Gaius Valerius Catullus (Catullus)

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Gaius Valerius Catullus (Catullus)

Before 80-After 54 b.c.e.

Poet

Sources

The New Poets. Catullus was born in Verona into a wealthy family, probably in the late 80s B.C.E. He owned estates in Tibur and the Peninsula Sirmio in Lake Garda. His father, who was personally acquainted with powerful Roman figures such as Metellus and Julius Caesar, sent Catullus to Rome for his education. Having little or no political ambition, he joined a group that Cicero called the “new poets” (for their innovative approach to poetry), and fell in love with a woman whom, in his passionate love poems, he calls Lesbia. According to an ancient source she was Clodia, the wife of Metellus and sister of Cicero’s nemesis, Clodius. At one point Catullus traveled to Asia Minor, where he also visited his brother’s grave near Troy. The theory that he turned to writing mime for the stage in the 50s B.C.E. is attractive. He died some time after 54 B.C.E.

Sources

William W. Batstone, “Catullus,” in Ancient Roman Writers, Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 211, edited by Ward W. Briggs (Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli Clark Layman / Detroit: Gale Group, 1999), pp.41-53.

Micaela Janan, “When the Lamp is Shattered”: Desire and Narrative in Catullus (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994).

Timothy P. Wiseman, Remus: A Roman Myth (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).