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Catullus wrote his poems and epigrams of personal life during the late Roman Republic, and they survive in an anthology of more than a hundred items. Many are caustic, satirical, and erotic, often lampooning well-known characters of the day including Julius Caesar and his friends. Others are tender, solemn, and graceful. His is a poetry valuing individual charm, friendship and the intimate, far from the grandeur of epic or the concerns of politics. Probably bisexual himself, Catullus deals overtly with sexuality, love and manners, in a period of apparent social freedom before the more puritanical mood of the early Empire held sway. He was a significant influence on the 'love' poets of the golden age of Latin, such as Horace, Ovid, Propertius and Tibullus, though his alertness to the defects of character of many of his contemporaries, and his often mocking style, make him seem close also to the satirists, Juvenal, Persius and Martial. His is a perennial voice, and his humour and his humanity are both obvious and enjoyable two thousand years later.
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|Publisher:||Poetry in Translation|
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About the Author
Gaius Valerius Catullus (c84-54? BC) was born in Verona, in Cisalpine Gaul. His father, a leading citizen, entertained Julius Caesar during the latter’s provincial governorships and Catullus knew many celebrated figures in the Rome of his day. A family villa was at Sirmio on Lake Garda, and the area is celebrated in his poems. Catullus himself also owned a villa at Tivoli (Tibur). The subject of a number of his poems, a purported mistress whom he named Lesbia, was probably Clodia Metelli, of patrician family. Her presence in his poetry allows him to display all the vicissitudes of relationship, from deep love to cruel infidelity. He spent a year (57-56BC) in Bithynia on the staff of Gaius Memmius, and travelled to his own brother’s tomb in the Troad, giving rise to one of his most memorable and beautiful poems. The date of his death is not known, but is surmised to have occurred not long after the references in his poems to events which took place in 55 and 54BC.