that have come down to us display no striking poetic excellence.

2. The progress of a national literature is perhaps rarely by fits and starts, even though it appears so to be. But the front advances in such a uniform line, that only now and then, when one wave sweeps out far beyond the rest, is the general advance of the tide remarked. So it would probably be unjust to the unknown poets of the Roman Republic to believe that their work did not mark a continual advance from period to period in lyric feeling and expression. Yet only in the first half of the last century before Christ did Latin poetry enter upon its first period of brilliancy. Amid the hot passions, the vigorous hatreds, the feasts and brawls, the beauty and the coarseness of life in the capital during this most active period in the history of Rome, there arose a school of writers who, though often conservatives in politics, were radicals in poetry. The tendencies of the traditional Roman past were by them utterly disregarded. Inspiration was drawn from the stirring life into which they were plunged, as well as from the sympathetic study of the sources of poetic art among both the earlier Greeks and the Alexandrians. As was to be expected, their models of rhythm were not the rude hexameters and ruder Saturnians of their Roman predecessors, but the more polished versification of the Greeks; and their subjects were sometimes their own personal experiences and emotions, and sometimes themes suggested by their Greek prototypes. So a new school of Roman poetry arose and flourished, to be superseded in turn by the polished Augustans, who cultivated the niceties of elegance, but at the expense of verve.


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).

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.

Family and circumstances.

9. The only relative mentioned by Catullus is his brother, whose death was the occasion to him of such intense and lasting grief (cc. 65, 68, 101). But Suetonius (l.c.) speaks of the father as a host of Julius Caesar even so late, apparently, as the close of the poet's life. Why he (to say nothing of the mother) is never mentioned by the poet, we cannot tell. Not improbably, however, he did not have the same active sympathy with the tastes and inclinations of Catullus as the father of Horace had with those of his son. Catullus, moreover, was not the only son, and was probably younger than the one whose untimely death in the Troad he records.

10. Yet there was apparently wealth enough in the family to enable even the younger brother to enjoy the advantages that wealth brought to the young Italian of that day. He was able early in his young manhood to go to Rome, and to make that city thenceforth his abiding-place (c. 68.34 ff.). He owned a villa at Sirmio (c. 31), and another on the edge of the Sabine hills (c. 44). And there is no indication that while at Rome he was busy with any pursuit that could fill his purse, although, like many another young Roman, he later obtained a provincial appointment, and went to Bithynia on the staff of the governor Memmius in the hope of wealth (cf. § 29 ff.). The hope, he tells us (cc. 10, 28), proved abortive, but Catullus had yet money enough -- perhaps even to purchase a yacht for his homeward journey like any millionaire (cf. § 35 and introductory note to c. 4) - at any rate to continue his merry life at Rome, apparently without great pecuniary embarrassment. All these indications point to no financial inability or niggardliness on the part of his father. Possibly the villas, and an increase of income, came to him upon the death of his brother.

11. Whether Catullus, like Horace, was accompanied to Rome by his father is doubtful. On the whole, it seems hardly probable that he was. To say nothing of the considerations possibly connected with the interests of the elder son, the father was apparently resident in Verona at the time when Julius Caesar was governor of Gaul (Suet. Iul. 73), and this fact may indicate that at no time was the family home at Verona broken up in favor of a new one at Rome.


12. Doubtless to the care of some friend of the family at Rome the youth was entrusted. And there were many Transpadanes at Rome, - some of them making great names for themselves in the literary world. With some of these certainly a man of station prominent enough in Verona to be later, at least, the friend of Julius Caesar, might command interest. Under the charge of one of them he might have placed so promising a young man as his son doubtless was. To which one the trust fell cannot now be determined, but as Catullus later (c. 1) addresses Cornelius Nepos as the friend and foster-father of his earlier poems, it seems not unlikely that to his guardianship (Cf. § 63) Catullus owed his introduction into the society of Rome.

13. The purpose of his coming thither is nowhere stated, but may easily be divined. Rome was the school of Italy, at least to all who could pay for her tuition. And a youth with a poet's soul burning within him could hardly have been content with such schooling as a Transpadane town afforded, even to her wealthiest inhabitants. But whether Catullus did much studying of a serious sort may well be doubted. It cannot be quite true that his “'only books were woman's looks,'” for his poems show an ardent and sympathetic study of the Greek poets. But his attainments in rhetoric and philosophy, if he had any at all, were certainly not of a scholastic character, and he apparently never cared to follow the students of the day to Athens or to Rhodes.

14. Not books, but life, exercised over him the preeminent charm. And this life was not the life of the past, but of the present, - the busy, delirious whirl of life in the capital of the world. Into it he plunged with all the ardor of a lively and passionate nature. Rome was from that first moment his home, the centre of all his beloved activities. Verona, his Sabine villa, and even Sirmio, became to him but hospitals or vacation haunts. Once only did he leave Italy, and even his joy at reaching Sirmio again on his return (c. 31) could not long detain him from Rome. And at Rome death met him.

15. In life at Rome, then, Catullus found his full development as a poet. Already from the donning of the toga virilis, so he tells us (c. 68.15 ff.), he had been busied with love and love-verses. But whether this period antedated or followed his coming to Rome cannot be decided, since the date of publication of the Chronica of Nepos (c. 1.8) is unknown, and on this alone could a decision of the other point be based. Such poems as those that concern Aufilena (cc. 100, 110, 111) may possibly date from the Veronese period of the poet's life (though c. 82 cannot possibly do so), and yet it is just as possible that their scene was Rome (cf. introductory note to c. 100), and the same may be said of the poems concerning Ameana (cc. 41, 43). Much more likely is it, however, that of the other poems that show some connection with Veronese affairs cc. 17 and 67 date from his residence in his native city, while c. 35 was surely written during only a temporary visit there (cf. Commentary)


16. But whenever these poems were written, they spring from experiences that did not touch deeply the soul of the writer. A passing fancy, a moment's passion, an evanescent humor brought them forth. But at Rome, and not long after he arrived at Rome, Catullus met the mastering passion of his his life, and beside the verses to which it gave birth the melodious chamber ditties of Horace and the elaborated passions of the elegiasts are but as tinkling cymbals. To the woman who exercised this wonderful power over him he gives the name of Lesbia. But more often he is not content with a name, and the familiar terms of endearment flow from his lips with a newer and deeper meaning; for he delights to feel that though his experience is on the outside like that of other men, his mistress is peerless in virtues and his love for her a love passing that of women. On his side the passion was sudden and intense. He adopts the words of Sappho, and tells Lesbia (c. 51) of the deadly faintness that seizes upon him even while he feels himself a' god, and more than a god, in sharing her smile and her voice. And with the swift passion comes the mad desire to win her love. Lesbia is a married woman (c. 83.1), but that consideration demands only additional care and diplomacy on his part, and is no bar to his efforts. He lays siege to her heart. His importunate persistence, youth as he is, commands her attention even amid a throng of lovers, but apparently only irritates her. What does this youngster, lately come to Rome, hope for amid so many of his betters? He sees that victory must be won over this brilliant woman of the world by proving himself no mere moon-calf. Therefore he curbs his sentiment, and matches wit with wit. Even her own display of petulance is turned against her in neat retort (cc. 83, 92). And meanwhile Catullus was winning his way in the Roman world. The unknown young man was becoming well known, and the haughty beauty finally surrendered, doubtless influenced by vanity rather than by passion.

17. Yet Catullus had no haunting fears concerning the genuineness of her love for him. He was so completely mastered by his own passion that he could not doubt hers. Their meetings, necessarily secret for the most part, on account of the lady's position, took place at the house of a friend (c. 68.68). But not even the possibility of discovery restrained the ardor of the poet's soul. He poured forth his feelings most simply and unrestrainedly in a series of charming trifles. Mere childlike delight in multitudinous kisses (cc. 5, 7), daintiest pretence of lover's jealousy at the favors accorded Lesbia's sparrow (c. 2), gentle, half-smiling sympathy with her over the untimely death of her pet (c. 3), flow from his pen with a perfect freedom of movement and yet with an exquisite grace and perfection in every part. And the mere thought that any proud damsel could once claim comparison with his Lesbia rouses him to hot scorn (cc. 43, 86).

