When Catullus began writing poetry the dominant literary influences in Rome were the comic tradition, represented by Plautus and Terence, and the epic-tragic tradition, represented by Ennius. They could not have provided him with models for the kinds of poetry that he and the other neoterics were interested in writing. There had been at Rome an apparent precursor of the neoterics: the poet Laevius, who lived and wrote during the first quarter of the first century. Little more than a name today, Laevius survives only through the title attributed to his work and an assortment of metrical scraps. He was a direct forerunner of Catullus and the neoterics. Laevius composed a series of poems in lyric meters: erotic playthings. The rather numerous fragments prove that in many ways he was striving to work along the lines which Catullus and his contemporaries fo1owed. The Alexandrian influence, however, does not seem to have been felt in Rome until the last years of the second century, in the generation that preceded Catullus. In the work of the Alexandrians, and especially in that of the poet Callimachus, Catullus and his generation discovered much of interest. A spirit of playfulness and the fact that they already knew everything or giving the impression that they did. And in uneasy coexistence with this impulse toward the encyclopedantic, there could be found as well a counterimpulse to compress the world into two or four lines of verse: epigrams as concise, witty and even raffish as their learned monographs were expansive, dry, and sober. The Alexandrian concept of the poet was one that the neoterics found congenial: the poeta was doctus, erudite in his knowledge of his tradition and sophisticated in his understanding of poetic technique. But it was the Alexandrian respect for technique and appreciation of concision which were their most important gifts to the neoterics. Subjectivity, novelty, concision, and polish in verse: four aesthetic concerns that had not previously furrowed the Roman brow are now very important, at least to Catullus and his colleagues. But if poetry is meant to charm rather than to instruct, then the poet’s technique becomes much more important. In the beginning, he tells us, his poems were jotted down on scraps of used papyrus or on the waxed tablets he carried with him as a kind of notebook. In poem 68, however, a solitary, sober, and cerebral Catullus regrets that he must decline a friend’s request for some poetry, apparently because he does not have at hand the library of Greek authors he uses either as models or for inspiration. That audience would have learned of them by word of mouth, for the longer ones such as poems 63 and 64 might have been performed in public, either by the poet or by professional actors. The shorter poems would have been recited at banquets, passed on like the good jokes that many of them are. But poetry was also a way of lashing out at one’s enemies, of making public, and, who knows, perhaps even terminating their aberrant behavior. This sort of thing worked, according to the historian Suetonius: “As Caesar himself did not hesitate to say, Catullus inflicted a lasting stain on his name by the verses about Mamurra. His poems quickly achieved a reputation for brashness, sensuality, and elegance among the relatively few people at Rome for whom such qualities were important. This would have no doubt led to their first appearance in books, and once in books the poems would have circulated extensively in their author’s lifetime and for many years afterward. They were perhaps their own worst enemies: Romans were not used to subjectivity in their literature. It would be inaccurate to say that the younger poets rejected the neoterics entirely, for the concern with craftsmanship and technique they introduced would permanently alter Roman poetry, and the need to reconcile the traditional Roman concepts of civic and martial obligation with the pleasures and refinements of the newly discovered erotic sensibility would become a constant theme. Augustus sponsored a return to the old notions of a public poetry that would advance his new agenda: a generation after Catullus’ death the social conditions that had permitted his kind of poetry no longer obtained. Given the traditional Roman concept of poetry as a didactic instrument, a poet’s survival depended in large part on whether he was included in the curriculum: the poetry of Horace and Virgil survived because their values supported the aims of the imperial state. However, a good many of Catullus’ poems are enthusiastic celebrations of erotic practices that schoolmasters tend to regard as subversive rather than supportive of public order; our poet would not easily have found his way into the curriculum. Despite the eminent propriety of some of his poems Catullus must have remained a guilty pleasure among the relative few, even up to our own day. Even a collection as short as Catullus’ would probably have required at least three separate rolls. And the poems of Catullus did find their way, at some time in the late classical period or early Middle Ages, into at least one codex. It must have been a descendant of that single volume, containing all of the poems that we now have and in the order in which we now have them, that surfaced in Verona in the year 1300, discovered, it may have been, by Dante’s great patron Can Grande della Scala. Two copies were made of the Codex Veronensis, known as V, before it disappeared once again. V has not since come to light, and if it were not for those two copies and the copies that were made of them, only poem 63, preserved independently in another manuscript, would have escaped oblivion. Clearly Martial knew some collection of Catullus which began not with the dedication to Nepos that begins our collection but with poem 2. Aesthetic order is everywhere apparent to those who believe Catu11us responsible for the arrangement of his book, while those who hold a later editor responsible see little but accident or “planlessness.” The chiastic arrangement that Catullus used so often as a structural device in individual poems of all sizes he also used in arranging groups of poems 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67 and 68. It is curious that the first poem in the collection speaks of a gift offered and the last of a gift spurned. That is a truly Catullan touch. During the first century B.C., the province prospered, and Catullus’ father was one of its wealthiest and most prominent citizens. Evidence of the family’s distinction can be found in the father’s friendly relations with Julius Caesar, as well as in the fact that Catullus felt confident enough of his own social position in Rome to write about men like Caesar, Cicero, and Gaius Memmius in terms ranging from familiarly irreverent to downright scathing. Then as now one of the privileges of great wealth was surface mobility, and Catullus got around. One of his poems refers to a home at Rome and another to a suburban villa near Tivoli; there was also a family residence in Verona and a villa at Sirmione, on Lago di Garda, he became interested in poetry when he was about sixteen, encouraged by the only relative he mentions in his verse: a brother. During his lifetime, the conspirator Catiline attempted to overthrow the republic from within, and the gladiator Spartacus tried the same from without; Catullus seems to have had no problem in ignoring them both. When he refers to a public event-as in poem 11 when he alludes to Caesar’s first invasion of Britain-it is almost always in terms of the event’s relevance to his own life. If Lesbia had been in the habit of discussing her lovers with her husband, she clearly would have neither feared his jealousy nor needed a protective pseudonym. Nor would Catullus have had a reason to keep the affair a secret: even Cicero spoke with indulgence of the need for young men to have their fling. If secrecy was neither necessary nor desirable, then what was the purpose of the pseudonym? First of all, it would get the attention of the woman who would become Lesbia, would distinguish this hopeful suitor from the others who surrounded her. Although the pseudonym became conventional in later Roman erotic poetry, Catullus was apparently the first to have used it, and so it novelty would recommend it as well. The woman who accepted the pseudonym was able to play a role in a script as yet unwritten but most probably a good deal more interesting than the one she was living. The name Lesbia flattered her as woman sophisticated enough to understand and savor the allusion to Sappho of Lesbos, an allusion that inevitably reminds us of Sappho’s erotic relations with women. But this would not have been the primary reference for those of Catullus’ contemporaries. Sappho would have been a poetic exponent of erotic refinement in qeneral. The pseudonym also served as a way of celebrating the beloved as an individual in her own right while detaching her from her former identity. A woman who is usually held to be the original of Lesbia was named Clodia, and she had two sisters, each of whom was also a Clodia. A woman’s name, then, served as an unfailing reminder that she was totally dependent, first on her father and then on her husband. A pseudonym would have liberated her at a stroke from that patriarchal domination, giving her a new secret identity shared only with her lover. A mask makes even the most ordinary face a subject of considerable interest, and so, like the poems in which it prominently appears, the pseudonym draws attention to, rather than conceals, the affair. The pseudonym revealed and flattered in a number of ways the figure it pretended to conceal. To those already in the know, the name revealed its secret metrically: poets after Catullus always chose a false name that was metrically identical to the real one. The reference to Sappho suggests that Lesbia may have been a poet herself, and indeed Cicero speaks of the Clodia usually identified with Lesbia as an experienced poet. The revelation is clearly the more important since it guarantees the immortality of the beloved. In 62 B.C., Metellus served as governor of Cisalpine Gaul, where he and Clodia, if she visited or accompanied him, would most likely have met the poet’s family and perhaps even Catullus himself. Or they might have met in Rome. Memmius and his entourage (which included another poet, Catullus’ friend Gaius Helvius Cinna) would have been in Bithynia from the spring of 57 to the spring; of 56 B.C. In the Book of Catullus, four different kinds of poems develop the theme of Lesbia. The first is a poem of courtship in which Catullus offers himself as a potential lover and attempts to persuade Lesbia to accept him. A second kind of poem attempts to mythologize Lesbia’s refusal to commit herself to him entirely. In a third kind of poem, closely related to the second, he self-consciously analyzes their relationship, focusing on the effect her infidelities have had on it and on him. Finally, there are some poems in which he attempts to dismiss her, sometimes tentatively, sometimes brutally. The relationship might have been more cyclical than linear. The poet’s possession of his beloved is always threatened or thwarted by her involvement with (and preference for) another man or other men. Poem 11 may have been the first Catullus actually wrote to Lesbia, and it is certainly the one in which he creates her and defines their situation by allusion to Sappho. From this compact seed comes a closely knit, tightly argued courtship sequence composed of poems 2, 3, 5, and 7. The poet’s beloved is in love with someone else, someone for whom she suffers in the same way that Catullus suffers for her. Poem 2 is also about persuasion serving as a courtship present, a charm sent to entice the reluctant beloved. Since we cannot avoid that unending sleep, we must fling ourselves on the mercies of the moment. It seems possible that these charms worked, that there was a period in their relationship when Catullus had reason to believe he was Lesbia’s only lover, and he even seems to have believed she intended to marry him. The poems do not indicate how long this stage of ecstatic hopefulness persisted, but it appears to have been interrupted when the death of his brother called the poet back to Verona and he began to receive reports of Lesbia’s infidelities. The mythologizing of their relationship is shown as it develops in poem 68, idealization of Lesbia has advanced beyond the literary archetype: she is now his radiant goddess. In poem 51, his desire left him speechless, incapable of acting; here, he admits, his anger at her infidelities reduces him to a similar state, though a more drastic one, for her behavior changes him into a speechless woman. In poem 68, since she is one of the immortals and their relationship began in adultery, he will settle for having her on a part-time basis. Although he appears to accept the situation, the failure of their relationship to satisfy his expectations leads to great emotional turmoil, and to poems in which he examines his emotional life minutely and unsentimentally. In poem 85, he was able to sustain that ambivalent balance between love and hate for only so long, until the scales tilted and we find that he brutalizes Lesbia’s name and reputation. In poem 51, instead of a single lover, godlike in his privilege, with which the myth began, a host of lechers now attends Lesbia. In the depths of its feeling, poem 11 is closer to Poem 63 than to poem 51. At the end, Lesbia is a profane version of the goddess; like Cybele, she also mutilates the genitalia of her worshippers, the undiscriminating lechers who attend her in the disreputable bar of poem 37. The male-female reversal of the last stanza transforms Lesbia into the phallic plowshare and the poet into the broken flower. In poem 16, this is certainly an unusual way to begin a poem. The poet is threatening two characters named Furius and Aurelius with a different kind of homosexual rape for each of them according to preference. The verbs pedicare and irrumare specify the acts and orifices involved and the terms pathicus and cinaedus likewise label the preferred sexual activities of Furius and Aurelius. Sexually receptive males were so labeled by their preference for oral or anal intercourse. With the exception of those in which he is courting Lesbia (poems 2, 3, 5, 7, and 51), all of the rest of the poems in the first sixty that are either to her or about her are poems in which he is brutalizing her reputation. Poem 41: why would the people of the province-that is, Verona and environs -compare Lesbia and Ameana? Could people have been talking about Lesbia and Ameana in the same breath because both of them were sleeping with Mamurra? One fascinating possibility is that Ameana was not a person at all but an accident of transmission. It is also easy to see how amens illa could have become Ameana. Thus Mamurra’s deliberately anonymous mistress acquired her improbable name. Now if there were no Ameana, then Mamurra’s mistress could only have been the woman who was Lesbia, and these two poems could then be read as belonging to that group of polymetric poems in which Catullus brutalizes Lesbia’s reputation, nowhere more cleverly than here. When he loved her he thought her a great beauty, but those days are gone, and now that she is Mamurra’s mistress, Catul1us, disgusted by her moral ugliness, cattily details the defects of her appearance and manners before identifying her with a single line: tecum Lesbia nostra comparatur? Do they compare you with our Lesbia? They do, since she is. Poem 50: Calvus and Catullus were writing poetic charms to compel desire in others, but the weapon the poet would turn on others has been turned back on him. Calvus’ poetic cleverness has so excited him that he has been hoisted on his own petard, left in a state like but not the same as -that of a thwarted lover, full of excitement but with no possibility of release. The cliches he uses to convey the effects are characteristic of the poetry they had been writing, which at the end becomes the very poem he writes to relieve those feelings. The proper response to his invitation is another poem that will reply in similar terms: the game must continue. We don’t always say what we mean or mean what we say. Catullus playfulness is clearly interrogative rather than declarative, and so we often find ourselves asking, as we read him, “Does he really mean this?” In Catullus’ poems it is often the most violent threats, the most grotesquely distorted images of the body, and the most obscene castigations that summon the most elegant strategies as a counterbalance to keep the playful game intact. In poem 16, Furius and Aurelius have mistakenly assumed that their author is also passively effeminate. What he tells us about Furius and Aurelius may or may not be true: it doesn’t matter. The poet’s concern is with making the poem more effective through vivid description. Exaggeration, or out-and- out lying, for that matter-is not simply permissible but is to be encouraged. Ostensibly, their purpose would seem simple: to compel the person to whom the poem is addressed to alter his or her behavior. The abuse directed against Furius and Aurelius appears related to their purported interest in Catullus’ young lover, Juventius. Nevertheless, in the erotic poems as in the poems of abuse, we find that exaggeration in the service of persuasion is no vice. Distortions of scale, number, and frequency abound, whether Catullus is referring to the innumerable kisses he will have from Lesbia before he is satisfied or to the two hundred lovers of poem 11 who cannot satisfy the now insatiable Lesbia. But in poem 49 addressed to Cicero, is this an uncomplicated expression of heartfelt gratitude, or a clever put-down of Cicero, a poem disguised as abject flattery with a trap set and baited in the last two lines? Catullus certainly intended to write a poem Cicero would find problematic, a poem whose meaning would depend on Cicero’s reading of it.
