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To Lesbia in answer to a possibly somewhat petulant question mentioned in vv. 1-2. The poem is a companion-piece to Catul. 5.1ff., and was undoubtedly written at about the same time with it. —Metre, Phalaecean.

quaeris: perhaps after the appeal in 5 for sundry thousands of kisses.

basiationes: the word occurs in Catullus only here, and does not appear again before Martial, who uses it twice (Mart. 2.23.4; Mart. 7.95.17). Abstract nouns in -io were common in colloquial speech in the time of Catullus.

[2] tuae: subjective, as shown by comparison with Catul. 5.7da mi basia;” cf. also Catul. 8.18.

[2] satis superque: cf. the slight variation in v.10; also Cic. Rosc. Com. 4.11satis superque habere” ; Hor. Ep. 1.31satis superque ditavit” ; Hor. Ep. 17.19satis superque poenarum” .

[3] quam: correlative with tam in v. 9.

[3] numerus harenae: etc., here is united a simplicity of figure that is even ante-Homeric with a precision of geographical and mythological allusion that smacks of the Alexandrian school. The sands of the seashore, the leaves of the forest, and the stars of the heavens, are the first types of infinite number that occurred to early man; cf. Catul. 61.206 ff.; Gen. 13.16 “I will make thy seed as the dust of the carth;” Gen. 5.5 “look now toward heaven and tell the stars, if thou be able to tell them; … so shall thy seed be;” Hom. Il. 11.800φύλλοισιν ἐοικότες ψαμάθοισιν” ; Hor. Carm. 1.28.1numero carentis harenae” ; Ov. Art. Am. 1.254numero cedet harena meo” , Ov. Art. Am. 1.59quot caelum stellas tot habet tua Roma puellas” ; Calp. Buc. 2.72qui numerare velittenues citius numerabit harenas.

[4] laserpiciferis: cf. Plin. NH 19.38laserpicium, quod Graeci σίλφιον vocant, in Cyrenaica provincia repertum, cuius sucum laser vocant, magnificum in usu medicamentisque.” The plant was doubtless the ferula asafoetida, the exuded juice of which is still widely used as an antispasmodic. It held a prominent place among the products and exports of Cyrenaica, and is represented upon coins of the country. Pliny notes, however, that in his time it had ceased to he produced there, and our supply comes from Persia and the East Indies.

[4] Cyrenis: Cyrenae (Gr. Κυρήνη) was the capital of the district of Libya, called Cyrenaica, that bordered upon the Syrtis major. It was founded, according to tradition, about the middle of the seventh century B.C., by Battus, otherwise called Aristotle, a Greek from the island of Thera, and attained great reputation as a centre of trade, and as the birthplace of Eratosthenes, Aristippus, and Callimachus.

[5] oraclum Iovis: the Egyptian deity Ammon, or Hammon, originally worshipped in Thebes under the form of a ram, or of a human figure with a ram's horns, had his most famous temple and oracle in the oasis of Siwah in the Libyan desert, 400 miles from Cyrene (Plin. l.c.). He was identified by the Greeks and Romans with Zeus and Jupiter; cf. Prop. 4.1.103hoc neque harenosum Libyae Iovis explicat antrum.

[5] aestuosi: of glowing heat, as in Catul. 46.5Nicaeae aestuosae;” cf. Hor. Carm. 1.22.5per Syrtes aestuosas” ; Hor. Carm. 1.31.5aestuosae Calabriae” .

[6] Batti: see v. 4 n. Cyrenis.

[6] sacrum sepulcrum: the tomb of the founder stood in the city of Cyrene, where he was reverenced as a god.

[7] tacet nox: with the rhythm cf. Catul. 5.5 n.

[9] tam: correlative with v. 3 quam.

[9] te: subject, not object of basiare; cf. v.2 n.

[9] basia basiare: with the coguate accusative cf. Catul. 61.117 (gaudia gaudere), and, less precisely, such expressions as Catul. 14.3odissem odio” , etc.

[10] vesano: of the mad passion of love also in Catul. 100.7vesana flamma” .

[11-12] Cf. Catul. 5.11ff. n.

[11-12] curiosi: cf. Pl. Stich. 208nam curiosus nemost quin sit malevolus” .

[11-12] mala lingua: cf. Verg. Ecl. 7.27baccare frontem cingite ne vati noceat mala lingua futuro” .

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  • Commentary references from this page (14):
    • Homer, Iliad, 11.800
    • Catullus, Poems, 100
    • Catullus, Poems, 14
    • Catullus, Poems, 46
    • Catullus, Poems, 5
    • Catullus, Poems, 61
    • Catullus, Poems, 8
    • Cicero, For Sextus Roscius of Ameria, 4.11
    • Plautus, Stichus, 1.3
    • Vergil, Eclogues, 7
    • Old Testament, Genesis, 13.16
    • Old Testament, Genesis, 5.5
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, 1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.38
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