18. The sight of this young poet at her feet may have been attractive to Lesbia, but it could not take the place of all other attractions. The exclusive demand his love made upon her grew irksome. He might be so wholly swallowed up in love for her as to disregard everything else, but she was not so in love with him. It flattered her vanity to hold him thus in thrall, but was tiresome if she also must have her freedom limited by the same shackles. And so she gradually turned away from him toward other pleasures. He finally met her coldness by an attempt to assert his own independence (c. 8). But even in his self-exhortation to firmness in meeting indifference with indifference, he cannot forbear to dwell upon the happy days of the past, nor can he conceal his own hope for a reconciliation. Strangely enough, he seems not even to suspect infidelity on Lesbia's part with other lovers. Though he himself had made her unfaithful to her husband, he is troubled by no fear that she may be entering upon fresh fields of conquest. Though he cannot explain her present action, he is so utterly blinded by his own passion, that he even warns her to consider the desolate lot that awaits her, if she persists in breaking with him (c. 8.14 ff.).

19. However misplaced was the confidence of Catullus in the force of his appeal to Lesbia, his independence of bearing was persevered in till it conquered, - at least to a certain extent. Lesbia saw that she had carried her coldness too far, and was likely to lose forever a lover whose talents and devotion were such that to be given up by him was a serious wound to her vanity. And with a shrewd calculation of the effect of such a course upon his wounded heart, she made her unexpected way into his presence, and prayed for reconciliation. As might be expected, the unsuspicious lover received her with a burst of rapture (c. 107).

20. But the relations of the two lovers never could be restored to their old footing. Neither of them felt precisely as before. Lesbia had no intention of confining herself to Catullus alone, but only of numbering him as still one of her slaves. Catullus, too, had won knowledge in a hard school, and the trustful confidence he had felt in Lesbia's full reciprocation of his love was gone. He does reproduce his former tone of joyous mirth in one poem celebrating the reconciliation (c. 36), but when Lesbia appeals to the gods to bear witness to her pledge of eternal fidelity (c. 109), though he joins in her prayer, it is clearly not with hearty faith, but only with a somewhat reserved desire. And with more experience, his heart is becoming a little hardened. However jesting the tone may be interpreted in which he answers Lesbia's protestations (c. 70), a strain of cynicism begins to make itself heard that is foreign to his former songs, though it has not yet become settled bitterness. But Catullus is fast learning to write epigram.

21. It was useless to suppose that he could long remain ignorant of the fact that Lesbia's favors were not confined to him. No one but himself had ever been ignorant of the true state of the case. Rumor now began to penetrate even his fast-closed ears, and that which he perhaps had already begun to fear came with no less a shock when presenting itself in the garb of fact. The emotions it aroused apparently varied from time to time. At one moment his old passion is strong within him, and in dwelling upon the happiness of the past he deter-mines, with a pretence of philosophic carelessness that is supported by the broken staff of mythological precedent, to overlook the frailties of a mistress whose lapses from fidelity he believed were yet but occasional (c. 68.135 ff.). At another moment he appeals in remonstrance and grief to the friends who have become his rivals (cc. 73, 77, 90).

22. And his perturbed soul was still further wrenched by another heavy blow that fell upon him at about the same time with these disclosures. His dearly loved brother was dead, and, to heighten the anguish of the moment, dead far away in the Troad, without a single relative near him to close his eyes, utter the last formal farewell, and place upon his tomb the customary funeral offerings. The news either reached Catullus when on a visit to his father's house at Verona, or summoned him suddenly thither from Rome. For a time this emotion dulled his sensibility to every other. He could think of nothing else. He foreswore the Muses forever, save to express the burden of his woe (cc. 68.19; 65.12). To the request of the influential orator Hortensius for verses, he could send only a translation from Callimachus, and the story of his tears. He must even deny (c. 68a) an appeal from his friend Manlius for consolation on the death of his wife, - perhaps the same Manlius for whose happy bridal he had but a short time before written an exquisite marriage-song (c. 61). And even when Manlius sought to recall him to Rome by hints concerning the scandal aroused by Lesbia's misdoings, the only answer was a sigh(c. 68.30).

23. Possibly other news also reached him concerning his faithless mistress. At all events when, shortly afterward, he did return to the capital, his eyes were fully opened. Not that he now ceased to love Lesbia, for that was beyond his power, and therein lay his extremest torture. He had lost all faith in her, he knew her now to be but an abandoned prostitute, and yet he could not break the chain of his old regard. 'I hate and love,' he cries, 'I know not how, but I feel the anguish of it' (c. 85).

24. Though he was condemned still to love Lesbia, the former connection with her was now broken off, never to be renewed. Yet he has for her words of sorrow rather than of scorn. Even now, as formerly (c. 104), he cannot malign her, although she has sunk so deep in degradation. In a simple, manly way he declares the fidelity of his love for her (c. 87), and the condition to which he has now been brought by her fault and not his own (c. 75). However difficult it be to associate the idea of pure affection with a passion like his, there is, nevertheless, an appeal of truth in his solemn asseveration at this moment of bitterest grief that his love for Lesbia was not merely the passion of any common man for his paid mistress, but was as the love of a father for his son (c. 72). Not wholly evil, a heart that could feel such an impulse, even toward a mistaken object.

25. But however gentle his treatment of Lesbia, the rivals of Catullus found now no mercy at his hands. For them lie had but bitter scorn and anger, since he mistakenly regarded them, and not Lesbia herself, as responsible for her downfall. Egnatius and his set of companions (cc. 37, 39), Gellius (cc. 74, 80, 88, 89, 90, 116), perhaps also Aemilius (c. 97), Victius (c. 98), and Cominius (c. 108), and other unnamed lovers (cc. 71, 78b) suffer on this account from the stinging lash of his satire. Even Caelius Rufus, like Quintius an early friend of the poet (c. 100), and like Quintius the subject of remonstrance a short time before (cc. 77, 82), now finds no such gentle treatment (cc. 69, 71 ?). Possibly, also, the apparent fling at Hortensius in c. 95.3, who was most kindly addressed in c. 65, may have been prompted by personal rather than by professional jealousy. Most significant, too (cf. § 28), is the bolt aimed at a certain Lesbius (c. 79).

26. The delights of vengeance were perhaps sweet, but they did not bring Catullus peace. The torment of his passion was still raging within him, and from that he longed to find freedom, not again in the arms of his mistress, but in victory over himself. For this he prayed most earnestly (c. 76), and this he finally attained, aided partly, no doubt, by absence from the country (cf. § 29), but more by the persistency with which he kept up the struggle within himself. It may well be, however, that in these months of mental anguish are to be found the beginnings of that disease that caused his untimely death. But the conviction evidently grew upon him that Lesbia had not been led astray by his false friends, but had always been deceitful above all things, and with the clearer insight came not only a gentler feeling toward the men he had judged traitors to friendship (cf. e.g. c. 58 to Caelius Rufus), but a horror and contempt, now unmixed with pity, for Lesbia herself. And when she tried once more, in the day of his reconciliation with Caesar, and the hope of budding fortune (cf. § 41), to win him back to her, his reply was one of bitter scorn for her, though joined with a touch of sorrowful reminiscence of departed joys.

