Catullus 51 (contributed by Mariangela Labate)

This poem, inspired by the famous Sappho’s fragment (fr.2 Diehl), describes the devastating effects of love.

Nevertheless, it is an evidence of the endless struggle of Latin authors between practical, traditional way of life, devoted to res publica, and innovative, fascinating otium, where feelings and literature were the most important values.

Mariangela Labate
Head of Classics


Ille mi par esse deo videtur,

ille, si fas est, superare divos

qui sedens adversus identidem te

spectat et audit


dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis

eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,

Lesbia, adspexi, nihil est super mi


lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus

flamma demanat, sonitu suopte

tintinant aures, gemina teguntur

lumina nocte.


otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:

otio exsultas nimiumque gestis.

otium et reges prius et beatas

perdidit urbes.




He looks like a god to me,

He seems,  if possible, to be ahead of gods,

who is sitting in front of you

and ceaselessly listens to you

and stares at you softly smiling.

That’s what snatches away every sense from miserable me!

When I  merely glance at you,

My tongue is dulled,

A subtle flame creeps under my limbs,

My ears are ringing with their own sound,

Both eyes are darkened by night.

Otium, Catullus, is troublesome to you.

In otium you delight and get too enthused.

Otium once led to the ruin of kings and prosperous cities.



The poet Sappho.


Chosen and translated by Mariangela Labate, Classics Teacher, Reggio Calabria .

The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.

Read more of this text at the Perseus site.

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