Catullus

Catullus (Caius Valerius Catullus) (kətŭl´əs), 84? BC–54? BC, Roman poet, b. Verona. Of a well-to-do family, he went c.62 BC to Rome. He fell deeply in love, probably with Clodia, sister of Cicero's opponent Publius Clodius. She was suspected of murdering her husband. Catullus wrote to his beloved, addressed as Lesbia (to recall Sappho of Lesbos), a series of superb little poems that run from early passion and tenderness to the hatred and disillusionment that overwhelmed him after his mistress was faithless. Of the 116 extant poems attributed to him, three (18–20) are almost certainly spurious. They include, besides the Lesbia poems, poems to his young friend Juventius; epigrams, ranging from the genial to the obscenely derisive; elegies; a few long poems, notably "Attis" and a nuptial poem honoring Thetis and Peleus; and various short pieces. His satire is vigorous and flexible, his light poems joyful and full-bodied. He was influenced by the Alexandrians and drew much on the Greeks for form and meter, but his genius outran all models. Catullus is one of the greatest lyric poets of all time. Two of his most popular poems are the 10-line poem, touching and simple, which ends, "frater ave atque vale" [hail, brother, and farewell], and "On the Death of Lesbia's Sparrow."

See translations by R. Myers and R. J. Ormsby (1970), C. Martin (1990), and P. Green (2005); studies by A. L. Wheeler (1934, repr. 1964), T. Frank (1928, repr. 1965), K. Quinn (1959, 1970, and 1972), R. Jenkyns (1982), T. P. Wiseman (1985), J. Ferguson (1988), and C. Martin (1992).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Catullus: Selected full-text books and articles

Catullus By Julia Haig Gaisser Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
A Companion to Catullus By Marilyn B. Skinner Wiley-Blackwell, 2011
Catullus and His Influence By Karl Pomeroy Harrington Marshall Jones, 1923
Catullus and the Traditions of Ancient Poetry By Arthur Leslie Wheeler University of California Press, 1934
When the Lamp Is Shattered: Desire and Narrative in Catullus By Micaela Janan Southern Illinois University Press, 1994
Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood By David Wray Cambridge University Press, 2001
Writing down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry By John Henderson Clarendon Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Who's Counting? -- Catullus by Numbers"
The Roman Poets of the Republic By W. Y. Sellar Biblo and Tannen, 1965 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XV "Catullus"
Romance in the Latin Elegiac Poets By Elizabeth Hazelton Haight Longmans, Green and Co., 1932
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "The Elegies of Catullus"
Virgil and Those Others By Homer F. Rebert Virgil Bimillennium Committee of Amherst College, 1930
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "Catullus and the Moderns"
FREE! Latin Literature By J. W. Mackail Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895
Librarian’s tip: "Lyric Poetry: Catullus" begins on p. 52
FREE! A History of Roman Literature By Harold N. Fowler D. Appleton, 1903
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "Catullus-Minor Poets"
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