27. As part of the history of Catullus after the break with Lesbia has thus been anticipated in order to indicate the course of his struggle with himself, it may be well to pause here a few moments longer to ask who this Lesbia was. That we have in the poems of Catullus a real and not an imaginative sketch of a love-episode cannot be once doubted by him who reads. Lesbia is not a lay figure, a mere peg on which to hang fancies, like the shadowy heroines of Horace. That she was no libertina, but a woman of education and of social position, is equially clear from the passages already cited. The name Lesbia, therefore, is immediately suggestive of a pseudonym; and not only the fashions of poetry, but the position of the lady herself, appear at once to justify this expedient on the part of her poet-lover. To this antecedent probability is added the direct testimony of Ovid, who says (Trist. II.427), sic sua lascivo cantata est saepe Catullo femina cui falsum Lesbia nomen erat” . Apuleius carries us a step further, saying (Apol. 10),eadem igitur opera accusent C. Catullum quod Lesbiam pro Clodia nominarit” . The name Lesbia is the proper metrical equivalent for Clodia, as the pseudonym of a mistress should be on the lips of a Roman lover (cf. Bentley on Hor. Carm. II.12.13; Acro on Hor. Sat. I.2.64). <--! Cicero's letters, passim? - what's the n for that? -->

28. It was reserved, however, for the Italian scholars of the sixteenth century to identify this Clodia with the sister of P. Clodius Pulcher, Cicero's foe, wife of Q. Caecilius Metellus Celer, who was praetor B.C. 63, then governor of Cisalpine Gaul, consul for the year 60 B.C., and died in 59, not without suspicion that his wife poisoned him (cf. Cic. Cael. 24.60; Quint. VIII. 6.53). Among almost all Catullian scholars of the present century this view has found acceptance, in spite of the express dissent of a few. The general character and course of life of this Clodia 'Quadrantaria' (cf. Cic. Cael. and Epp. passim; Drumann II. p.376 ff.) coincide with those of Lesbia, and many minor details of reference in the poems of Catullus are thus explicable. Especially it may be noted that M. Caelius Rufus (cf. cc. 100, 77, 69, 58) was a lover of this Clodia (cf. Cic. Cael. passim) about the year 58 B.C., and within two years became her bitter enemy. There was all the more likelihood, then, of the reconciliation between him and Catullus marked by c. 58. And if Lesbia be this Clodia, then the Lesbius of c. 79 is her infamous brother, P. Clodius Pulcher, and the epigram becomes clear in the light of historic fact (cf. Commentary).

Journey to Bithynia.

29. But the first date in the life of Catullus that can be definitely fixed by the aid of his own poems is that of his absence from Italy after the final rupture with Lesbia (cf. § 24). He went to Bithynia (cc. 10.7; 31.5; 46.4) on the staff of the governor, Memmius (c. 28.9). Such expeditions on the part of young Romans of that day are so familiar that it is needless to cite other instances than those (cc. 9, etc., 28) of Veranius and Fabullus, the poet's friends. The ordinary motive was not only a love of adventure, but the desire for acquiring wealth at the expense of the provincials in one of the dozen ways possible under a friendly and not too conscientious official patron. Catullus apparently had not been poverty-stricken, however jestingly he claimed that common distinction of the society-man at the capital, though an increase of income may not have been without attractions for him. He had up to this time, too, apparently loved Rome above all other cities, and had not cared to leave it for any considerable period of time, even that he might visit Greece. But now there were two motives that might lead him to look with desire upon a journey to Bithynia. In the first place, it offered him an opportunity to visit the Troad and to pay the final offerings of love at the grave of his brother (cf. § 22). In the second place, he had been passing through a terrible mental struggle that was perhaps not yet over, and Rome had become painful to him. In the distraction of travel and residence in a foreign clime he might find that absence from himself for which he sighed.

30. How he obtained the appointment we do not know, for there is no earlier reference to Memmius in his poems, and none but uncomplimentary references to him later. But it is not strange that with all his circle of literary friends at Rome he should command influence enough to secure such a post; nor is it strange that C. Memmius, himself a learned man and a verse-writer (Cic. Brut. 70.247; Ov. Trist. II.433; Plin. Ep. V.3.5; Gell. XIX. 9.7), was pleased to have the company in his province of such men as Catullus and his poet-friend, C. Helvius Cinna (c. 10. 31).

31. Memmius was praetor in 58 B.C., and therefore in all probability ruled over Bithynia in 57-56 B.C., though this fact cannot be substantiated from other sources. Of the journey of Catullus to Bithynia and of his stay there we have no record up to the period of his approaching return to Italy, save in the one poem (c. 101) in which he commemorates the funeral-offerings at the grave of his brother in the Troad, and speaks the last farewell,-- a farewell of infinite sadness because spoken with no hope of a future reunion. To make these offerings of pious affection was one of the motives of Catullus in coming to this distant land, and doubtless the sad duty was not long postponed after his arrival there. What were the other occupations of his life in Bithynia we cannot tell. No poems remain, at any rate, to mark the pleasures of social intercourse, no squibs of raillery, no brilliant bits of fancy, such as distinguish the Roman days of the poet. The year is a long silence. Perhaps he was too sad to write; perhaps the irksomeness and dulness of his official life wore hard upon his Muse; perhaps, however, he was gathering inspiration from their native scenery and legend for those poems of his matured genius, cc. 63 and 64, and had even then begun to block them out. When they were published cannot be determined.

32. Life in Bithynia was surely unsatisfactory from a financial point of view. The cobwebs in the poet's pockets were not displaced by gold. Perhaps the shrewder men on the staff learned better how to make hay while their brief sun was shining. Catullus, however, came back home poor, and blamed Memmius for it. But whether Memmius really deserved the exceedingly opprobrious epithets heaped upon him (cf. cc. 10, 28) may well be doubted. Virulence of language in invective, especially in the use of terms applied to sexual impurity, was by no means accompanied among the ancients by corresponding intensity of feeling, and is often to be understood as formal and not literal.

33. Yet some pleasures in his Bithynian life Catullus must have experienced; for when on the approach of spring (56 B.C.) he bids his companions adieu, it is with a tribute to the delight he has taken in their company ( c. 46.9dulces comitum coetus” ), and a reference perhaps to the expected pleasure of a reunion with them in Italy (c. 46. 10-11).

34. But the pain of parting was very insignificant in comparison with the overwhelming joy of home-coming. The exquisite grace of the two sparrow-songs of Catullus (cc. 2, 3) is matched by the most perfect delight that breathes through the pair of poems (cc. 46, 31) that mark the beginning and the end of his homeward voyage. They stand supreme among the poems of home that have come down to us from antiquity, thrilling and quivering with purest and most childlike passion. With this pair of poems probably belongs a third (c. 4), which followed speedily upon the two others.

35. The third of the triad (c. 4) indicates that Catullus made this return voyage in a small vessel of Amastriac build purchased by him for this purpose. It almost seems from his account as if it were built to his order, and that he embarked in it at Amastris rather than at the seaport of Nicaea. And all this, indeed, may be true, in spite of the fact that c. 46 apparently speaks of Nicaea as the point of his immediate departure home-ward; for various reasons might be suggested to account for a journey to the eastern part of the province after bidding Nicaea a final farewell.

36. In c. 46.6 the poet speaks of a plan of visiting “claras Asiae urbes” on his return voyage. He seems also to feel some joy at the prospect; but this is the only passage in his writings that shows any susceptibility to the charm of historic associations connected with the ancient Greek cities. The course of the homeward voyage is but vaguely sketched in c. 4, and the only city actually mentioned there as visited on the journey is Rhodes (c. 4.8), though we may infer from c. 46 that other famous sites between the Hellespont and Rhodes were not neglected by him. He may even have visited Athens, for his little ship probably was drawn across the Corinthian isthmus by the famous ship-railway instead of braving the dangers of the longer and rougher passage around the Malean cape. Yet no such mention of Athens exists in his writings as would suggest that he had ever visited, or cared to visit, that city. A similar doubt besets the question of his point of debarkation in Italy. If the expressions of c. 4 were to be taken literally, we must understand that the “phasellus” carried its master actually up the Po and the little Mincius into the Garda-lake, even to the shores of Sirmio itself. But this is well-nigh impossible; and even if possible, is it likely that the poet, so eager to reach home, would have submitted to the tedium of a tow-boat's voyage (for surely the “phasellus” could not sail up the Mincius), when a few hours by post from the mouth of the Po would have brought him to his desired haven? Apparently both the begin-fling and the end of the voyage of the “phasellus” as recounted in c. 4 are not to be interpreted with strict literalness. But the rapturous joy with which Sirmio is saluted in c. 31 forbids us to suppose that the poet first visited Rome, and later made his way northward. Even the gaiety with which the dedicatory inscription of the model of the “phasellus” (c. 4) is struck off; -a poem after an entirely new style, - shows that at the time of its composition the first enthusiasm of delight had not yet evaporated.