The elegiac epigrams are composed on a few basic premises. One of these is a mysterious situation, puzzling to Catullus or another person, suddenly clarified. Discovery and connection of similar lapses in self-awareness is to close the gap between delusion and reality. Poem 70 gives us another version of the charge raised against Lesbia in poem 72: Lesbia’s declaration of intent is language at play, words that at the same time mean and do not mean what they say. The poet can express this paradox only through another paradox: her words should be written on those elements that will not sustain them. In poem 72, these are not sexual relationships, but that they are relationships guaranteed by blood and by the most solemn vows to heaven. Poem 76: Proper behavior consists in keeping one’s word, whether offered to gods or men the notion of a piety is that truthful words and deeds are rewarded.
The poems of Catullus are both willful and playful, continually thrusting their own intentions at us and thwarting our expectations of how poems ought to behave. Is Horace complaining about Pyrrha’s infidelity to him or about the way she-and women like her-steal all the attractive boys? And so Horace makes no attempt to confer individuality on his characters: puer and Pyrrha are purely generic: he’s the Boy and she’s the Blonde (her name in Greek means “the auburn-haired”). They are not real people but stereotypes caught up in an endlessly recurring pattern; There wi11 always be Pyrrha, or what Pyrrha represents, and there will also be puer, deceived by her elegant simplicity. The image of the votive tablet also comes to stand for the poem that produced the image. If we were to choose a typical poem, it would probably be an invitation. There are also a great many negative invitations in which Catullus invites someone to cease behavior he does not approve of; Asinius is “invited” to return the napkin he has stolen. Often these negative invitations are coupled to withering excoriations.
Cicero describes the smart set as made up of young men who never declined invitations to dinner, and in poem 47 Catullus comments briefly and ironically on the social importance of such invitations. Other poems deal with the perils of accepting such invitations without due regard for the literary propensities of one’s host.
Poems that are invitations, result from a desire to begin or continue a relationship with another person, though it is not necessary in the invitation to allude to either the desire or the relationship. Similarly, the poems-as-invitations anticipate and announce a particular occasion; they are meant for a specific person or persons and ordinarily cannot be transferred because their purpose is to persuade. Finally, they request, implicitly or explicitly, the favor of a response. The poem-as-invitation begins in, and emerges from, a
dialogue between Catullus and another person to whom the poem is usually addressed. The dialogue consists of all the conversations that have taken place between the two, conversations that provide the context of their relationship. It also includes any conversation that they may have been engaged in at the moment before the poem, for the abrupt beginnings of many of the poems suggest an opportunistic leap into a pause in the exchange, a leap made when the relationship between the poet and the addressee is momentarily brought into sharp focus and the conversation intensifies into verse. The presence or absence of dialogue seems to depend entirely on how much of the past relationship needs to be developed in the poem in order to account for the poet’s present feelings and for the invitation itself.
In poem 51, the absence of dialogue supports the notion that this was the first poem Catullus wrote to Lesbia. Not all of the poems are addressed to others, and two in which Catullus addresses himself show an interesting variation on the dialogue-invitation format of poem 10. Poem 8 was apparently written when Catullus realized that there would be no reconciliation with Lesbia. If he has been persuaded to follow this good advice, why does he speak of himself in the third person rather than in the second, as he does in other poems? The irresolute doubling continues here, as though Catullus were borrowing the forcefulness of that other voice to conceal the weakness of his own. A B C A B C: complicated polyphony: the A and C passages of each section support one another, and the B passages contrast not only with A and C but also with each other in the description of past and future, and yet agreeing in their irresolution. The poem is also full of intriguing echoes and repetitions. In the first B passage the evocative desinas of the opening line is echoed in the destinatus of the last; the obdura that ends the first part of the poem also concludes the second. And, in the last line, the delicate almost absent-minded rhyme of at tu with Catulle reminds us of another at tu in the poem: at tu dolebis, “But you will grieve.” Who will? Poem 76 offers another version of an interior monologue illustrating the dialogue-invitation format. The first voice rehearses the poet’s side of his previous dialogue with Lesbia: The second voice then responds with a prayer, an invitation to the gods to deliver him from his obsessive torment:
There are others, such as poem 13: it is hard to overlook the fact that paucis is separated from diebus by nothingless than the need for heaven’s blessing on the enterprise. But in the clever enjambment at the end of the third line we see where the real problem lies: this is a poem about the impossibility of offering Fabullus an invitation to dinner disguised as a poem offering Fabullus precisely that invitation. Because the poem-as-invitation always addresses someone and emerges from a dialogue with that person, the nature of the recipient to a great extent determines the nature of the poem. One simply does not send the same kind of invitation to Ipsitilla that one sends to Lesbia. Relationships are in constant flux. If the poem-as-invitation is specific to both its recipient and its occasion, then we have an explanation of the problem of Catullan variety, the great differences in tone and sentiment in the short poems.
Variety is in the recipients and the occasions of the poems. The poem he wrote to her was in fact tailored to the character of its recipient. Ipsitilla might be indecent and the poem he wrote for her might also be indecent, but the indecency cannot be projected back onto the poet: he was only observing a decorum proper to the recipient and the occasion. The recipient of the poem gets what he or she deserves. Because the experience he is writing about has not yet happened, the audience consists only of its recipient and those who like ourselves overhear the conversation between the poet and the recipient: there are no other possibilities. Just as Horace’s audience can only consist of posterity, Catullus’ audience can only consist of contemporaries, and that, of course, is another reason why his poems seem so modern to us.
The poems are noteworthy, if not notorious, for the lapel-grabbing abruptness with which they begin, They summon us to attention with their commands, questions, promises, and threats; they try to be irresistible at the onset, But the poems are also noteworthy for their conclusions, or more accurately for the ways they avoid conclusions. A number of poems end with a repetition of the line with which they begin, but this kind of ending is not a conclusion at all. Rather, it affirms the premise that began the poem and makes a simple point: no change. But if we look in Catullus for a conclusion that offers us the consolation that we can generalize from our past experience to safely navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of future doings, we will not find it. Since an invitation is incomplete until answered. Only a response from outside the poem can complete it: the poem cannot plausibly answer the question it poses. Catullan poem-as-invitation refuses to let us go at the end. . Proper conclusions would release these poems from their anxiety. Instead, they conclude by generating fresh spasms of anxiety, urgencies which they hope to pass on to their recipients in the form of pleas, wishes, demands, threats, promises, and insults, all of which require some kind of answer. And only that response from beyond the poet’s control and the boundaries of his poem can conclude it. Experience teaches Catullus that he cannot learn from experience. Reality is unpredictable: a cherished brother dies; the woman, whom he loved as no one else ever will be loved, betrays him for another and another; close friends fall away. The social world seems to be a kaleidoscope of ever-changing loyalties, with self-interest the only constant. His frequent suppression of the past leaves him open to the present and allows him to respond to love or betrayal with a unique vulnerability and directness. We cannot prepare ourselves for the shock of the future, the future is always going to shock us. But for his readers at least, the compensation comes with his openness to surprises, pleasurable and otherwise. The poet seems willing to let circumstances provide him with subjects: incidental occurrences that reveal the dailiness of life. To write an important poem made up of unimportant parts: minor poems that would explore a major theme: what is the relation between manners and morals, or, how should men behave in Society? The homecoming is an occasion to which he returns often in these poems. Directly after poem 2 come three lines that do not seem to belong to that poem; these verses may have originally been connected to the fragment that comes after poem 14, or they may have been part of a poem that is now missing.
Poem 13 is also was a gift of love, given Catullus by his puella, and she received it-so he claims directly from Venus and Cupid: no wonder then that nothing could be more elegant. Its erotic refinement makes it an appropriate gift for Fabullus, who shares that quality: he is addressed as venuste noster, Venus’ darling and ours. Poems 12, 13, and 14 deal with gifts, each linked to an appropriate part of the body: The gifts are all items that would be appropriately brought to, used, and exchanged at a convivium. The gifts are not given carelessly or gratuitously. The moment when the gift is offered is privileged, extrapolated from a complex social relationship between giver and recipient. That relationship, the social context of the poem, surrounds it and shapes its utterance. The gift in each case is emblematic of the exchange characteristic of the relationship. Likewise, such offerings are made at significant times: the moment of publication or the celebration of homecoming. The value of the gift is not to be equated with its financial worth. Value derives from the associations that surround them. Theft interrupts that chain of reciprocal exchanges. It also reveals the thief as socially inept. Silence poses another danger to conviviality, since, like theft, it interrupts the natural exchange of gifts and represents hoarding, keeping an experience to oneself rather than sharing it with one’s friends. Those who attempt to keep certain matters to themselves are likely to become the hapless objects of indecent speculation, 1ike Flavius in poem 6. In the concentration of Fabullus’ sensuality into a single, enlarged organ, an erection of the rose. For Catullus, fellatio is emblematic of sexual rapacity, the act of a prostitute whose poverty compels her to perform her services out-of-doors. In poem 58, where Catullus describes the degradation of Lesbia, he pictures her in those terms: she shucks the offspring of greathearted Remus. Here Lesbia is evidently preparing a client for fellatio; the verb glubere means to peel away bark or the rind of a fruit before eating. Against the background of the inelegant rapacity and crude violence of anal sex in bath houses and oral sex in alley-ways appears the innocent interlude of the poet’s relationship with the boy Juventius. Sentimental drama of adoring pursuit and unwavering resistance. Stability depended on everyone following the rules of the convivium. And those who break the rules, whether out of malevolence or ignorance, are the natural targets of his satire.
