Catullus, Poem 85 (Contributed by Jane Mason)

Catullus’ two line epigram is justly famous, summing up the bitterness and confused emotions of a betrayed lover.

40 years later the themes of elegaic love poetry, which Catullus first put into Latin, writing from his own raw emotions, had become a literary art form. In the Amores Ovid explores its possibilities from every angle, concluding his fictional romance with this poem – the penultimate one in the collection. The same sentiments are there but as so often with Ovid, the paradox is more playful and self-consciously elegant in comparison with Catullus’ agonised outburst.

Jane Mason



Odi et amo. quare id faciam fortasse requiris
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.


I hate and I love. How can I do that, perhaps you ask?

I don’t know, but I feel it and it is torture.


Ovid Amores III.14.37-40

Mens abit et morior quotiens peccasse fateris,

Perque meos artus frigida gutta fluit.

Tunc amo, tunc odi frustra quod amare necesse est;

Tunc ego, sed tecum, mortuus esse velim! 40


My mind goes and I die whenever you admit that you have sinned,

and through my limbs cold drops flow.

Then I love, then in vain I hate what I must love;

Then I want to be dead – but with you!

The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.

Read more of this text at the Perseus site.


Teaching Ideas

Catullus’ epigram is worth learning by heart! It can then be used to teach the scansion of elegaic couplets. Also, students with only a little Latin can work out what many of the individual words mean.

The two passages give a taste of the difference between the two authors and can lead into further study of the elegaic poets.


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