Later years. Relations with Caesar.

37. But even Sirmio could not long detain him from his loved Rome. His reappearance among his old friends is marked by a single poem (c. 10), whose gay and charming humor shows that even the vicinity of Lesbia had lost its power constantly to embitter his thoughts. And to the passion for Lesbia now appears to have succeeded that for a boy, Juventius, with the charms of whose company Catullus perhaps attempted to drive out the thoughts of his former love. How the intimacy began we cannot tell. The Juventian gens sprang from Tusculum, but inscriptions (C. I. L. vol. V. passim) show that people of that name also lived in the neighborhood of Verona. It may be, therefore, that the boy came to Rome under the guardianship of Catullus, as perhaps Catullus, years before, under that of Nepos But nothing further is known of him beyond what may be inferred from the poems of Catullus that concern him (cf. introductory note to c. 15). His history is interwoven with that of a pair of friends, Aurelius and Furius, both at first friends of Catullus, to the former of whom the poet at one time was led to entrust temporarily the care of his ward (c. 15). The result might have been anticipated. Juventius learned to prefer them to Catullus, and in consequence Catullus vented his wrath upon them in a group of bitter poems (cc. 16, 21, 23, 26), though for Juventius he had only sorrowful remonstrance (cc. 24, 81).

38. Yet all this experience appears to have touched him in no wise deeply. It was but a passing diversion, and his jealousy not the bitter passion felt against his rivals with Lesbia. With far more earnestness did he throw himself into the political quarrel of his time. The year of his return from Bithynia (56 B.C.) had witnessed the so-called renewal of the triumvirate at Luca, and Caesar appeared to have won everything. In accordance with the agreement made at the Luca conference, Pompey and Crassus were consuls a second time for the year 55, and the senatorial party was at its wits' end. Catullus was apparently not an active political worker, but he did not hesitate to join his political friends in personal attacks upon the foe. Perhaps his earlier shafts were those aimed against Mamurra (cf. § 73), Caesar's notorious favorite (cc. 29, 41, 43, 57), whom Catullus sometimes celebrates under the nickname of Mentula (cc. 94, 105, 114, 115), and these opened the way for the direct attack upon Caesar himself (cc. 54, 93). But whatever the order of attack, that Caesar was piqued by it we know from Suetonius (Iul. 73). That he made a successful effort to win over Catullus, as he did Calvus, we are also assured from the same source. Caesar understood better than most Romans that political power in that city and that day must rest largely upon personal popularity, and he was not above exerting himself to win the good will of individuals of high or low degree. And aside from the fascination due to his great political and military success, he had personal traits that gave him a power over young men. It was the mysterious influence of a natural leader of men; and in many more than these two instances the number of his friends was recruited from the ranks of the younger of his fiercest foes. There was another element also that must have tended to promote the reconciliation between Caesar and Catullus. The father of Catullus was resident at Verona within the limits of Caesar's Cisalpine province. He may not have taken an active part in politics, but at any rate he was a personal friend of Caesar, and often his host (Suet. l.c.). This intimacy may well have led him to see clearly what the result of the approaching struggle for supremacy in Rome was likely to be, and to desire the more eagerly to see his son arrayed for Caesar and not against him.

39. At all events, the reconciliation was brought about, and the lively pen of Catullus ceased to lampoon the great commander. Some have thought, however, that Mamurra was not included in the peace, and that the utmost Caesar could effect in his favorite's behalf was that his personality should be thereafter thinly veiled under the pseudonym Mentula.

40. But Caesar was not to profit greatly from his new ally. Up to the end of the year 55 B.C. Catullus displays only hostility to Caesar and the Caesarians. The reconciliation apparently took place at the house of the father of Catullus at Verona during the winter visit of the governor to the nearer province in the early part of the year 54 (Caes. B. G. 5.1). The only poem that shows the change of feeling toward Caesar is c. 11, and this is connected with another marked incident in the life of the poet.

41. Catullus was now the friend of Caesar. The great commander was entertained at his father's house, and perhaps even there was making his plans for future campaigns. The fortunes of the poet were rising. What might he not hope for from his great patron, and why should others not share in his success? Furius and Aurelius, scorned by him since their faithlessness in the matter of Juventius, were eager to crawl back into his favor. And they fancied they could bring him a message that would be joyfully greeted, and would secure them the favorable reception they sought for their own advances: Lesbia was willing to recall her recalcitrant lover. She had once before been successful when making the first advances herself (cf. § 19). Why should she fear defeat now? But both she and her ill-chosen emissaries were speedily undeceived. The broken chain of the old love could never be welded again. Catullus had won by absence, by self-discipline, and most of all, perhaps, by real knowledge of facts in the case, the freedom from his passion for which he had prayed (c. 76). He could once more believe in the friendship of Caelius Rufus, and to him acknowledge, with pain, indeed, but no longer with unavailing torture his true view of Lesbia's character (c. 58). And these proffers now made to him through, and by, Furius and Aurelius were definitely and disdainfully rejected (c. 11), -with a manly, not a petulant disdain, for Catullus could not even then forget that he had loved Lesbia>.

42. This manly utterance was almost the last of the poet's life. A few scattered verses there may have been, closing perhaps with the touching appeal written from Verona (cf. § 56) to his brother-poet, Cornificius, for a word of consolation, but that was all; and sometime in the year 54 B.C., in his beloved Rome, so says the chronicler, the swiftly burning candle of his life burned itself out.

43. With him died the clearest, if not the richest, poet-voice ever lifted in Rome. He lacked the lofty grandeur of Lucretius, the polished stateliness of Vergil, the broad sympathies of Horace. For on the one hand, he was no recluse to be filled with heavenly visions, and on the other, his personality was too intense to allow him to cultivate a tolerant spirit. He delighted in life with a vigorous animal passion. Not without charm to him was nature in her sylvan aspect (cf. e.g. 34.9 ff.) yet his highest enjoyment was in the life of men. And this life he did not study, as did Horace, from the standpoint of a philosopher. Indeed, he did not study it at all, but simply felt it. For he was not outside of it, but a part of it to the fullest degree, swayed by its ever-changing emotions. Such a nature must of necessity ever remain in many essential aspects the nature of a child. And such was the nature of Catullus throughout his brief life,--warm in quick affections, hot in swift hatreds, pulsing with most active red blood.


44. The great majority of his verses -- all the most successful of them -- are the direct expression of his own heart at the moment. No poet was ever more unreserved, more perfectly ingenuous. And yet, such is the facility of his genius and the excellence of his taste, his verses show no ruggedness or roughness, but glide along with the utmost ease and swift grace toward their mark. But he was no precisianist in metrics. His hexameters are less perfect and flexible than those of P. Varro or of Lucretius, his elegiacs less harmonious and melting than those of the Augustans, his logaoedics often less melodious than those of Horace. And nevertheless his rhythmical skill suggests constantly that it is the effect of great artfulness.

45. He studied with admiration both the Lesbian and the Alexandrian poets, though it is not easy to determine the precise limits of the influence of either school upon his genius. Part of this difficulty arise from the meagreness of the remains of these Greek writers that have survived the Middle Ages, andd part from the intense fire of his own personality that has metamorphosed into its own likeness all the material that came into contact with it. Even when he is professedly translating Sappho or Callimachus (cf. cc. 51, 66), his translation is full of original elements, and is worked out in a personal fashion. He is often Sapphic in his tendency to self-address, and in the warmth and tenderness of his emotions, and often Alexandrian in his liking for episode, for richness of mythological allusion, for striking turns of phrase (cf. especially cc. 63, 64, 68, passim); and yet he is, after all, never other than distinctively Roman.