CATULLUS AND HIS WORLD A REAPPRAISAL
From the late second century B.C. to the late first century A. D there is a recognizable continuity in the mores of the Roman elite. Sophistication of their pleasures and in the respect they paid to literary culture and the arts. The words ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ were unknown even in the English language before 1897. The ancients evidently did not find it helpful to categorize sexual activity according to the sex of the person with whom it is performed. What mattered to them was the question of active or passive, of penetrating or being penetrated. A male who wil1ingly allowed penetration by another was treated with contempt, but the penetrator demonstrated his superiority and his masculinity by making another serve his pleasure. The question of degradation was most acute where the oral mode was involved; thus fellator – or fellatrix, of a woman - was the most contemptuous of insults, and irrumare came to have also the more general meaning of ‘to get the better of someone regardless of his wishes. That is what Catullus means when he calls Memmius an irrumator: he is not literally complimenting him on his virility, but complaining about the thoroughness with which he cheated his staff. Sexual assault as a punishment was a familiar idea. So Catullus can abuse his enemies as pathici and cinaedi, but in another mood he and Calvus can play at being delicati, which means the same without the pejorative overtones. Cultured Rome was full of erotic images, from Priapus’ grotesque erection in the ornamental garden to old-master paintings of mythological copulation on the walls inside. Out in the streets, prostitutes plied for hire practically naked, and every April at the Floralia the girls who played the mimes were stripped for the audience’s enjoyment. The trouble with Clodia Metelli is that we see her only through the eyes of the man who detested her, and whose purpose in the speech for Caelius was deliberately to blacken her character. So mulier nobilis is putting it mildly: this daughter of the patrician Claudii was not merely a member of an ornamental social elite, but at the heart of the ruling class of the Roman Republic. It is clear that the Claudii had several properties on the Palatine, one of which no doubt went with Clodia as part other dowry, and stayed with her when her husband died. A domina who liked to have her lovers bound to her by her wealth and social position. A young man called Vettius had offended her (probably by sending the purseful of coppers that gave rise to her nickname ‘Quadrantaria’); she soothed her wounded pride, according to Cicero, by getting two of her hangers-on to assault him homosexually. It fits in perfectly with the behavior of her brothers in the fifties B.C., the arrogant assumption that they could do what they liked, however outrageous, and get away with it. The trial of Clodius’ right-hand man Sextus Cloelius had ended in an acquittal thanks to the influence (gratia) of Clodia. What Cicero alleges – is that Cloelius too was Clodia’s lover or at least the instrument of her pleasure.
Cicero mentions the transparency of her dress and her sexually encouraging manner. At a private party the sophisticated Roman could let his hair down and act as a mimus himself. Similarly, the Roman lady could act as a mima. Well read in Greek and Latin literature, she could play the lyre and dance more elegantly than an honest woman needs to; and she had many other gifts which are the stock-in-trade of luxuria. Clodia didn’t care either. Recklessly determined to pay back Caelius, with that headstrong and unbridled mentality of which Cicero speaks, she laid herself wide open to the character-assassination so effectively carried out by Caelius and by Cicero himself. She was married for twenty years to Q. Metellus Celer, his brother- in-law was Pompey and he countered the forces of Catiline. No doubt it suited Clodia that her husband was away so long with the legions, though we have no way of telling whether all his periods at home were marked by the state of civil war between the to of them that Cicero reveals in the year 60. She bore him one child, so far as we know - a daughter, who grew up like her mother. Whether as wife or widow, it is clear that Clodia went her own way. But independence has its price. To do without restrictions is also to do without protection. Clodia was vulnerable - to rude songs chanted about her in the Forum, to well-publicized gifts like the purseful of coppers or the perfume jar filled with something unmentionable, and above all to the sort of treatment meted out to her at the trial of Caelius. She could fight back, of course, using her bully-boys to pay out the impudent Vettius and to keep on hounding Caelius even after his acquitta1. But that must have been little consolation for the public ridicule to which the brilliant oratory of Caelius and Cicero had exposed her At any rate, for whatever reason, she drops completely out of the limelight, reappearing in our sources only eleven years later.
Warring for control of Egypt. The only male heir was Alexander II in Rome who was backed by Sulla, and funds borrowed from Roman bankers. He was then murdered. Two illegitimate sons of his uncle were found to divide the power but the murdered king had allegedly made a will bequeathing his realm to Rome. The will however could not be produced but several senior senators remembered it. One brother was Ptolemy, king of Alexandria and the other was king of Cyprus. Knowing that he kept his throne only because the Romans let him, Ptolemy was assiduous in cultivating their favor but he lost the favor of the Alexandrian populace. In order to keep his crown, he had to make a generous cash contribution, one year’s taxes paid not to the Roman treasure but directly to Caesar and Pompey for distribution to any senators who might need special persuasion. Early in 59 the Senate recognized Ptolemy as the king of Alexandria and Egypt and he enjoyed the status of Friend and Ally of the Roman People. Due to the high taxes, the Alexandrians became angry and Ptolemy left his kingdom in secret and wanted a Roman army to restore him to his throne. More money would be needed and Ptolemy borrowed heavily. As soon as the Alexandrians realized that Ptolemy had gone, they sent a delegation of 100 citizens led by the distinguished philosopher Dio to argue their case against the king. But Ptolelmy was ready. Some were beaten up at Puteoli and several murdered on the way to Rome and more died in the city and those who survived were bribe or terrorized into silence. In 57, the Senate decreed that Ptolemy should be restored. A tribune hostile to Pompey said that there was an oracle not to assist the king of Egypt and the Senate cancelled its decreed and resolved not to use an army to restore Ptolemy. Pompey wanted command of the army and financiers wanted their money so maneuvering continued. Dio was then murdered and the Roman public was enraged. Two cases concerning Ptolemy are recorded. One was P. Asicius, prosecuted by C. Licinius Calvus and successfully defended by Cicero and the other was M. Caelius Rufus.
Caelius is about the best known minor character in Roman history, but most of what we know of him we know from Cicero (or from his own letters written to Cicero, and our picture may well be one-sided. Caelius was at Cicero’s side but left him in the following year to support his enemy Catiline. Caelius prosecuted C. Antonius, Cicero’s colleague as consul in 63, and got him convicted of extortion against a defense led by Cicero himseJf. Antonius had been in charge of the army that defeated Catiline; he had sent Catiline’s head to Rome, and received public honors for his exploit. When he was convicted, Catiline’s tomb was decorated with flowers. Caelius could hardly have made a more spectacular entry into public life, or one less welcome to his former patron Cicero.1n the spring of 59, Caelius moved into a Palatine apartment owned by Clodius, and became the lover of Clodius’ sister, the recent widow of Q. Metellus Celer. Caelius was ambitious and his new friendship with Clodius kept him involved with foreign affairs. Pompey gained control of the corn supply and the political balance changed. Caelius was secretly working for Ptolemy and therefore in Pompey’s interests. When this became know to Clodius and his sister it caused a sudden violent breaking off of relations at both the political and personal level. The Claudii gave their help and support to Caelius being accused of beating up the Alexandrian envoys and murdering Dio. For defense, Caelius turned to Crassus and Cicero. Caelius was a valuable ally and a dangerous enemy so neither man refused. Trial of vis were so important that they were even held on holidays. The case involved murder, political terrorism and scandal in high society. The trial was held in the Forum, the prosecution spoke first, then the defense, and finally witnesses. Cicero said that arguments count for more than witnesses. Cicero decided to spend time and emphasis on the minor points where he had a plausible answer and skate quickly over the telling arguments or break them up and deal with them in a garbled piecemeal way in order to damage their overall impact. The prosecution’s advantages were the brutal nature of the crime and the extravagant lifestyle of the defendant. They began attacking Caelius’ morals, inferred effeminacy and sexual license. They promised witness about his indecent assaults on respectable married women and his intimacy with the depraved revolutionary Catiline. Caelius was heavily in debt. There was circumstantial evidence. Caelius was used to beating people up, he frequented Naples, and needed money so badly that Ptolemy’s gold would have been a perfect motive. Clodius, one of the prosecutors, stated that Dio had stayed in the house of one of Pompey’s friends and there had been an attempt to poison him there. A noble lady would testify that Caelius had borrowed gold from her to bribe the slaves and when she discovered the truth, he tried to bribe her own slaves to poison her. Caelius was so depraved that he was capable of anything.
The defense could not mention the affair without branding Caelius as an adulterer and make him appear less sympathetic to the judges. Caelius, speaking in his own defense, reminded the court of how Clodia’s husband had died and of other scandalous stories about her. He implied that her testimony was revenge because he had rejected her as a lover. Cicero hated Clodia who had persecuted his family after her brother had sent him into exile. He dismissed the connection to Catiline since he had deceived many people, even Cicero was once taken in by him. He was not in debt because he was under his father’s legal authority and thus all the money he had spent and borrowed had been in his father’s name. He had left his father’s house and moved into an apartment on the Palatine and this caused all his troubles. Cicero exploited the affair with Clodia to make out that her evidence was the malice of a spurned woman. Everyone knew that the king had had Dio murdered. Cicero countered the charges of morality by saying that all young men were like that. Cicero focused on the unsuccessful attempt on Dio’s life and the abortive plan to poison Clodia. She must have been intimate with him to loan him gold. He admitted that he was prejudiced against her husband, sorry, brother and he did not wish to appear unfriendly to a woman who was friendly to everyone. In order not to attack Clodia personally, he impersonated one of her ancestors. Cicero was trying to disqualify Clodia’s testimony. A prostitute’s testimony might not be accepted in court or it would carry very little weight. Clodia’s youngest brother had always slept with his sister when he was little. Cicero made it clear that Clodia was a rejected mistress, attacking her ex-lover; she was a woman of bad moral reputation, whose testimony should not be credited; and she was a shore, whose favors any man could enjoy without damage to his own good name. Is it really so dreadful for a young man to go with a woman like that? Do you think a wayward, capricious and angry woman has fabricated the charge, or a serious, sensible and moderate man has given his evidence conscientiously. It left Clodia feeling foolish and defiled and the audience grinning cruelly at her discomfort. Caelius was acquitted.
Whenever Catullus mentions faraway places (and he does it quite a lot) his instinct is to allude as much to their produce as to their mythological associations. This suggests that the association of idea in Catullus’ mind could be that of a Roman negotiator, interested as much in profits as in learned poetry. When Catullus was in Bithynia on Memmius’ staff and his brother in the province of Asia (where he died untimely), they were probably helping to found, or to consolidate, the financial fortunes of their house. The family may have owned corn-lands in ‘hot Nicaea’s fertile plain’. So when in poem 46 his itchy feet set out for the famous cities of Asia, Catullus may not just have been sightseeing. Perhaps there were also agents and financial partners to consult.
What mattered was magnificence - spending money, not getting it. ‘Only the vulgar and niggardly keep note of their expenses; gentlemen of true magnificence spend and squander. ‘ The poems offer a consistent portrait of a man concerned more with economy than extravagance- not easy to borrow from, irritated by petty theft, alleging cobwebs in his purse, contemptuous of those who have run through their funds, explicitly assessing his provincial experience in terms of profit and loss. When he rashly tries to act the big spender, his sophisticated friends embarrassingly call his bluff. As for magnificence, that’s for the detestable Mamurra. At the moment of his greatest joy and confidence in love, Catullus reckons up the kisses on a calculator; and then jumbles them up again with a verb from the language of accountancy. Love and friendship are an investment, and the capital is easily lost. ‘I trusted you, at great expense to myself: ‘I love you now at even greater cost, but you are cheaper and of less account’; ‘it’s all lost, entrusted to a thankless heart’. And when, against all expectation, love comes again, that is more precious than gold itself. Nothing is more certain about the persona Catullus presented in his poems than that he cared deeply about fair transactions. The language of contract and obligation; even in the casual imagery of occasional poems, he alludes to the legal terminology of security and property rights. And when it comes to the issues of friendship and love that really matter to him, then honest dealing and the proper repayment of obligations become almost obsessively dominant. Fides and foedus are the themes he dwells on - personal relations expressed as a contract, with Catullus the honest partner callously defrauded. Behind the poet’s obsessive insistence on pietas and fides, ancestral voices can be clearly heard. The poet grew up in a hard-working, straight-laced, traditional society that knew and valued Greek culture, was not inhibited about commercial profit, but took seriously the responsibilities of honest dealing. It was an upbringing that left its mark on his poetry.
