The Poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus/Preface

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’’Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me’’- You will dine well with me, dear Fabullus - Poem 13

This book is designed to introduce people to the poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus, an influential and gifted poet. Formatted as a Wikibook, its strength lies in the influx of ideas from a global perspective to provide the best critical analysis of Catullus and his Carmina possible. We hope that you find the content interesting and informative to your purposes. The poems here have the original Latin and an English translation, combined with notes about the poem, vocabulary, and links to other resources on the net. Contextual allusions are explained to create a vivid picture of Roman life and all of its specifics.

None of the notes or translations are copyrighted and can be used without consequence. You are also invited to contribute to the pages here and to be bold in making changes and suggestions. This book is constantly growing and developing, to encompass a global community of scholars here at Wikibooks.

Catullus is a common first choice for students of Latin. His poems are concise and elegant and not laden with unnecessarily complex grammar and vocabulary. But more importantly, he is a fun loving personality, who wrote about many themes as common today as they were then; love, betrayal, friendship, and rivalry. He is also one of the few writers of whom a nearly complete body of work has survived, the Carmina. While this may not have been the original order that Catullus intended, it tells us a rich and fluent story of his experiences, something like an ancient stream of consciousness and internal thoughts. This is a valuable window into the life of a fascinating man.

His works are also valuable for their literary excellence. Catullus was of the era of “Golden Latin”, considered in the past to be the pinnacle of Roman literature. He has also been classed with the Latin “Neoterics” or “poetae novi” as Cicero degradingly called them. These were young poets and writers who broke away from the conventions of long epics and historical writing to try to express themselves through short, light hearted verses about the ordinary concerns of the average man. Horace, Ovid and Propertius were also part of this new literary revolution. Whilst epic and historical narratives are important resources for a historian, it is the complaints and celebration of an ordinary man that speaks across the millennia. Lust for a beautiful girl, a sinking feeling of despair and a tortured mind, forced to accept the truth are as relevant to modern humankind as they were to the Ancient Romans. Many of the techniques and ideas in Catullus’s poetry are still common in today’s popular writing.

Enjoy reading!