46. The speech Catullus employs is, as might be expected from what has already been said, the speech of every-day life. It will not be necessary to discuss here its phenomena in detail. It approximates closely in general to the speech of Plautus and Terence and of Cicero's letters, and suggests in some respects that of Petronius and other writers of the Silver Age, abounding as it does in diminutives (for the expression of tenderness, or of scorn, or even without any proper diminutive force), in words of Greek or of provincial extraction, in alliteration and anaphora. Yet in many instances in epic passages, or those of a more elevated tone than the majority of his lyric he does not hesitate to employ words and figures that suggest the earlier tragedians rather than the comedians.

47. Cicero, in his later years, professed contempt for the whole tribe of these poetae novi (like Catullus and his friends) who had forsaken all the traditions of Ennius (Or. 161; Tusc. III.45; Att. VII. 2.1); and Horace mentions Catullus but once, and then with definite disparagement (Sat. I.10.19); but even from these references it may be fairly inferred that the poetry of Catullus was well and acceptably known among his immediate generation of Romans, and had not to wait till the time of the elegiasts for a purely posthumous fame. It was, indeed, not so very long after his death that Cornelius Nepos ventured to rank him in quality alongside Lucretius (Att. 12.4). His fame, then, was contemporary with himself. But even a cursory examination of his extant book of poems shows evidence that it was not published till after the poet's death. For although it has come down to us mutilated by the accidents of time in a most unseemly manner, no mutilation can account for the condition of c. 58b, which is clearly but a rejected trial-sketch for the poem afterward elaborated as c. 55, and not a misplaced part of c. 55 itself (note the much greater frequency of dactyls in the second place in the verses of c. 58b than of c. 55). Would Catullus himself have published such a mere fragment? Still more, would he after the reconciliation with Julius Caesar have published, or republished, the poems in which Caesar is bitterly assailed? For this same reason, if for no other, it is also impossible to suppose, with certain critics, that Catullus himself arranged the book for publication, but was overtaken by death before it was actually published.

48. The only satisfactory hypothesis is that the book was both arranged and published, after the author's death, by some literary friend of his at Rome, where he ordinarily kept his books and papers (cf. c.68.33-36). The posthumous editor arranged the poems in three general groups. First come sixty shorter poems on various themes all in iambic or logaoedic rhythms Then follows the group of longer poems (cc. 61-68b), introduced by the three epithalamia (cc. 61, 62, 64), with their Eros accompanied by the Anteros of c. 63; this group of poems begins with glyconics (c. 61), continues with dactylic hexameters (cc. 62, 64), divided by passionate galliambics (c. 63), and concludes with elegiacs (cc. 65-68b). It is followed by a third group of shorter poems (cc. 69-116), all in the elegiac metre, but as varied in theme as the first group. This division was suggested entirely by the metres and length of the poems, and not at all by their subject-matter; for the third group contains poems agreeing in subject and date with others in the first group (cf. e.g. c. 99 with c. 48, c. 81 with c. 24, c. 93 with cc. 29 and 57). Within each group poems on the same or similar themes occasionally stand together (e.g. cc. 2 and 3; cc. 61 and 62; cc. 88-91; cc. 110 and 111), but more frequently are divided by one or more poems on another, and often a contrasted theme (cf. cc. 5 and 7; cc. 21 and 23; cc. 62 and 64; cc. 69 and 71; cc. 70 and 72).

49. The editor certainly included one mere fragment (c. 58b); and perhaps more of the poems whose condition we attribute to the neglect of a later age (e.g. cc. 2.11-13; 14b; 54; 78b) may have been published by him in their present form, on account of his anxiety to omit no scrap found among his friend's posthumous papers.

50. Another possibility suggests itself The editor certainly must have disregarded what would have been the wishes of Catullus in publishing, or republishing, the poems against Caesar, especially if none had yet been written in his favor. The editor was doubtless one of the circle of literary friends of the poet at Rome, and so was, if not, like Catullus, a subject of sudden conversion, an anti-Caesarian. Is it possible that he still further used his discretion, and served his own sympathies by refraining from the publication of later poems favorable to Caesar, and that by this theory, and not by that of the speedy death of the poet we are to explain the absence in his works of all poems (except c. 11) showing a change of personal, if not of political, feeling? But this question may be reserved for another occasion.

51. It is not to be supposed, however, that all of these poems saw the light for the first time after the death of their author. The manifest point of most of the personal poems would have been utterly lost, had they not been published immediately after their composition, and the passage already cited from Suetonius (Jul. 73) shows clearly that Caesar was acquainted before their author's death with some of the poems directed against him. One poem also (c. 16. 12) contains an evident reference to the earlier publication of c. 48 (or of cc. 5 and 7?). It seems likely, therefore, that many of the poems were published singly, at least among the circle of the poet's friends, while the extant dedication of a libellus to Cornelius Nepos suggests that a smaller collection of them was made and published by Catullus himself (cf. introductory note to c. 1).

52. Catullus undoubtedly wrote other poems than those included in the extant liber; but of the fragments attributed to him by the grammarians some are proved to have been falsely so ascribed, and the few remaining are, even if genuine, so slight as to be insignificant (cf. Commentary on cc. 18-21).


53. The popularity enjoyed by Catullus among the Augustan elegiasts did not preserve his memory alive through the declining centuries of the Roman empire. The scholars and poets of the latter half of the first millennium after Christ had forgotten even his name. Only Rather, bishop of Verona, in a sermon delivered there in 965 A.D., confesses that he had just become acquainted with his writings; and an anthology of Latin poets written at about the same time (now cod. Thuaneus, Parisinus 8071) contains a single poem of Catullus (c. 62). Then he drops cut of ken once more till the opening of the 14th century when a writer of Vicenza, Benvenuto Campesani (who died before 1330), celebrated in a few enigmatic verses (cf. Critical Appendix ad fin.) the rediscovery of the text of Catullus “'under a bushel”,' apparently at Verona. From this MS., or from copies of it, numerous Italian scholars, among them Petrarch, early learned to know the poet. The original MS. soon disappeared, and has never been found; but two descendants of it, apparently not more than one generation removed, are preserved to us, and form the basis of the present text of Catullus. One of these copies, ordinarily called G (now No. 14,137 in the National Library at Paris) was made in the year 1375, and the other, O (No.30 of the Canonici Latin MSS. in the Bodleian Library) at about the same time. (Cf. also introductory note to Critical Appendix.)

54. The earlier editions of Catullus, however, were based upon interpolated MSS., and though displaying great erudition and classical taste left much to be desired in the way of true principles of textual criticism. The edition of Karl Lachmann (Berlin, 1829) first established the text of Catullus upon a scientific basis, though the two MSS. on which he mainly depended, D and L (in the Royal Library at Berlin), are far inferior to G and O. These became first known to the world, G in 1830 through I. Sillig (Jahrb. für Philol. xiii. p.262 ff.), and O through Robinson Ellis in his first edition of Catullus (Oxford, 1867). During the last quarter of a century, then, the constitution as well as the elucidation of the text of Catullus has made its most marked advances.

Friends and foes.

55. A few of the persons distinguished by the love or by the hatred of Catullus may conveniently be mentioned here. Some such persons, however, as Caesar, Cicero, and Clodius, are so well known otherwise to the ordinary reader as to need no biographical notice in a work of this sort. Others, like Lesbia, nave been sufficiently noticed in previous paragraphs of this Introduction. Still others are of so little present importance, or are so little known to us outside the mention of them by Catullus, that the brief references to them in the commentary on the individual poems may suffice. The names of all these, with references to the poems in which they are addressed or mentioned, may be found in the Index of Proper Names at the end of this volume.

56. It is a temptation to identify the Alfenus to whom the remonstrance of c. 30 is addressed with P. Alfenus Varus, consul suffectus 39 B.C., especially if he, in turn, can be identified with the Alfenus Varus who protected Vergil's property at Mantua (Ecl. 1, 6, 9), who was perhaps a native of Cremona (though falsely identified by the scholiasts on Horace with Alfenus vafer of Sat. 1.3.130). For if Varus was at Cremona during the winter and spring of 55-54 B.C., while Catullus was at Verona (cf. § 40), we perhaps have a key to the difference in tone between c. 30 and c. 38. From Cornificius at Rome the poet could expect in his growing illness only written comfort, and that is all he asks. Alfenus Varus at Cremona was within easy reaching distance of Verona by a direct highway, the Via Postumia, and might have visited Catullus in person, but did not. Hence the deeper feeling of slight with which Catullus addresses him.