Why did he choose to write a marriage poem? Catullus’ admiration for Sappho, with whom the genre was particularly associated, makes it more likely than not that he was the innovator. What made Sappho unique among the poets of the ancient world was her treatment of personal affection - delicate but intense, and with a vivid sense of the pleasures and commitments of the emotional life. The text says that Septimius embraces Acme, the word-order shows Acme embracing Septimius; it is emphasized by the conspicuous symmetry of the first two stanzas, and the central passage of the third; and it is made explicit in line 20 with the same juxtaposition of active and passive as in the wedding song. This mutual love, with its equal commitment on both sides, is what earns the approval of the god. The omens are good: Venus could not be more auspicious. Elsewhere too, even in his love poetry, we shall find Catullus thinking of himself in feminine terms. It is no surprise that the ideals his poems imply are most closely paralleled in a genre that appealed mainly to women. What he does tell us is that honest dealing is required in the investment of emotional capital; the gods of good faith do not approve of those who lead you on and then cynically back out of the deal. Take for instance poem 16, against the lean and lecherous pederasts Aurelius and Furius. They derided him for writing love-poems in which nothing beyond kissing was involved; that sort of thing, they said, wouldn’t excite anyone but beardless boys. Writing such soft stuff, Catullus must be soft himself, and sexually effeminate. Catullus threatens to prove his masculinity on them in person, and argues that ‘soft’ poems that play on the emotions can be as stimulating as sexually explicit descriptions.
What mattered artistical1y was the oral performance. It was taken for granted among the literary scholars of Catullus’ day that the first stage in the art of criticism was reading the passage aloud, thus revealing its quality by the reader’s delivery, its craftsmanship by his attention to the metre, and the thought behind it by the modulation of his voice. Cicero tells us that poets in his day liked to try their work out on the populace before putting the final touches to it; Horace refers to poets giving performances in the Forum, the baths, the theatres Catullus has plenty to say about poetry, his own and that of his friends and enemies. It is striking that he nevers refers to public performance or an audience of listeners, but only to poems written down on writing-tablets, to be read. The difference lay not so much in the type of poetry as in the social status of the poet. Archias, Philodemus and Martial, in their various ways, wanted to turn their poetry into material benefits, and therefore needed a big audience.”” Catullus was a man of substance, far from the necessity of earning patronage by his pen; he wrote for a cultured elite, and despised the popular taste. Much of what they wrote was concise enough for a poem to be written on a single wax tablet; and the fact that so many of Catullus’ short poems have a named addressee suggests that they were sent, like informal correspondence. As with correspondence in the proper sense, he might well share it with others, by reading it (or having it read) aloud to friends and acquaintances, individually or in an audience. So we have no reason to think that in an oral culture a poem written on a wax tablet to a friend would have to wait for the volumen of collected works before it could be considered ‘published’. And what of the poems that have no addressee? The rhetorical brilliance of the poems makes it natural to think that they were written to be read aloud to an appreciative audience, not of course in public, but in ioco atque vino among those whose social sophistication met the exacting standards of Catullus and his friends. With the long poem and with very conspicuous rhetorical effects, perhaps by the poet himself, as with some of the short poems? It would test his voice, and his virtuosity in delivery; but if Virgil could read three books of the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia, presumably Catullus could read the Peleus and Thetis to his privileged friends. An alternative is a dramatic performance. Actors and performers were available for private parties as well as for public festivals, after-dinner entertainment. Perhaps he never reconciled the conflicting imperatives of the life he had chosen. ‘His tragedy was that he had not fully rejected the moral standards of the Valerii of Verona when he tried to live in the world of the Patrician Claudii.
The name ‘Lesbia’ occurs sixteen times in Catullus’ poems; always in the nominative or vocative case. The phrase mea puella, or puella alone, occurs twelve times, and mulier mea once.’ Even in the permissive moral climate of the fifties B.C. , formal anonymity was required to protect the reputation of a person of quality. Take Juventius, where Catullus names him, he does not name his lovers, and refers to nothing more specific than kisses. So too with ‘Lesbia’. Even under the protection of her pseudonym, she is not named with an identifiable man except Catullus himself. Where her other lovers are named, ‘Lesbia’ is not. The separation of her name, even in disguise, from those of identifiable individuals is formally preserved. But even if, in the bitterness of his anger, Catullus came so close to revealing her identity, what is important is that he didn’t quite do it. However tenuously, the conventions were respected. How free could a Roman poet be with someone else’s name and reputation? Catullus could get away with venomous lampoons because - like Lucilius - he was wealthy and independent, and thus effectively invulnerable to retribution except in kind. So it was not through fear of the consequences that Catullus refused to name the litigious adulterer with the ginger eyebrows, or the loose-lipped girl with the ugly walk. He was teasing his audience, inviting them to guess the name, either from the clues he offers or by reference to other poems, as poem 29 reveals the identity of ‘Mentula’. The pretence of concealment is just part of the joke. There is a patrician lady ‘drunker than the drunken grape’; drunkenness was traditionally second only to adultery (to which it was assumed to lead) in the catalogue of sins unforgivable in a Roman matron, yet Postumia is named, slander was a national pastime, and Catullus did his share of it. But Lesbia was immune, even when he came to hate her. His use of the phrase male dicere is revealing. It is what ‘Lesbia’ does about him- to her husband, among others - but he is quite explicit that he could never do it about her. On the contrary, he claims credit for bene dicere, though it was wasted on her. The nearest he comes to this in poem 11, with the non bona dicta Furius and Aurelius have to deliver to her - and yet even there he holds back in a significant way. Poem 11 is one of three poems (the others are 37 and 58) in which Catullus visualizes the sordid reality of Lesbia’s sexual promiscuity. In none of them does he use the obscenity which is so conspicuous a feature of his invectives. Ilia is a respectable anatomical term, glubit is metaphorical, but an innocent word in itself. In each case the picture Catullus summons so vividly to the reader’s mind is foul, but expressed with no foulness of language. It seems that even at the bitterest moments ‘Lesbia’ was kept separate in his mind from the victims of his invective. And that, I think, is why he preserves her anonymity (however tenuously), while attacking them by name with total freedom. The women of Lesbos were proverbially beautiful. Lesbos was traditionally associated with refinement and sophistication, for example in music, poetry and dress. Above all, it was the home of Sappho, whose poetry exemplified that refinement and celebrated that beauty. The name ‘Lesbia’ was a graceful compliment, and he must have trusted her taste to accept it as such. Her real name tells us, if we allow ourselves the inference from poem 79 that she was a noblewoman, from the same family as Clodia Metelli conceivably even Clodia Metelli herself, more probably one of her sisters.
Do we have Catullus’ own collection of his poems? The collection as a whole is itself part of the poet’s work of art, the ordering of the poems within it part of the message to the reader. Catullus was a subtle poet, and we need not expect the message to be an obvious one; but we are not entitled just to take our poems irrespective of their context and arrange them in what looks like a plausible biographical sequence. We can use his knowledge to pick up cross- references in both directions. In Poem 2, he is confident that desire for him is what makes her eyes shine. Or is he? The crucial word is credo: he thinks, but does not know, that she feels the pain of love. He is aspiring lover, not yet a successful one. Poem 5: now for the first time we have the lady’s name. What they disapproved of was not love as such, but illicit love. Catullus and ‘Lesbia’ will have to brave the conventions of society to enjoy their life together. The togetherness - we two against the world - is expressed by those conspicuously first- person-plural verbs; in the whole collection there are only two other places, where Catullus refers to his mistress and himself as ‘we’. But the verbs are only subjunctive: this is what Catullus wants to happen, not necessarily what is the case. Astrology and magic were real, and intellectually respectable, in the Rome of the late Republic. In poem 7: the mood has changed since poem 5. The two are no longer ‘we’, but ‘you’ and I. ‘She was cool and moderate; he was emotionally insatiable. Poem 6 offers one view of the sexual life - the ‘Lesbia’ affair was something special: very private, and much more than just sex. That, at least, is what it was for ‘crazy Catullus’ (7.10) Straightaway, we see he has been fooling himself. In six beautifully chiastic lines Catullus offers the images of a lost happiness, and still he shrinks from physical description. What did they do? We can guess, of course, but all he mentions is the laughter. He sees that time as bright suns shining. We have met those suns in poem 5, when he was carefree and triumphant- ‘let’s love while the suns still shine for us’. Now the suns have set, not in death but in the end of love. The same relative position of leader and follower recurs in a significantly different form in line 10. When all was well and she wanted it too, she led and he went after; now that she doesn’t want it, she flees and he pursues (frequentative verb again). Either way, the initiative is hers. She was in charge, and she had had enough. Poem 11 continues this theme of young men seeing the world but it is a poem in Sapphics, which warns the reader to remember ‘Lesbia’. These first six poems of love describe a kind of parabola. In the sparrow poems (2 and 3),the beloved is seen indirectly, via her bird, and appears only in the genitive case (meae puellae). In the kiss poems (5 and 7) she is named, and addressed in the vocative; in poem 8 she is not named, but she acts in the nominative and is addressed in the vocative (puella).There are bitter allusions here to the earlier poems. In the triumphant poem 5 it was vivamus atque amemus; now it is vivat valeatque, no longer their life of love but her life of degradation. In poem 8 she led and he followed, or ran and he pursued; now it is no use her looking back (nec respectet ) he won’t come running. He defines her crime (culpa) as the killing of his love. What ‘Lesbia’ had done was to commit adultery. Moecis is explicit - not just lovers but adulterers, as if she were actually married to Catullus. Indeed, the form of the poem is that of a divorce per nuntium. But if Catullus conceived of his love-affair as a sort of marriage, which spouse was he? The poem is written in Sappho’s metre, and the wonderfully evocative concluding image implicit in the final stanza is the notion of rape, with Catullus’ love as the innocent victim. Again, but in a different light, we see the balance of power in the lovers’ relationship. We see her dominance. She acted; he reacted. His contribution was the concept of a love unparalleled more than just sexual, involving both the responsibilities of the marriage bond and the vulnerability of a virgin bride. It would not be surprising if the real woman found such devotion some- thing of a burden. There follow three pieces of urbanitas on Catullus’ friends, their parties, and the refinement of’ their taste. It is reasonable to infer that poems 1-14 form a sequence complete in itself. By now the reader has all the essentials about Catullus and his or - his friends, his values, his circumstances, and the two bits of biographical data that will be needed to make sense of certain poems later in the collection, namely the trip to Bithynia and the affair with ‘Lesbia’. Of the poems after l4b, only five refer to ‘Lesbia’ or mea puella, and there are three others which may allude to her. But even when relegated - for the moment - to the background, the affair remains vivid in the reader’s mind. The group of five poems from 36 to 4O are poems where the themes of invective, poetry and the poet’s mistress are intertwined. In poem 36 which poems did she mean? We soon discover as poem 37 opens with a devastatingly obscene attack on the customers at the ‘lechers’ bar’ nine columns down from the temple of Castor. Catullus has fought battles for ‘Lesbia’, but lost. Her successful lovers (the three hundred of poem 11) are not on y the rich and noble of her own class, with whom Catullus might feel he could hardly compete, but even men like - ugh! - Egnatius. That’s where it hurts: ‘Lesbia’ has let herself down, as the scene of the poem itself eloquently suggests. Taverns were frequently also brothels, and the emphatically postponed verb consedit implies that she has ‘taken her seat’ there professionally. The whole sequence from poem 36 to poem 40 explores love and hate, and what poetry can do for each.
