Category Archives: Catullus

Catullus 101: A fraternal farewell

Here, Catullus provides a glimpse of tender sincerity as he bids farewell to his brother. Having travelled far and wide to be at the funeral, Catullus honours his brother with the traditional funeral rites. The poignant ‘ave atque vale’ (hail and farewell) adds a particularly resonant conclusion to a poem of such intense emotion. For […]

Catullus IIa: Lesbia’s Sparrow

Here, Catullus considers Lesbia’s pet sparrow in a playful and charming poem. In true Catullan style, there is an acute corporeal focus at the start of the poem, with a decidedly erotic description of Lesbia’s play with her pet bird. Indeed, it has been suggested that passer (sparrow) might be directly representative of the genitalia […]

The Return of Spring – Lucretius, Catullus and Horace (contributed by Viviana La Russa and Simona Borrello, with further contribution by Eugenia Russell)

Lucretius was the first author of Latin literature that dealt with the topòs of “The return of spring” in a passage of his poem “De Rerum Natura” (I vv.250-256). The author describes the landscapes that become green again, the changing weather and the feeling of happiness given by the new season. This theme was resumed […]

Poppies in Classical Poetry – Homer, Catullus, Virgil, Dante (contributed by Jane Mason and David Bevan)

Homer’s simile describes the death of a minor character, shot by mistake by Teucer when aiming at Hector. Catullus’ poem begins with a bitter and crude invective against his unfaithful mistress, so that the tender description of the flower comes as a sudden contrast. Virgil combines these two and creates an even more poignantly beautiful […]

Catullus, Poem 86 (Contributed by Terry Walsh)

It has been thought that ‘Lesbia’ is a construct, or even a figment of the poet’s imagination. This poem, I think, proves that the love affair was a real one, since the feelings forcefully expressed here are surely real. The concept of beauty expressed here is quite modern – and refreshing. Beauty is not skin-deep, […]

Catullus, Poem 5 (Contributed by Jane Mason)

As a teenager who had only studied Virgil so far, it came as an enormous surprise when a teacher, whom we had believed to be very straight-laced, set this poem as an unseen passage! I have loved it ever since – it is funny, flippant but poignant and heartfelt at the same time. It comes […]

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, […]

Catullus 50 (and Martial, contributed by Benjamin Walter)

I started with the Catullus poem 50, a wonderful poem about a little incident of friendship and spontaneous epigram writing that captures much of the genre. The next three poems by Martial explore these themes of naughtiness, temporariness, and lightness. Benjamin Walter   Catullus 50 Hesterno, Licini, die otiosi multum lusimus in meis tabellis, ut […]

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 […]