57. The “'Pollio frater'” of c. 12.6 is very likely the only Pollio known to us from this period, C. Asinius, Cn. f. (born 75 B.C., died 5 A.D.), who became praetor in 45 B.C. and consul in 40, in which year he gained a triumph over the Parthini. At first a Caesarian, he might have been won over to the senatorial party after Caesar's death, but finally cast in his lot with Antonius, from whom, however, he became alienated, but without entering the circle of the intimate friends of Augustus. As orator, dramatic and lyric poet, historian of the first triumvirate, and literary critic, he gained lasting fame, and is frequently quoted by succeeding writers. Among his intimate friends were Vergil and Horace; cf. Verg. Ecl. 3.84; 4; 8.6; Hor. Carm. II. 1; Sat. 1.10.42, 85.

58. Nothing further is known of the older brother of Pollio addressed in c. 12. The family of the Asinii sprang from Teate, the capital of the Marrucini, but it is doubtful whether “Marrucine” in c. 12.1 is simply a distinguishing epithet. C. Asinius Pollio is the first of the family known to bear a cognomen, and perhaps that custom was introduced in his generation, his elder brother taking the cognomen Marrucinus from the seat of the family.

59. The Caelius of c. 58 is probably identical with the Caelius of cc. 82 and 100, and with the Rufus of cc. 69 and 77 (and also cc. 73 and 59?), the names and circumstances suggesting M. Caelius Rufus, born, according to Pliny (N.H 7.165), on the same day with C. Licinius Calvus, May 28, 82 B.C. (though perhaps this date is too late, by a few years, for the birth of Caelius). Caelius is well known as an ambitious politician and an orator (Cic. Brut. 79.273; Quint. Inst. VI. 3.69; X. 1. 115; 2.25; Tac. Dial. 18, 21, 25). He was at first a partisan of the optimates; but after filling the offices of tribune (52 B.C.), quaestor, and curule aedile (50 B.C.), and contracting immense debts by his extravagant life, he became a follower of Caesar, and was by him made praetor for the year 48. But being shortly thereafter deposed for attempts at revolutionary legislation, he tried to seduce certain of Caesar's troops, and was finally killed under the walls of Thurii. He was an active and interesting correspondent of Cicero, by whom he was defended (56 B.C.) in the famous speech pro Caelio against the charge of attempted poisoning brought by Clodia (Lesbia), whose favored lover he had been. He himself appears to have broken this connection, and perhaps to have opened the eyes of Catullus to Lesbia's real character, after which the friend-ship was again cemented between him and Catullus which had been severed by their rivalry (cf. §§ 25, 26). The poems addressed to him were apparently written in about the following order: cc. 100, 82, 77, (73), 69, (59), 58

60. C. Licinius Macer Calvus, apparently the most intimate friend of Catullus, was the son of the annalist, Licinius Macer and was born May 28, 82 B.C. (cf. Plin. l.c.). He died in, or not very long before, the year 47 B.C. (cf. Cic. Fam. XV. 21.4). He was renowned as a most able and skilful orator, though of low stature (cf. 53.5; Sen. Contr. VII. 4.7; Ov. Trist. II.431), and as a writer of epic, lyric, and epigram (cf. Cic. Brut. 279, 283; Tac. Dial.18; Quint. Inst. 10.1.115; Plin. Ep. I. 16. 5; Gell. XIX. 9.7; Serv. on Verg. Ecl. 6.47; 8.4) - On account of his intimacy with Catullus and the similarity of their political principles (cf. Suet. Iul. 73) and of their writings they are often named together (cf. with above Hor. Sat. I. 10. 19, and indexes to Propertius and Ovid). The few extant fragments of his works are appended to the editions of Catullus by Lachmann and L. Muiller. The death of Quintilia, apparently from the tone of c.96 the wife of Calvus, gave occasion for one of the finest and most touching of the briefer poems of Catullus.

61. The Cornificius to whom Catullus addressed the pathetic appeal of c. 38 was a poet (cf. vv. 7 and 8), and is doubtless to be identified with the Cornificius mentioned by Ovid (Trist. II.436) in connection with other verse-writers of the period of Catullus. It is not so clear, though quite possible, that he is the Q. Cornificius to whom Cicero wrote friendly letters (Fam. XII. 17-30), dated between 45 and 43 B.C. This Cornificius was an active officer of Julius Caesar, a member of the college of augurs, and later governor of the province of Africa, which he endeavored to hold against T. Sextius, the general of the second triumvirate. His death is mentioned by Jerome under date of 41 B.C.: “Cornificius poeta a militibus desertus interiit, quos saepe fugientes 'galeatos lepores' adpellarat.Jerome If this be the friend of Catullus, he may perhaps be counted as another of the group of young writers won over by Caesar from the ranks of his political foes. His interest and activity in rhetorical studies are distinctly indicated by Cicero, and there seems to be no good reason to doubt that he is the “Cornificius rhetor” not infrequently quoted by Quintilian. With but slightly less probability may be attributed to him the work on the derivation of the names of the gods ascribed by Macrobius and Priscian to an author of his name: but the verse in criticism of a grammatical point in Vergil attributed by Cledonius (V. 43.2) to Cornificius Gallus may have been written, as some have thought, by Cornelius Gallus. Only two fragments of the verses of Cornificius have been preserved, one a hendecasyllabic (Macr. VI. 4. 12), and the other the latter part of a hexameter from his Glaucus (Macr. VI. 5. 13). They are appended by L. Müller to his edition of Catullus.

62. The Cato to whom c. 56 is addressed was probably not that pattern of ancient Roman strictness, M. Porcius Cato, later called Uticensis, but the grammarian, Valenus Cato, who was a countryman of Catullus (Suet. Gram. I i), and whose amatory poems are mentioned by Ovid (Trist. II.436) in connection with those of Cinna (cf. § 63), Cornificius (cf. § 61), and Anser.

63. C. Helvius Cinna, a companion of Catullus on the staff of Memmius (cf. c. 10.30 and § 30), whose epic poem, the Zmyrna, is praised in c. 95, was probably the Caesarian tribune mistaken for L. Cornelius Cinna, the anti-Caesarian, in the riots attending the funeral of Julius Caesar, and killed by the populace (Plut. Brut. 20, Iul.68; Suet. Iul.85; cf. Shakspere Jul. Caes.III. 3). The insignificant extant fragments of his poems are appended by L. M&uuml;ller to his edition of Catullus.

64. The Cornelius of c. 1.1 seems to be Cornelius Nepos, the historian; witness Ausonius, who says

'Cui ... libellum'
Veronensis ait poeta quondam,
inventoque dedit statim Nepoti

(XXIII. 1-3)
. Nepos (circ. 94-24 B.C.) was certainly a provincial from Cisalpine Gaul ( Plin. N. H. 3.127Nepos Padi accola” ), and probably a native of Ticinum (Plin. Ep. IV. 28.1; Mommsen in Hermes III. p.62). His acquaintance with Catullus, though nothing certain can be traced concerning it was doubtless fostered by their similarity of origin (cf. § 12). Nepos was author not only of the work De Viris Illustribus, of which a part, with lives of Cato and of Atticus, is still extant, but also of other historical works (cf. c. 1.6 n.) and of poems (Plin. Ep. V. 3. 6).

65. Q. Hortensius Ortulus (114-50 B.C.), Cicero>'s greatest rival as an orator, was also somewhat of a historian (Vell. II. 16. 3), and wrote erotic poems (Ov. Trist. II.441; Plin. Ep. V. 3. 5), which the Greeks at the banquet of Antonius Julianus (Gell. XIX. 9.7) characterized as invenusta, though they admitted that Catullus and Calvus wrote some verses comparable with those of Anacreon. Presuming, perhaps, upon his own gifts as a poet, Hortensius asked Catullus for a poem (c. 65.18-19), and the poet complied with the request, though with an absence of compliment that indicates no intimate friendship with his petitioner, whose much greater age and high position gave him, however, the power to become an influential patron. That the friendship made no progress seems to be indicated by the uncomplimentary allusion to the verses of Hortensius in c. 95.3 (cf. however § 25 ad fin.).