In poem 51, just as in poem 11 her lovers broke their manhood in her insatiable embrace. The repetition of the rare adverb at the same metrical position in the stanza cannot be an accident. Similarly, misero . . . mihi (i.e. Catullo) is an echo of miser Catulle in poem 8; miser is a strong word in Catullus, and this is the first occurrence of it since then. After that, the ‘double night’ in lines 10-11, emphasized by the striking transferred epithet and the juxtaposition of lumina for ‘eyes’, has an ominous ring when we remember the bright suns of life and love in poems 5 and 8. Those physical symptoms are the sign of a self-destructive emotional excess. It is clearly right to take 50 and 5I together, as a comment on otium and the effects it has. Negotia, the opposite of otium is a rejection of ‘idleness’. The impulse is to give all for love. The two voices of poem 51 express the conflict between them. The poems that follow are set firmly in the streets and squares of Rome. Caelius, my Lesbia, the peerless Lesbia, the Lesbia that Catallus once loved promiscuous adulteress of poem 11 became the bar-room floozy of poem 37; now she is imagined as the lowest of prostitutes, handling her customers on the street comer or down the alley. The first book (1-60, the short-poem collection) is nearly complete, but Catullus still has a surprise for his readers, So the reader infers that the addressee is ‘Lesbia’, corrupt and callous as we now believe her to be. But who is the suppliant? In this last poem, Catullus the poet shows us Catullus the lover still obsessed, begging her to soften her heart to him. What have we learned about ‘Lesbia’ by the end of the first book of Catullus’ collected poems? His subject is not so much the woman herself as his own reactions to her; a will stronger than his, appetites more earthy than his, a beauty, an elegance and a capacity for laughter that captivated him against his better judgment, and perhaps also a certain presence, a hauteur that made her intimacy all the more electrifying. He sees her in his infatuation as the consort of a god (51.1) - and she has very high-class lover: (37.14). The ‘sad songs’ that follow are due to the death of the poet’s beloved brother.
THE EPIGRAMS are a coherent drama featuring Catullus the lover, his mistress, and his rivals. The mistress - ‘my woman’ - appears first in a poem imitated from Callimachus, that master-epigrammatist whose name opens and closes Catullus’ third book. The theme of marriage had dominated the second volume. It was continued in the third, so we are ready for the idea that Catullus might want ‘Lesbia’ to divorce her husband and marry him. The man with the armpits returns in poem 71 and the obscenity comes between two Lesbia-poems, for contrast. The theme of poem 70 is resumed in 72. But by now some time has passed, some things have been discovered: This is a new tone in Catullus’ love poetry - cooler and more analytical than the outbursts of joy or fury in the first book. In the elegiacs he often seems to be sorting his experience out in his mind, trying to define its mutually inconsistent elements and somehow make sense of them. We see how much the family and its continuity meant to Catullus. Astonishingly, he applies its standards of non-erotic, altruistic affection to show how much ‘Lesbia’ meant to him, at the time when he believed her faithful to him alone. Now, he has found her out. The real woman cannot be assimilated into his ingenuous fantasy. Sexual passion remains, but the rest is gone. The careless aristocrat pleases herself and her lover writes off his investment and thinks himself defrauded. The sense of injustice extends into the next poem (73) a bitter attack on a friend who has paid back honest generosity with treachery and harm. Now we realize why the lampoons on Rufus alternated with Lesbia-poems at 69-72, and we can guess who the treacherous friend was, and what his offence, in poem 73. In 76, the central poem of the trio, as he dwells at length on his betrayal, it is not just that he has acted properly and in good faith. We are to think of a foedus sanctioned by the gods - that is, an agreement or contract bound by oath - which he has dutifully kept, and she as broken. Catullus himself has done right by the gods; it is she who has offended them - and in so far as he is still obsessed with her, he too incurs their displeasure. The fact that he cannot stop ‘loving’ her (in his redefined sense of amare as sexual passion only) is the reason he must ask for the gods’ mercy on him, and he excuses himself for it by likening it to an illness. On the other hand, the fact that he is conscious of rectitude in all other matters (the ‘purity’ of his life being unaffected by her adultery with him) is the reason he can also ask for a just reward in return for pietas. The fault in the eyes of the gods is hers, not his. In short, the whole sequence 69 - 92 is devoted to ‘Lesbia’ and the various men in her life, with only three other poems inserted for variety: (78) (8l) and (84). His type of love was the real thing, faithful as if to a contract signed and sworn. But her type was amor as well, and he was subject to that even when all other feeling was gone, or changed to hate (odi et amo). In this long fugue of love, hate and self-justification, two distasteful themes obsessively recur. They are combined in the person of the unspeakable Gellius, after which three successive poems refer to fellatio . In the final succession of attacks on Gellius it is the incest - not only his aunt but his sister, his mother and all the girls in the family - that draws Catullus’ increasingly severe condemnation. Why should he go after ‘Lesbia’ as well? Because betraying an old friend appealed to his taste for gratuitous evil-doings. ‘Now I have found you out’, says Catullus to ‘Lesbia’ at the beginning of this sequence (72. 5) and what he had found out was that fellatio and incest were two of the pastimes of her milieu. They offended two of his own most cherished values, the virtues on which he had based hs appeal to the gods in poem 76: purity and pietas. Purity was inconsistent with oral intercourse,”” and incest was impietas, an offence against the gods of the family. In poem 92 after all that has gone before, that seems extraordinary that he still loves her. But not when we remember the redefinition of amor. All the ‘real love’ has gone, but what is left - amare, not diligere or bene velle - is more compulsive than ever. Poem 72 spelt it out at the start: now that he knows her, he has no liking or respect for her, but desires her more no matter what she does. The symmetry shows that he has accepted love on her terms - physical desire based on mutual dislike and defamation. The meaning of deprecari in line 3 is to beg to be rid of something, The second half of the epigram collection has one recurring theme, Caesar’s henchman Mamurra in his guise as The Prick (‘Mentula’). The proportions are reversed from the first half. Out of 24 poems, ‘Lesbia’ is mentioned in only four, and in two of those not as the main subject. There are several unobtrusive cross-references to earlier poems but both the tone and the subject matter are quite different from what has gone before. ‘Lesbia’, it seems, is offering love on Catullus’ terms - a love which is also a friendship, and for ever, and bound by a bond. In both poems the idea of life predominates, even to the extent of appearing (here an nowhere else) as a vocative for ‘Lesbia’ herself. In l09 the emphatic repetition nostrum . . . nos . . . nobis brings us back to those rare moments of felicity when he and she are combined as ‘we’. But it is not quite the mood of ‘vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus’ . He needs the help of the gods to make her mean it, to bring those first-person-plural pronouns out of the subordinate clauses of her proposal and his prayer into the indicative mood of actual experience. The poet leaves Catullus the lover in a precarious balance of sudden happiness and sober, unconfident hope and the poet’s stubbornly old-fashioned view of the responsibilities of love.
The latest date assignable to any of the poems in Catullus’ collection is August 54 B.C. for Calvus’ prosecution of Vatinius. We know of a Catullus who wrote mimes - one of them was being shown the day the emperor Gaius was murdered. Suetonius’ life of Catullus was lost between 1455 and I460. There are quotations from and references to Catullus which are preserved in other authors. If Catullus did not die pen in hand, but lived to publish his three-volume collection and then went on to a new literary career, writing for the stage. No author bothers to distinguish between Catullus the mimographer and Catullus the love poet. Martial in particular refers to both without distinction. A learned commentator on Lucan tells us that he had come across a book by Catullus evidently entitled ‘An Essay on Mimes’. It was neither accident nor irony that made Catullus dedicate the first volume of his col1ected poems to the author of a historical work in a Greek genre, with a Greek title, and full of characteristically Greek learning; besides that, Cornelius Nepos wrote biography, moralizing essays, and even erotic poetry. Catullus’ dear friend Calvus had more talent than Nepos, but just as wide a range - a great orator, a learned theoretician, and a poet whose themes (epic, erotic, invective) closely parallel Catullus’ own, he also wrote an essay ‘On the Use of Cold Water’ (Calvus was very fussy about his health). Young Pollio, whose precocious gifts are celebrated in poem 12, became famous later as orator, tragedian, historian and critic of historians;’ but already as a young man he was writing on grammatical subjects, one controversial work being even directed against Catullus himself. Once the idea is accepted that Catullus might be writing for performance (in however broad a sense), some very familiar poems may perhaps be looked at in anew light. We have a ready seen that poem 34 may well be a real choral ode, composed to be sung at a festival of Delian. There is another, and much longer, poem in the same metre - the wedding song for Manlius and Aurunculeia. Poem 61 could also be intended for choral performance.
Catullus died young, probably in the late fifties B.C. at the age of twenty-nine. His work had made him famous, and he long remained so: his plays were still read after two hundred years, his love poems after five hundred. But from the sixth century A.D. to the fourteenth, he was practically unknown. It was about 13O5 that a manuscript of the collected poems was discovered - The popular impact of his shorter poems - particularly the ones at the beginning of the collection - is shown by the sincerest of compliments, imitation. Twenty years later, Horace was irritated that the poems of Catullus and Calvus were on every- one’s lips. Perhaps Catullus too, with the plays he wrote for the great popular festivals, became something of a national figure for a year or two in that ill-documented period from 54 to 51 B.C.
Catullus used his Hellenistic learning to express traditional Roman values in Greek generic forms.
