Catullus was born in Verona, in the north of Italy, in 84 BC. He soon moved to Rome where he studied and hung around with poetae novi, a group of young poets who tried to refresh the themes and style of Latin poems. He was devoted to his native town and often used to go and relax in Someone, on Lake Garda, where his father had a beautiful villa. Catullus probably died in 54 BC, when he was only 30.

The most important event of his life was his relationship with Clodia, a very emancipated woman, whom Catullus in his poems calls Lesbia, in order to pay homage to the Greek poet Sappho. His turbulent love for Lesbia is the main subject of the 116 Carmina he composed. Besides, he often wrote about family and friendship, which were deeply important values for him. In carmina docta, the central section of his work, Catullus tells myths related above all to love and fides.

Catullus tries to conciliate ancient Roman values, like loyalty towards homeland, religious devotion and family relationships, with innovative ideas coming from Greece, like the importance of individual feelings and literary activity, which was called otium.

He can be very witty or poignantly sad, obscene or lyrical, colloquial or erudite, often within the same poem. This fascinating mixture, combined with Catullus’ passionate approach to life, make his poems striking and memorable.

Mariangela Labate, Head of Classics, Liceo Scientifico
“Leonardo da Vinci”, Reggio Calabria, Italy


Poem 2a |  Lesbia’s Sparrow
Contributed by James Green

Poem 5 | A Thousand Kisses
Contributed by Jane Mason

Poem 11.19-27 | Poppies in Classical Poetry
Contributed by David Bevan and Jane Mason

Poem 46 | The Return of Spring
Contributed by Viviana La Russa and Simona Borrello

Poem 50 | Catullus and Martial
Contributed by Benjamin Walter

Poem 51 | The devastating effects of love
Contributed by Mariangela Labate

Poem 85 | Hating and Loving
Contributed by Jane Mason

Poem 86 | Quintia vs Lesbia
Contributed by Terry Walsh

Poem 101 | A fraternal farewell
Contributed by James Green