66. The Varus of c. 10 is apparently identical with the Varus of c. 22, who is a friend of Catullus and a critic of poetry, if not a poet himself. This may well be the distinguished Quintilius Varus, the Augustan critic (Hor. AP. 438 ff.) and poet (Acro and Comm. Cruq. on l.c.). He is called a native of Cremona; and his death in 23 B.C. (according to Jerome) drew from Horace a touching address of sympathy to Vergil (Carm. 1.24). Judged from the tone of the passage in the Ars Poetica , Quintilius must have been somewhat older than Horace, while yet he could hardly have been born long, if at all, before Catullus. The attempt to identify the Varus of c. 10 and c. 2 with Alfenus Varus of c. 30 is unsatisfactory.

67. The Manlius Torquatus, whose marriage with Vinia Aurunculeia is celebrated in c. 61, was perhaps the L. Manlius Torquatus whose father was consul in 65 B.C. (cf. Hor. Carm. III.21., Epod. 13.6), and who was himself praetor in 49. He allied himself with the Pompeians, and was killed in Africa in 47 (cf. Bell. Afr. 96). In 62 B.C. Manlius prosecuted P. Cornelius Sulla on the charge of conspiracy with Catiline. Cicero and Hortensius appeared for the defence and secured an acquittal. In Cicero's speech on that occasion (Pro Sulla), and especially in his Brutus (76. 265), Manlius is highly praised.

68. A certain Veranius is mentioned in cc. 12, 28, and 47 in connection with a Fabullus, evidently an intimate friend of his, as both were of Catullus. Beside these three references to them jointly, c. 9 is addressed to Veranius alone, and c. 13 to Fabullus alone, the equal recognition thus scrupulously given them by Catullus suggesting the existence of a close bond of intimacy between the two friends. Nothing more is known of them than can be gathered from Catullus himself. Veranius has in c. 9 just returned from a residence in Spain, and in c. 12 the presence there of Fabullus also is noted. The 13th poem, too, a jesting reference to a prospective dinner offered Fabullus, appears to have been written while Fabullus was absent somewhere, or had just returned, and may well refer to the same occasion as c. 9, the different tone of the individual poems, one sportive, and one affectionate, corresponding to characteristic differences in the dispositions of the two friends. In cc. 28 and 47 Veranius and Fabullus have been away from Rome as members of the retinue of a certain Piso, a provincial governor. They returned to Rome apparently not long after the time of the return of Catullus himself from Bithynia (56 B.C.; cf. § 31 ff.).

69. If, then, there be such a connection as indicated between cc. 9 and 13, the absence in Spain cannot have been that with Piso, and must have preceded it by several years; for the reference to Lesbia in c. 13.11 clearly antedates the break of Catullus with her, and that occurred before his journey to Bithynia. But it is not incredible that two friends so intimately connected as Veranius and Fabullus should have been together on more than one journey after fortune; and the journey to Spain like the later one with Piso (cf. § 70) may well have been on the staff of a provincial governor, - probably about 60 B.C., as the reference to Lesbia indicates (cf c. 13.11 n.).

70. The Piso unfavorably commented upon in cc. 28 and 47 (cf. § 68) is probably L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, consul in 58 B.C. (the year of Cicero's exile), and in 57-55 governor of Macedonia, where he made an honorable record. After his return to Rome in 55 B.C. he attempted to reply to certain strictures of Cicero uttered in his absence, and drew down upon himself the overwhelming invective power of his adversary in the famous speech In Pisonem, in which the whole life, character, and actions of Piso were held up to undeserved obloquy.

71. The service of Catullus on the staff of C. Memmius, governor of Bithynia, has already been discussed (§ 29 ff.). Concerning Memmius himself we may add further that neither his political nor his personal character was above reproach. He was in 54 B.C. party to a most barefaced attempt to secure the consulship by bribing the consuls of that year (Cic. Att. IV. 18. 2), and was charged with the seduction of the wives of Lucullus (Cic. Att. I. 18. 3) and Pompey (Suet. Gram 14). He appears to better advantage as a scholar and the patron of literary men, especially of Lucretius, who dedicated his great poem to him. Cicero (Brut. 70.247) speaks well of his Greek scholarship, and of his ability in oratory, though blaming him for lack of application. Accused of ambitus in 53 B.C., on account of the operations of the preceding year, he went into exile in Greece (cf. Cic. Fam. XIII.1), where he died about the year 49.

72. Prominent among the invective poems of Catullus is a group directed against a certain Gellius. This comprises cc. 74, 80, 88, 89, 90, 91, 116, but the poems are not arranged in chronological order. Apparently the earliest in composition is c. 16, and the second c. 91,-- the first indicating that Catullus had tried to avert the hostility of Gellius by sending him translations from Callimachus, but declaring from that time open war, while the second asserts that Gellius had broken the bond of friendship with Catullus by becoming a lover of Lesbia. In c. 80.1 the youth of Gellius is indicated, and in all the series except c. 116 he is charged with various abhorrent crimes. The most acceptable suggestion of his identity was originally made by Pantagathus († 1578), who judged him to be that son of L. Gellius Publicola (consul 72 B.C.) who is said by Valerius Maximus (V. 9.1) to have been accused before the senate of “in novercam” (cf. c. 88.1, etc.) “commissum stuprum et parricidium cogitatum”. This younger Gellius was himself consul in 36 B.C., and his age therefore also accords with the intimations of Catullus. The patruus of c. 74 is identified by some critics with the Gellius Publicola attacked by Cicero in Pro Sestio 51. 110, while yet others have supposed, but with no sufficient reason, that this Gellius, and not the one of Valerius Maximus, is the Gellius assailed by Catullus.

73. The attacks of Catullus upon Mamurra have already been mentioned (§ 38). That he is identical with the 'Mentula' of cc. 94, 105, 114, and 115 we may be tolerably certain on noting the use of that name for Mamurra in c. 29.13, and on comparing the wealth and extravagance of the two men (cc. 114 and 115 with cc. 29, 41, and 43), their literary pretensions (c. 105 with c. 57.7), and their licentiousness (cc. 94 and 115.7-8 with cc. 29.7-8 and 57) - These latter indications, however, but support that of c. 29.13, and would not independently establish the identity.

74. A sufficient biography of Mamurra is given by Pliny (N. H. XXXVI. 6.48), who says he was an eques of Formiae and praefectus fabrum of Caesar in Gaul, and quotes Nepos as authority for the statement that Mamurra first of the Romans incrusted the entire walls of his house on the Caelian with marble, and had within it none but solid marble columns. Cicero, too, mentions Mamurra's ill-gotten wealth (Att. VII. 7.6), and in Att.XIII. 52. 1 (written in 45 B.C.) refers to the calm way in which Caesar received news of his death (so Nipperdey interprets the allusion). The connection of Mamurra with the provincial Ameana (cc. 41, 43) may be assigned to the time when he was in attendance upon Caesar in his winter journeys to the nearer province.

75. The poet Volusius of cc. 36 and 95 is probably not to be identified with Tanusius Geminus, as Muretus and other later writers would have it. The only ground for such identification is a remark made by Seneca ( Ep. 93.11annales Tanusii scis quam ponderosi sint et quid vocentur” ). But of all the names that appear in Catullus, Lesbia and Lesbius are the only ones known to be pseudonyms (for Mentula is hardly a name, but an easily recognized epithet). And the “quid vocentur” of Seneca may readily refer to some other popular characterization of the work of the annalist, and not to the “cacata charta” of c. 36.1.