THE HISTORY OF THE POEMS
In Catullus, there are no less than five kinds of poetry: lyric, epithalamium, epic, elegy, and epigram. In these genres, his work was well rooted in tradition. The poems which spring most directly from his own experience and observation are always more or less connected, especially in matters of form, with the traditions of literature. There is an intellectual Catullus side by side with an emotional Catullus. Some think Catullus himself arranged and published this collection, others that the collection was not made and published by Catullus, but was put together after his death; that in fact its arrangement has greatly obscured the poet's own purposes and methods. Our poet was all but unknown for more than six centuries.A single manuscript was discovered about 1300. Only the sixty-second poem and the meager citations which happen to exist in other writers exist elsewhre. His poems were put together while there was a reliable tradition concerning them, possibly as early as the first or second century. During the five hundred years from Martlal to Isidore readers of this period knew poems which do not appear in our collection and they quote six lines from them which imply the existence of other poems now lost to us. We may be certain therefore that from the first century of our era to the seventh, and probably still later, poems of Catullus were known which are not included in our collection. The Priapean verses at least were probably never included in this or any other exclusively Catullian book. Such poems were composed by many Romans for the amusement of their friends. It was the practice to make collections of these squibs quite separate from other work by the same authors. In all probability Catullus' experiments in this type of verse were read in such a collection, not in any book composed exclusively of his own poems. The evidence indicates that our collection did not include all the work of Catullus that was known (from ca. 100 to ca. 600 A.D. The Book of Catullus is very abnormal, not to say unique, among all known Greek or Roman books of poetry in length, and in the heterogeneousness and grouping of its contents. If Catullus himself published this Book as a unit, on one single roll, he violated normal ancient practice. But we must judge by ancient standards for books of poetry, and by ancient standards this little book is abnormally long. It must once have had, on a very conservative estimate, over twenty-three hundred lines. This book is therefore more than twice the length of the longest of other similar books, i.e., books containing many relatively short poems, and more than five hundred lines longer than any other extant book of Greek or Roman poetry. Even more abnormal than its length is the heterogeneous content of this book. No other extant ancient book of poetry written by one and the same poet approximates this extreme variety. Even among anthologies or books of verse by various hands This strip of papyrus, would be no less than thirty-eight feet long, an inconvenient and unwieldy thing. You have here the chief reason why ancient books of poetry, which were intended for frequent reading by persons who were often careless, were short: for convenient handling and a reasonable chance of preservation such rolls could not be very long. Evidence derived from extant papyrus rolls the size of which can be accurately estimated, indicates that while there are many short rolls of six or seven feet, the extreme upper limit is about thirty feet. Sir F. G. Kenyon, one of the foremost authorities, says that this limit was ''rarely, if ever, exceeded.'' From the purely mechanical points of view, then, it is clear that the entire contents of the Book of Catullus were probably never included in one roll. The Book consists of three clearly marked parts: (1) I-LX, poems all short and in various meters (842 lines); (2) LXI-LXIV, all long and still in various meters (797 lines); (3) LXV-CXVI, long and short but all in the same meter (645 lines). The basis of this grouping seems clearly to have been partly the length, partly the meter of the single poems. The first poem is a dedication of all or of a part of the poems to Cornelius Nepos. Some critics discover in LXI a similar dedication of Part II to Manlius Torquatus, and in LXV a dedication of Part III to Hortensius Hortalus. Clearly Martial knew some collection of Catullus which began not with the dedication to Nepos which begins our collection but with Passer, deliciae. The whole run of Martial's poem, the comparison of himself to Catullus, of his epic friend Silius to Vergil, of his own book or books to the Sparrow of Catullus, render the conclusion unavoidable that the Sparrow was a book of poems of the same general type as the poems of Martial chiefly short poems in various meters. If he included under the word nugae all his poems-the long elaborate pieces, especially LXIV which is epic, one of the most elevated kinds of ancient poetry, as well as the short pieces of various types - then he used the term in a sense without parallel elsewhere in Roman literature. The probable view is that the first poem was originally the dedication of one small book to Nepos, and that when our collection was formed, this poem, as the most appropriate dedication for the whole, was placed or was left at the beginning. Catullus himself published at least one book of poems, the libellus dedicated to Cornelius Nepos containing ''trifles'' (nugae). Martial knew a book of similar character which he calls the Sparrow. It is possible though not probable that these two books were one and the same. The practice of reading compositions to smaller or larger circles (Horace preferred smaller ones!) or sending them to friends was common. Poems LXV, LXVI, and LXVIII were certainly sent to Hortensius and Manlius respectively in response to their requests for something written by Catullus, and XXXV, the little letter to Caecilius, is similar. Such poems had at first a separate existence. Martial knew at least one roll. He mentions among the books which were given away as souvenirs at dinner parties a Catullus. It is a curious fact that the latest datable poems are scattered pretty well over the whole collection. It is probable that some of them at least were among the scattered pieces which were included in his work by others after his death. There are also certain poems which were composed for a very special audience-an audience which was in possession of the facts by which to interpret them. I believe that we can discern the poet's intention. These arrangements are of two kinds: (1) the grouping of two or more poems which are related in content, and (2) the separation of two such related poems by a third on a different theme - an arrangement called variatio by which all three poems are brought into greater relief. In the Lesbia and the Juventius cycles, some elements seem to be purposely arranged, others scattered. Catullus may himself have arranged a small collection of elegiac verse which was later enlarged by the addition of all his known elegiac work. Catullus unlike Horace and Vergil was not a school author. There was no widespread demand at an early period for a fairly complete collection of his poems. We must constantly bear in mind that almost all kinds of poetry were already old before Catullus tried his hand at them. There had been ample time for genres to develop and decay. It will be admitted that almost all the short elegiac pieces could properly have been called epigrams in the time of Catullus. The term “epigram” means an inscription and originally the thing itself was an inscription. A literary epigram is a brief, pointed utterance in verse. In fact, the epigram includes poems of such bewildering variety that a satisfactory definition of the genre as a whole is quite impossible. In the fourth and later centuries poets had much greater freedom to use a given meter for a variety of purposes - to widen the scope of meters and to work up a given theme in a variety of metrical forms. I suggest a rough grouping not by metrical criteria, but by the content, the purpose, and the tone of the individual poems. Occasionally the metrical interest seems to be foremost. Catullus is the poet of hate and love, and his own words, odi et amo, might serve as captions for the two largest groups of his poems, the invective and the erotic. There are groups of anecdotes (X, LIII), poems of invitation and greeting (IX, XIII, XXVIII, XXXV), of reproach (XXX, XXXVIII, LX), of consolation (XCVI), a hymn or cult song (XXXIV), a drinking song (XXVII), and many others. By far the largest group consists of the invective or satiric poems, a total of about forty or nearly forty percent of all the short poems. The tone of these poems ranges in intensity from the absolutely unbridled and foul-mouthed utterances which too often disfigure the poet's pages to those jesting, simulated attacks which are often the strongest proofs of friendship. None of these poems are more violent, though some are even coarser, than those whose purpose, superficially at least, is political. The most famous is XXIX, the bitter attack upon Caesar and his henchman Mamurra with a lash at Pompey. Yet, so far as Caesar himself is concerned, LVII is even more abusive. Catullus keeps hammering at the bosses and various minor members of their ring. The tone and the details vary, but the type remains the same - political and personal attack. The interesting thing is the meter. Catullus chose three different meters! He has the instinctive feeling of a great poet for the right verse form. Considering for a moment the lighter and sometimes merely simulated invectives, we find the same tendency to vary the meter. In the large erotic group the situation is the same. The thirty poems (more or less) dealing with Lesbia are written in Sapphics, choliambics, hendecasyllables, and especially over half of them-in elegiacs. The metrical variety persists even when the theme is essentially the same. In the smaller groups the same tendency appears. To him the metrical form was not of first importance. Catullus himself may have published a part - each roll or booklet (libellus) was made up of little poems (rarely perhaps an abnormally long poem) in elegiacs, hendecasyllables, and choliambics with a sprinkling of less common meters. We must not assume that in this respect he enjoyed the freedom of a modern poet. The little elegiac pieces are very often connected with the other little poems by bonds of identical or very similar content, tone, and purpose, and the difference in meter does not imply that Catullus regarded them as a separate kind of poetry. The style of the long poems is in general dignified, elevated; the style of the short poems is much less elevated and often sinks to the opposite extreme, the vulgar. In each group there are variations and gradations The most striking feature of the style of the short poems is colloquialism (often vulgarism), an element which is infrequently present in the long poems. Moreover the short elegiacs differ in this respect from the long elegiacs. Two of these terms have been discussed: nugae, ''trifles”- primarily a descriptive term-and epigramma, ''epigram,'' a generic term. Yet Catullus uses only one generic term, iambi (''invective''), which fits any part of the group. Undoubtedly he knew the technical terms for all these genres and for others also, but he uses only two which have a technical color; iambi (just mentioned) and hymenaeus.
The Roman poets were soon receiving the Greek inspiration by two channels: directly, through their own reading and study of Greek literature, and indirectly, through earlier Roman literature which held in solution so much that was Greek. The influence of Roman tradition upon him was much limited: Catullus and many of his contemporaries neglected - Cicero' s word is ''despised' - that part of their heritage which was Roman. Catullus mentions Greek poets of many periods. He mentions contemporary Roman poets, but he is uniformly silent about his Roman predecessors. When he sought aid from the past, he turned directly to the Greeks. In spite of himself he built upon foundations. Without the work of Father Ennius and other earlier poets many of Catullus' meters, all of which are adapted from the Greek, could not have reached so high a degree of perfection. The same statement holds true of his poetic style in spite of the fact that he was the first genius who appeared in Roman poetry. The first wedding poem was written for an actual Roman wedding. Catullus has made an interesting effort to combine the features of the Greek hymeneal with the customs of the Roman wedding. We cannot hope to find among the meager fragments of the older poetry representatives of all or even approximately all the many types of short poem which appear in Catullus, but fortunately there are examples of the two largest and most important groups, the invective and the erotic. There are hints that Ennius, Accius, the tragic poet, Quinctius Atta, the author of togatae, and perhaps Lucilius, the great satirist, attempted the small erotic poem. In the last half of the second century B.C. cultured Romans were attempting to transplant the Alexandrian erotic epigram, a type of poem of which the Greek Anthology has preserved hundreds. These Romans are not translating their Greek models; they are freely adapting them in Latin. They are even taking over the Greek custom of writing several poems on the same theme. Furthermore, they are trying to reproduce certain refinements of the later Greek erotic style -the decency of vocabulary, the plays on words, the rather fantastic imagery. These Romans found their ideal not in the age of Callimachus but in the Greek epigrammatists of their own day, and in Latinizing this style they achieved considerable success although they did not quite catch the trick. In the last third of the second century B.C., not more than a generation or two before Catullus, occur the first serious efforts of the Romans to transplant the modern type of Greek erotic poetry - the type which Catullus brought to perfection in Latin. From the very beginnings of Roman literature the Romans had had the same general kind of erotic writing at their disposal in Callimachus and in many others, but if the extant evidence does not deceive us, a hundred years passed by before they were moved to utilize it. The invective, the commonest type represented in Catullus, had appeared as early as the famous controversy between the poet Naevius and the Caecilii Metelli about 206 B.C. There was a danger in making personal attacks at Rome. Lampoon and satire there were, especially at times of political unrest, but there were libel laws also. There are few traces of the invective or satiric short poem earlier than the age of Catullus. A writer who attempted to Romanize Greek lyric meters for use in the shorter forms of poetry was Laevius. He showed great interest in meter. He was probably more polymetrical than Catullus, for even the fragments comprise twelve or more meters. Most of these occur here for the first time in Latin and among them there are examples of Catullus' favorite hendecasyllables and choliambics. There are also many diminutives and Greek loan-words. The use of diminutives, of compounds, and of Greek loan-words are all striking characteristics of Catullus. In other respects also Laevius was breaking ground for Catullus and other poets of the following generation. Like them he turned away from Ennius and the older Roman poets to the Hellenistic and Alexandrian Greeks. Like them he preferred the shorter forms of poetry, and his subjects were to a large extent erotic. There are glimpses of technique common to the Alexandrians and Catullus: the speech made by characters. Laevius was making a serious attempt to Romanize the lighter poetry of the Greeks - the favorite domain of Catullus-and like Catullus he was employing for this purpose a variety of lyric meters. In date and in the crudity of his work, Laevius belongs with an earlier generation, but in point of view and in the kind of work he attempted he must certainly be classed as a pioneer in Catullus' own school. Nevertheless just as his lyric meters, for example, could not have reached so high a degree of perfection without the work of such predecessors as Laevius, so his hexameters and his distichs could not have been developed without the work of Ennius and other pioneers. Even without Cicero's testimony, however, we should be able to infer that there were two opposing camps of poets in the Rome of Catullus' day. Catullus wholly avoids the longer kinds of poetry and there is good evidence that many of his contemporaries were of the same mind. In fact the young poets adopted and transferred to Latin literature Callimachus' famous principle ''big book, big bore.'' The battle raged most fiercely about the epyllion. The composition of one of these miniature epics became a mark of caste. The only complete extant example of the period is Catullus' Wedding of Peleus and Thetis, but the titles of several others are known: the Zmyrna of Helvius Cinna, the Io of Calvus, the Lydia of Valerius Cato. The subjects of these epyllia were always Greek myths, often rather obscure and generally erotic. The Romans found these stories already worked out with refined art in many kinds of late Greek literature. Their object was not to translate, but to produce equivalent artistic compositions in Latin. From the point of view of the young poets the epyllion represented the pinnacle of artistic effort. The author must be a doctus poeta, one who possessed both learning and technical skill in addition to inspiration, and his composition must not be hasty hack work, but a real carmen vigilatum, a poem resulting from midnight toil. The watchword of the young poets was, in brief, artistry, with all that the word implies. The young poets emphasized quality against quantity. Two well known principles of him who led the young poets of Alexandria: the ''big book, big bore,'' and the dislike of common hackneyed things (including the long epic) - the things liked by the mass. Catullus did not write for the ''man in the street.'' Catullus adopted certain definite tenets from the creed of Callimachus. His admiration of Callimachus is further attested by his translations. His attitude toward the older school repeats the attitude of Callimachus toward the older school of his day, although the respective reforms of the two poets were not in all cases the same; Catullus had to do much in the way of reforming immature technique, while Callimachus was reacting against a technique that was over-mature. Both were, however, seeking to revivify by novel methods the poetry of their times and in this also Catullus secured valuable hints from his great predecessor. Catullus believed that a poet needed the knowledge and careful training in his art which can be acquired only by hard work. A doctus poeta was not merely a poet of native ability, but one who knew, one who could use his gift and knowledge to good effect. Doctus in the literary sphere corresponded very closely to urbanus in the social sphere; both words imply the possession of adequate knowledge together with skill and taste. Suffenus, who was socially urbanus but in literature the opposite of doctus, was to Catullus a weird mixture, a gentleman in society but a boor in literature. Catullus himself greatly admired Sappho, and it was not Homer against whom Callimachus fulminated but those who in his own time were still trying to be Homeric in the fashion of Homer. If we except the epyllion, Catullus and his friends did not learn from the later Greeks new kinds of poetry; they learned to attempt old kinds in a new way.
If Lesbia was Clodia, the wife of Metellus Celer, she won have been ten or eleven years older than the poet, for she was born probably ca. 95-94 B.C. This is not a serious difficulty to anybody who remembers the many Pendennises of life and literature and especially the fact that Marcus Caelius Ruius, who could not have been more than a year older than Catullus and may have been younger, had a violent love affair with this very Clodia when she was drawing dangerously near the age of forty. Clodia was undoubtedly very attractive to young men, Catullus came from a prominent and wealthy Veronese family. His father was a friend of Caesar's and repeatedly entertained that great man when duty and politics brought him to
Cis-Alpine Gaul in the winters between his campaigns beyond the Alps. The family had a villa on the promontory of Sirmione at the southern end of the Lago di Garda, and Catullus speaks of another villa, probably his own, on the confines of the fashionable town of Tibur (now Tivoli), about eighteen miles east of Rome. He was supported undoubtedly by a generous allowance from his father, and knowing many persons of rank and position, he must have worked hard at his poetry but apart from this his only semblance of an occupation was the position which he held for a year on the staff of Memmius during the latter's propraetorship in Bithynia. His duties in this capacity were probably not very onerous and certainly he made no money (X. 9). The chief events of his life were his unfortunate love for Lesbia, the death of his dearly loved brother, his journey to Bithynia, and his hostility to Caesar and his henchmen. The sixty-eighth poem proves that the husband (vir) of the lady mentioned in the poem was alive in the early stages of Catullus' love. If this husband was Metellus Celer, then the love affair began a considerable time before his death in 59 B.C. Lesbia was beginning to be unfaithful to Catullus when the sixty-eighth poem was written (135) so that we must date the poem rather late in the affair, and since Caelius Rufus' affair with Clodia was at its height in 58-57 B.C. and Catullus had broken with Lesbia by the time he went to Bithynia (57 B.C.) we may assume that LXVIII was written about 59 B.C. and that Catullus' love began not less than two years earlier, ca. 61 B.C. His heart was not utterly broken, for there are poems written after he had torn himself away from Lesbia which prove that he was once more captain of his soul and that his old gaiety had returned. The role which the affair plays in his poetry is indicated by the fact that some thirty of his poems, more than a quarter of them all, owe their existence to his love or hate of Lesbia. The passion must have lasted for at least three years, ca. 61-59 B.C. Later still there was a final echo, for after Catullus had broken away, had spent a year abroad, and had become once more master of himself, Lesbia made a last appeal to him for one more reconciliation This appeal he answers in a poem unexcelled for high irony and scorn, and for beauty - a poem which proves that there could indeed be nothing more between himself and Lesbia (Furius and Aurelius).
The gaiety and eagerness to be off which characterize this pretty little piece are quite inconsistent with the view that he was just about to visit his brother's tomb. If, on the other hand, he had already paid that sad visit some months earlier, the tone of the poem presents no difficulty. He returned to Sirmio before he went to Rome. Catullus was home once more, probably in the summer or early autumn of 56 B.C. But even Sirmio could not hold him long. It is but a scant year and a half before the silence is to descend upon him.
The family's wealth and importance suggest that for a generation at least it had been domiciled in the region of Verona. Perhaps they had grown rich through trade or as landed proprietors through their proximity to a trading center. There is, however, not a single direct statement about the poet's education. It is a safe assumption that Catullus began the practice of at least three methods - translation, imitation, rhetoric -while he was still in school. Catullus' translations from the Greek range in extent from a complete poem (LXVI) to short passages, single lines, phrases, and words occurring in poems which as wholes are not translations. These briefer instances should be dealt with as part of the process of imitation rather than translation, since here the poet has his own work - his own purpose -primarily in mind and he may often distort the thought and purpose of the Greek author. The fifty-first poem is an excellent illustration. Much of this poem is translated from Sappho but as a whole the Latin poem is not a translation. He intended to honor Sappho, for all cultured readers would have recognized his chief source, and at the same time produce a Latin poem of his own. Catullus did a translation from Callimachus instead of composing one of his own after the death of his brother. He made other translations from the same Greek poet which are now lost. It is interesting to find the greatest poet of the age willing to devote himself to poetic translation. He was bent on presenting Callimachus in Latin verse with due respect for the Greek author's thought and art. Romans believed that a translation which was itself to be a work of art should not everywhere reflect closely the words of the original; it should render the thought and content rather than the words. Imitation was widely practiced in antiquity. Students were trained to imitate the best models. Subject matter was regarded as common property. Any poet was free to write on a theme which had been used but if a poet wished to imitate the work of a predecessor upon the same theme, he had to follow certain principles unless he wished to be charged with plagarism, which both Greeks and Romans called by the forthright term, ''robbery''. Imitation was a perfectly legitimate and praiseworthy method. It concerned not the content or the thought, but rather the technique - artistic treatment of earlier writing. But the similar artistic treatment of the imitator meant that he must not adopt the treatment of his model, but must so express the passage in his own technique that it became his own though it recalled the model. If there was not sufficient alteration or improvement the imitator laid himself open to the charge of ''theft.'' There are undoubtedly in Latin poetry a great many of these complimentary citations. A Roman writer might imitate a Roman writer or he might imitate a Greek writer. Catullus does not name Sappho, but any reader who was even halfway cultured would have ''recognized'' the source. The poetry of Catullus reveals here and there the influence of rhetoric. In the seventh poem he wishes Lesbia's kisses to be as many as the sands and stars - an old rhetorical comparison; in the thirtieth the faithless one allows the winds to carry his vain words away - an equally common rhetorical touch. But wherever he obtained it his knowledge of rhetoric was considerable. The material with which we have to deal in the poetry itself consists of a large number of resemblances. These resemblances range all the way from translations of single Greek words to similarities in thought between some poem or passage of Catullus and a poem or passage of some earlier writer.
The first Roman elegies appear in Catullus only a generation earlier than the most perfect example of the genre in the Augustan Age. Elegy is now defined as ''a short poem of lamentation or regret, called forth by the decease of a beloved or revered person, or by a general sense of the pathos of mortality,'' or as ''a song of grief . It can look forward to death as well as back. The couplet was regarded as a weaker, less dignified, metrical vehicle than the hexameter alone. Elegy was one of the greatest Roman successes, and although other themes were by no means excluded, it was to a very large extent erotic. Elegy is not suitable reading for school boys. There are two main groups of erotic elegies: (1) those in which the poet deals with his own love; (2) those in which he deals with the love of others-friends, mythological characters, etc. The first variety is important because here the Romans are probably most original, certainly at their best. A subjective-erotic elegy was a poem of considerable length, usually addressed to an individual or to readers, in which the poet communicates the thoughts and feelings which are suggested by some experience or aspect of his own love. It is usually serious or sad, but on occasion it may be joyous or even gay. Humor and wit are not excluded. It may be gracefully familiar, but it is rarely comic or vulgar, for it possesses a certain dignity of tone and style. The address, which had been a common feature of elegy from the earliest times, is ordinarily to the loved one or to friends of the poet, less often to patrons. Sometimes no name is used and we have a mere amici or vos or an address to readers generally. The tone of elegy is usually serious or sad. Exultation there is, but gloom and despair are far more common. Ovid's excessive display of gaiety and wit show that in him the elegy is already beginning to decline. There is a general decency, not to say nobility of language - impressions of the poet's mood which happen to become oral. Elegy, is ''talk.'' Solon, for example, talks to his audience. This is much more true of Roman elegy. It is sermo, except that its style is more dignified, and it deals for the most part with different themes. The best Roman elegies create the impression of reality and sincerity. The poet's moods and sentiments have a real basis. At times he displays a bit of humor but for the most part he is in dead earnest. The true elegist is the slave of love and he cannot help it. He depicts the varying aspects of his love at length; he dwells on them. Often he is highly lyric, often he narrates, describes or illustrates, still more often he reflects. Callimachus is called by Quintilian the leader of elegy. Catullus is to be regarded as actually the first Roman elegist. We have from Catullus only five elegies (including the translation from Callimachus): LXV-LXVIII, and LXXVl - a total of 402 lines. In round numbers a period of about seventy- five years from the earliest datable work of Catullus to the death of Ovid, 17 A.D. will include the beginning, the perfection, and the decline of the best Roman elegy. Catullus, with all his metrical skill, was unable to perfect the couplet. His successors followed a number of the principles which he had laid down, others they rejected, and they developed some new things, notably the ''Law of the Distich,'' in accordance with which each distich or couplet became more or less a unit of thought. Catullus helped to develop the metrical technique of elegy; but his chief contributions are of a different character. The first of these is his development of the epigram into an elegy. The favorite meter of epigram was the elegiac couplet and the themes were often the same as the themes of elegy. The elegy is three or four times the length of the epigram on which it is based. In the eighty-fifth poem, seventy-sixth poem, and the seventy-sixth poem we have the elegy. The only other subjective-erotic elegy is the long sixty-eighth poem. The poet has three main themes: friendship, love, and sorrow. He works through the friendship to the love and so to the sorrow and then back again in reverse order: sorrow, love, friendship. The structure may be represented by the letters A B C B A, and the parts also of each main theme are arranged with equal symmetry. The sorrow represents the core of the whole. When he came to a full realization of her perfidy his epigrams and lyrics express hate and loathing in the most violent terms. Not so the elegies. In his elegies he preserves a certain decency and dignity. The elegy is full of learning, especially in the astronomical passages. Some of the allusions are so obscure that in spite of the labors of scholars they are not yet fully understood. Catullus and the other docti poetae were attracted by this idea of inserting bits of learning into poetry. More important is the manner in which it was done. Often there was just an allusion; the reader was expected to know the rest.
He learned from the Greeks not so much what to say as how to say it. His own elegies are few - only four, if we exclude the translation of Callimachus-and yet they anticipate Augustan elegy in a surprising number of characteristics. By far the most important of these is the expression of the poet's own love. He was not only the first Roman poet, but the first poet, Greek or Roman, to enter this field. Several tendencies seem to converge on Catullus. From the earliest times certain elements persist to the very end, for example the address to friend, or patron, or reader- or the mythological parallel. Such elements may be called permanent traits of the genre; they pass from the early to the later Greeks, to Catullus, and so to the Augustans. Among the themes of elegy the lament is such a permanent trait; love for woman is another.
Before the beginnings of literature in antiquity the wedding song existed as a custom among the people- the popular and the literarv forms continued side by side. Although our information concerning wedding poetry earlier than Catullus is far from complete it is sufficient for a general outline of the genre. The earliest references to a wedding song are in Homer. Not much later (ca. 600 B.C.) came Sappho, who was famous throughout antiquity as a composer of nuptial poetry. In the Alexandrian Age the epithalamium was a favorite kind of poetry. It is possible then to trace the existence of the wedding poem as a form of literature for more than five centuries and a half before the time of Catullus and it continued to thrive for six hundred years after his time. The poets were often called upon to write poems to honor the weddings of friends or patrons. The poets ordinarily dealt with a part or parts of the wedding ceremony, not the whole. This is especially true of the sixty-second poem, in which Catullus has in mind the time just after the wedding feast. The meter also varied within fairly wide limits. One of the most striking characteristics of the epithalamium is the persistence of certain topics - the prayer, the praise of the bride and groom, the contest, etc. It was closely connected with actual customs. Thus the content of the wedding poem reflected to a very considerable extent actual wedding customs. The possibility of two influences - the direct influence of the actual wedding customs of the day as observed by the poet himself and the indirect influence of customs, often the same customs, affecting the poet through the work of his predecessors. The Greek from the Roman elements is not surprising therefore that the wedding, one of the oldest of human institutions, had in the customs of both races some identical or very similar features. Catullus is Romanizing a Greek genre. He knew both the Roman wedding customs and the Greek literature which embodied the Greek customs.