The metres employed by Catullus are as follows1: -

76. DACTYLIC HEXAMETER (cc. 62, 64) and ELEGIACS (cc. 65-116). The occurrence of spondaic verses is very frequent, and doubtless is due to Alexandrian influence. In all, there are 42 such verses, of which 34 end in a quadrisyllable. In only ten instances is this a proper name. In c. 64 there is a succession of three spondaic verses (vv. 78-80) - The tendency to employ a succession of spondees in the same verse is striking. Thus c. 116.3 is made up entirely of spondees, and 71 verses have spondees in the first four places. - The penthemimeral caesura is by far the favorite, though the hephthemimeral occurs occasionally; and the feminine caesura in the third foot is not unknown, though it is entirely excluded from the fourth. - The hexameters end preferably in a dissyllable or trisyllable, but in the ending of the pentameters greater freedom is allowed. - Hypermeters are found in c. 64.298 and c. 115.5. - On hiatus, see § 86 d.

77. PURE IAMBIC TRIMETER (c. 4) Perhaps c. 29 is in the same metre; but cf. note on Mamurram in v.3.

78. IAMBIC TRIMETER (c. 52, and perhaps c. 29), with the optional substitution of a spondee for the first iambus of any dipody. The scheme, then, is,

x-u- x-u- x-u-

79. CHOLIAMBIC or SCAZON (cc. 8, 22, 31, 37, 39, 44, 59, 60).

The scheme is as follows: -

x-u- x-u- u---

Thrice also the thesis is resolved (in cc. 22.19; 37.5; 59.3, - unless in c. 37.5 we read “confutuere” as a quadrisyllable).

80. IAMBIC TETRAMETER CATALECTIC, otherwise called Iambic Septenarius (c. 25). The scheme is, -

x-u- x-u- x-u- x--

81. PHALAECEAN, often called Hendecasyllabic (cc. 1-3, 5-7, 9, 10, 12-16, 21, 23, 24, 26-28, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38, 4O-43, 45-50, 53-58). The scheme is, -

oo -uu- u- u--

It may be remarked that while the verse most frequently opens with the irrational trochee (as always in Martial), there are nearly seventy exceptions to this rule, and they are about evenly divided between the regular trochaic opening and that with the iambus.2 The peculiar experiment with this metre tried in cc. 55 and 58b is noted in the introduction to c. 55.

82. GLYCONIC and PHERECRATIC series are combined by Catullus as follows3:-

a.A second Glyconic catalectic followed by a second Pherecratic acatalectic forms the verse called PRIAPEAN, used in c. 17. The scheme is, -

oo -uu- u- | oo -uu- -

The first series in this verse ends with a complete word, and does not allow hiatus after it: elision occurs there four times (vv. 4, 11, 24, 26).

b.The stanza of c. 34 is composed of four verses, of which the first three are second Glyconics catalectic, and the fourth a second Pherecratic acatalectic. The stanza of c. 61 is similar, but with four, instead of three, Glyconics. The scheme of the Glyconics thus arranged is, -

oo -uu- u-

and that of the Pherecratics, -

oo -uu- -

Synapheia is observed throughout, as in the Priapean stanza. Once an irrational spondee takes the place of the cyclic dactyl (c. 61. 254.

83. GREATER ASCLEPIADIC verses compose c. 30. The scheme of each is as follows: -

oo -uu- -uu- -uu- u-

Contrary to the practice of Horace, caesura is not always observed between the successive series in each verse.

84. The SAPPHIC stanza (cc. 11, 51) as used by Catullus has the following scheme: -

“ -u-x -uu- u--
-u-x -uu- u--
-u-x -uu- u--

In allowing a trochee thrice in place of the irrational spondee (cc. 11. 6; 11. 15; 51.13), and in indifference to the caesura, Catullus resembles Sappho more closely than does Horace.5

85. In c. 63 the GALLIAMBIC verse is used. It is said to have originated as a lesser Ionic tetrameter catalectic, having, therefore, the following scheme: -

uu-- uu-- uu-- uu-

But as used by Catullus anaclasis always occurs (except in vv. 54 and 60?), and the resultant trochees are often, the last almost always, resolved. The scheme may therefore be written as follows (the regularly occurring caesura being indicated by a comma) -

uu-u-u-- , uu-uWu-

This scheme is not, to be sure, true to the theory of the Ionic series, but the result of anaclasis (i.e. the substitution of dichorees for Ionics) seems to have been that the metre was treated as trochaic, and the anacrusis, therefore, became of necessity irrational. On no other theory is rhythmical recitation of the Galliambics of Catullus possible.6 The individual schemes of several verses of c. 63 are here given as specimens of the application of the general scheme:

Line 1: uu-u-u-- uu-uwu-

Line 5: W-u-u-- uu-uwu-

Line 14: uu-u-u-- uu-u-u-


86. a. Catullus was unusually fond of ELISION, admitting it freely under almost every circumstance.

b. On the other hand, he admitted DIAERESIS only five times: cc. 2.13soluit”; 61. 53solvunt”; 66.38dissolvo”; 66. 74evolam”; 95.5pervoluent”.

c. SYNAERESIS occurs in cc. 40.1Ravide”; 55.10Camerium”; 62.57conubium”; 64.120praeoptarit”; 82.3ei”.

d. HIATUS in thesis is found in cc. 66.11novo auctus”; 68. 158primo omnia”; 107.1cupido optanti”. In cc. 27.4, 66.48, and 97.2, it occurs in the MSS., but not in the emended text here presented. Hiatus in arsis occurs in cc.10. 27mane inquii”; 55.4te in”; 97.1di ament”; 114.6domo ipse”.

e. SYSYOLE of final “o” is not uncommon, especially in verbs. In 10. 26commodă” (imperative) occurs.

f. DIASTOLE occurs in cc.64.360tepēfaciet” and 90.6liquēfaciens” (but cf. 68.29tepĕfaciet”).

g. In c. 116.8dabis” final “s” does not make position with the initial consonant following; and in c. 23.27 the reading of V, “satis beatus”, is probably correct, representing “satis beatu's” (i.e. “beatus es”). In cc.62.4, 64.20, and 66.11 a final syllable ending in a single consonant is lengthened in thesis before “hymenaeus”. A final syllable ending in a short vowel is thrice lengthened in thesis before a mute followed by “r” (in cc.4.9Propontida trucem”; 4. 18impotentia freta”; 29.4ultima Britannia”); and it is noticeable that all these instances occur in pure (?) iambics. A similar syllable is lengthened in thesis before initial “s” followed by a consonant in cc. 17.24pote stolidum”; 22.12 modo scurra”; 44.18nefaria scripta”; 63.53gelida stabula”; 64.186nulla spes”; 67.32supposita speculae”. But Catullus is not careful to follow out this rule of position in all cases, any more than he is consistent in instances of systole and diastole, or in such cases as cc. 43.2nĭgris”, but 68.63nīgro”; and especially 71.2podāgra”, but 71.6podăgra”. In these minor matters he allows himself greater freedom than either Lucretius or the later poets, and the same liberty is seen in the greater matters concerned with his treatment of metres. His graceful command of rhythm was far removed from the fixed

1 Notes giving more modern metrical terminology supplied by AEM, August 2001.

2 Merrill's terminology is obsolete. He is referring to the possible forms of the Aeolic base, which in Catullus as in the Greek poets may be --, -u, or u-; it cannot be two short syllables. Later poets, including for example Martial, use only two long syllables for Aeolic base.

3 We no longer refer to "first Glyconic," "second Glyconic," and so on. In modern terms, Merrill's "second Glyconic" is just a glyconic; the "first Glyconic" is a choriambic dimeter, though Catullus does not use them.

4 This is obsolete language; in more modern terms "once the two short syllables of the choriambic nucleus are resolved."

5 By "trochee in place of irrational spondee," Merrill means that Catullus, like Sappho, allows variation in the Aeolic base, at the position marked anceps in the schema. Later poets, like Horace, make that syllable always long.

6 This paragraph is thoroughly out of date. In fact, "anaclastic ionics," also called anacreontics, are quite common, and have nothing to do with trochees. While galliambics are unusual, they are not at all difficult.

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