Ovid for example informs us that his poetry - apparently parts of the Heroides and Ars amatoria- was presented with dancing and music on the stage. Certain poems of Calvus and Catullus were sung in the time of Horace, and it is probable that such performances occurred while the two poets were still living. But for their period and indeed for generations before and after it, when poetry was composed chiefly for reading and recitation, one cannot assume without explicit evidence that a given piece was ever sung or accompanied by music. The hymn and other so called lyrics had become literary forms. They were often written as if for song, but as rule the poet’s use of lyric meters, his references to singing and music, the assignment of parts to various singers were then as now conventions. The wedding cry was used as a refrain by Sappho and was a traditional feature of wedding poetry, but there are no exact parallels in Greek for the complete forms which Catullus employs in the sixty-first and sixty-second poems. The cry is Greek, but it was intelligible to the Romans more than a hundred years before the time of Catullus, for Plautus uses it in one of his comedies. It must have been thoroughly Romanized, and the poets gave it various forms to suit the convenience of various meters. The sixty-second poem is a Graeco-Roman product but the Roman elements are so unobtrusive that it may fairly be described: as ''almost a Greek study.'' The central theme of the poem is the age-old contrast between virginity and wedlock: in short, marriage is the proper state of man. There are things which, if we may trust the meager evidence, are more Roman than Greek. The seizure of the bride with simulated violence can be proved to have occurred in Greece only among the Spartans; among the Romans it was a prominent custom. The insistence on law and rights – the bride's duty and the parents' authority (60-65), the ''equal'' marriage (57)-seems Roman. In the technique the Greek elements are obvious: the contest, the refrain, the amoebaean element, the symmetry. And again, the character of these phenomena shows that they came to Catullus from later Greek poetry. There is much that is Sapphic but there is also much that comes from later modes of thinking, and the art in general is certainly not Sappho's. There is no hint in the poem that it was written for a definite wedding. The whole is a poem, not a song, but it is throughout a well-nigh perfect reflection of song.
In every kind of poetry hitherto examined, we have seen that Catullus was strongly influenced by tradition, most strongly in his miniature epic, much less strong1y in the elegies and in the first wedding poem (LXI). We have seen that his poetry reflects both life and literature; that it is not only the product of his own experience and observation but also of his reading, his study, his discussions with his contemporaries. We have now come to that part of his work in which life pays its most important part. Among the Greeks and Romans the custom of composing poems or bits of prose to accompany a book of poems (sometimes a single poem) or a prose work was well established and was practiced in considerable variety. The dedication, the preface, the introduction, the epilogue, the program poem may all be grouped together as varieties of one general type. There are in Catullus four pieces, one of which is a mere fragment, belonging to this group: the first poem, which is almost purely a dedication, the fragment numbered XIVb, which certainly possesses elements of a preface or an epilogue, the first part of the sixty-eighth (LXVIIla), which was intended to perform the same function for the rest of that poem (LXVIIlb). It is a characteristic of the group that a reader or readers are addressed, often by name, and the four poems of Catullus illustrate both forms: three are addressed to individuals by name, the fourth (XIVb) to readers, although names may have occurred in that part of the poem which is lost. For example, the first poem of Catullus is chiefly dedicatory but it has a prefatory element. So the first ode of Horace is at once dedicatory and prefatory. Again the dedication may be expressed in a word or two which are part of a poem whose main content and purpose are not dedicatory, as in the first satire of Horace or the first elegy of Tibullus in which the addresses to Maecenas and Messalla respectively serve as dedications. The opening words imply that Catullus is following a custom : the dedicatory poem was a well recognized Greek type. The only other Greek details occur in the last two lines. For the idea that poets are clients of the Muses and the prayer to the Muses that a literary work may have long life. In content then the first poem is almost wholly Catullan. The Greek influence appears first of all in the type which Catullus here follows or (better) continues, and in several details of the technique. All these things had become as traditional as the sonnet form is with us and there is no evidence that Catullus had in mind any definite Greek poem or passage. In short Catullus here accepts a traditional Greek type together with a few of its details and expresses in it his own thoughts in a charming, intimate way which was attained nowhere else, so far as we know, in ancient literature. The choice of the meter also may have been his own idea. Other Romans must have preceded him in the composition of such poems and many fo1lowed his example, notably Martial, who often has the first poem in mind. Some poems of the erotic group supply good illustrations of Catullus' methods. The sparrow poems must be placed at the head of the list because in connection with them there is the richest Greek material. All are written in elegiac couplets, and Catullus' use of hendecasyllables: may be one of the novelties which he introduced. The Greeks then had long been accustomed to write little poems of this type, chiefly playful and pathetic variations on the sepulchral epigram, for most of them, like Catullus' third poem, deal with the death of a pet or some wild creature. But Catullus' poems are something more than examples of this simple type; they present not merely a picture of the pet in life or in death, they reflect also the mutual love of Lesbia and Catullus. The simple type has been developed into a subjective-erotic poem, In the second poem Lesbia plays with her sparrow to quiet the pangs of her love and the poet wishes that he might do likewise. In the third she weeps over the death of her dear pet and the poet identifies her grief with his own. But his pity for the sparrow is mingled with chiding because the pet as made his sweetheart's eyes so red! In one breath ''Poor little sparrow!'', in the next ''It's all your doing now that my sweetheart's eyes are swollen and red with weeping !'' These are the touches which change the type into love poetry. The touch of Catullus is more tender, more intimate. The third poem illustrates the same process; it combines the elements of the Greek sepulchral epigram and the epicede. As a whole it is a miniature epicede infused with the poet's own love. Many of the details of the two poems are Greek, but they are commonplaces, not imitations of definite passages. Lesbia loved the sparrow “more than her very eyes.'' This comparison appears first in Greek. In the two sparrow poems Catullus has taken Greek types at their best and adapted them to his own purposes. The eighth poem has always been a puzzle to scholars. The difficulty lies in the apparent contradiction between the first and the second halves of the poem. The first lines (1-11) have seemed to most readers to be very pathetic. The second part (12-19) is anything but pathetic. Catullus ere utilizes his knowledge of Greek literature in a manner which has hardly been suspected, and so the poem is an important illustration of my theme - the poem is not serious. It is ''a light and humorous presentation of a lover: Catullus himself playing the part-trying to move the heart of the inconstant girl by appeals and pathos and sternness and threats.'' Catullus is writing a certain type of poem, modifying it to suit his own relations with Lesbia. In particular he tones down some of the more extreme features of the type, but he accepts others which by their very inapplicability to Lesbia show that ''it is all a jest'' and that ''he is still her lover.'' Lesbia was witty, as we know from a number of the Lesbia poems; she and Catullus often jested together, and so when Catullus ''paid (her) the compliment of admitting her dominion over him by a humorous portrayal of himself in the character of a lover trying to touch her heart by the vain threat of leaving her, (she) certainly . . . . appreciated both the humor and the compliment.'' The type which Catullus has in mind appears first in Greek literature and Professor Morris supplies the evidence. The motive of the lover apparently resolved to break away from the girl but secretly hoping a reconciliation and so trying to browbeat or wheedle her into it appeared in the Greek New Comedy. No close parallel from the original Greek has happened to survive, The eighth poem then is an excellent illustration of one of the methods of Catullus: it combines elements from both life -his own life -and literature. He takes a typical situation from Greek erotic and applies it with imagination and with humor to his own case. He modifies it so little that the bookish, the traditional elements are still clear. Who can say whether the idea of writing such a poem first came to him from some experience of his own - some insignificant tiff with Lesbia - or from his reading? If the latter is true, the tiff is purely imaginary. At any rate both elements, life and literature, are there in the poem. It is impossible to say where Catullus got the bookish elements, but it is worth noting that the great storehouse of such motives was the New Comedy and that Menander was better known at Rome than any other Greek poet except Homer. The seventieth poem illustrates the same general method, only in this case we have some positive imitation : The unreliability of woman’s oaths had become proverbial. In composing his own poem however Catullus had in mind not only this misogynistic sentiment but also a definite poem of Callimachus. Again Catullus mingles the stuff of life and literature, and again we cannot say with certainty from which source the original suggestion came. Lesbia’s words about the rivalry of Jupiter show that she too was familiar with a commonplace of Greek erotic, and perhaps they reminded Catullus of the epigram of Callimachus. On the other hand, if the poet began with Callimachus, he worked out his own epigram as a whole in very different fashion. The whole poem is certainly not modeled throughout on Callimachus. In the group of invitations and greetings the thirteenth poem has a special interest. Catullus is here practicing a familiar type of Greek poem. The little drinking song (XXVII) represents a type practiced from time immemorial by the Greeks, a favorite type with Horace. The major part of the content also is traditional. In Greek both the situation - the poet addressing the slave who serves him - and the principle which he utters can be traced back to the fourth century B.C. In the twenty-seventh poem then Catullus continues an ancient type, best represented for us by the Greek sympotic epigrams ; he accepts a traditional situation, a traditional content, and touches up the whole with Roman and Greek details to suit his own purpose. The method is characteristic. The great mass of the short poems-the poems which represent the rule -fall between the two extremes. Each of them has one or two demonstrably Greek details, not enough to indicate a single Greek model or even the general use of Greek material. Nevertheless when grouped together these scattered parallels are instructive, for they reveal the poet's normal procedure and the range of these Greek details. And first the content: some of these things probably came to Catullus through his rhetorical training, not directly from his rea :ng. This is certainly the case with his use of the sands and stars for an indefinitely large number (VII), the winds carrying away empty words (XXX), cruelty expressed by comparisons to a lionness or to Scylla (LX). Greek technique may be illustrated by many of the figures. Sometimes Catullus himself was probably unconscious of this influence, but in most cases he certainly knew what he was doing-when, for example, he made use of Greek myths, Greek figures, hymn style, etc. Yet it is rarely possible to say that he was imitating a definite Greek passage. Among the Latinizations of single Greek words or very brief phrases a few are so unusual that we may infer the use of definite passages. For example when Catullus humorously renders laserpicifer (VII. 4) he must have had a passage of Callimachus (let us say) in mind, and one may suspect the same method in the cases of tardipes (XXXVI. 7), pinnipes and plumipcs (LV.3a, 5a). On the other hand, the phrase longe resonante (XI. 3) suggests the Homeric, though not a particular passage of Homer. In short poems Catullus was continuing and practicing freely in Latin a large number of Greek types which we still find in the Greek Anthology and in the remains of early Greek lyric. The surviving Greek examples, however, are rarely earlier than the fourth century B.C.-a condition due in part to the loss of most of the early Greek poetry of this sort. Under these general types it is possible to classify nearly all the short poems. I have already indicated these general categories : the invective or satiric poem, the erotic, the poem of invitation and greeting, the votive poem, the anecdote, the dedication, etc. Within these general types there are often sub-types or varieties. These last also quite often have Greek prototypes. In his short poems Catullus was not breaking absolutely new ground; he was not, in Horace's phrase, composing a kind of poetry untouched by the Greeks; rather he was continuing in Latin the same kinds and types of poetry that the Greeks had composed. In general he was working very freely, but the degree of his independence varies greatly in different cases. He never followed a single Greek model throughout one of his poem poems. This is the conclusion to be drawn from the extant evidence and it is supported by everything we know of the poet's methods. Even the fifty-first poem is not wholly based on Sappho, and among the short poems the fifty-first is the extreme case. If there is any other, either the Greek model is lost to us or Catullus has successfully concealed the act of his dependence. The single example in all his work of thorough-going dependence on one Greek poem is the avowed translation, LXVI. The result of this study of the short poems has been to reduce translation and imitation of definite Greek poems or passages to a minimum. The Greek element, which is very much less in amount than we found it to be in the longer and more elaborate poems, is almost entirely of a traditional character-traditional content, traditional technique -but at the same time it is used more independently than is the case with the longer poems because here tradition was less binding than it was, or example, in epic or in elegy. But the traditional element is there: in the idea of composing such a group, in the general types, in the meters, in the rhetorical touches, in a considerable number of miscellaneous details. Yet the content is to a very large extent Roman, often Catullan. The impulses which suggested these little poems are usually easy to discern; they sprang mostly from personal experiences or observations of the poet. Those which have no basis in reality, the ideal or purely fanciful poems, such as the hymn to Diana, Septimius and Acme, perhaps the Juventius cycle, do not on the most liberal estimate exceed twenty, and this total includes at least a dozen which are doubtful because we do not really know what suggested them. Catullus drew most of the material for his short poems from life itself, but their art could not have been what it was unless he had been thoroughly familiar with Greek poetry and its methods.