The Poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus/7

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Catullus 7 is one of Catullus's poems to his Lesbia. This seems to have been written at a particularly passionate stage of the affair, as the poem has no negative connotations, or doubts, as in others.

Text & Translation[edit | edit source]

Meter - Hendecasyllabic

Line Latin Text English Translation
1 quaeris quot mihi basiationes You ask how many kissings
2 tuae Lesbia sint satis superque Of yours, Lesbia, would be enough and more for me.
3 quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae As great as the number of Libyan sands
4 lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis That lie in lasarpicium-bearing Cyrene
5 oraclum Iovis inter aestuosi Between the oracle of sweltering Jupiter
6 et Batti veteris sacrum sepulcrum And the sacred tomb of old Battus,
7 aut quam sidera multa cum tacet nox Or as many as the stars that, when the night is silent,
8 furtivos hominum vident amores See people's secret love affairs:
9 tam te basia multa basiare For you to kiss so many kisses
10 vesano satis et super Catullo est Is enough and more for love-crazy Catullus,
11 quae nec pernumerare curiosi And which inquiring men could not count completely
12 possint nec mala fascinare lingua Nor an evil tongue bewitch.

Connotations of The Text[edit | edit source]

Line 3[edit | edit source]

  • Libya - Africa

This is not to be confused with the present day nation of Libya. The Romans called the continent of Africa Libya and our modern day nation of Libya was known as Africa.

  • quam magnus numerus Libysae harenae - as great a number of the Libyan sands

A common metaphor for infinity, Catullus stresses his desire for Lesbia through this wish. The message here is, that no amount of kisses will be enough for Catullus. This is also a stereotypical way of expressing love which makes it original by naming the beach but it doesn't give it a romantic aspect but a learned aspect because of Lesbia

Line 4[edit | edit source]

  • lasarpiciferis - silphium bearing

Libya was the centre of producing the plant lasarpicium of which is the gum asa foetida. The gum was used as a cure for baldness and many illnesses and conditions, as well as a contraceptive and abortifacient - it would be administered to a woman to terminate a pregnancy.

Line 6[edit | edit source]

  • Battus - the founder of Cyrene

In 700 BC Battus founded of the city of Cyrene in what is now Libya. His tomb, mentioned here as sacrum sepulchrum [sacred tomb] was 300 miles away from the Oracle of Jupiter, and some Romans used to venture out into the desert in the hope of finding it, and receiving a vision.

Battus' father was Polymnestus, a descendant of the Argonaut Euphemus. After leaving Lemos for Lacedaemonia, they were forced to leave Lacedaemonia and settle in Thera. His mother was a native-born Cretan called Phronime. Battus' real name has come under dispute; some have said his real name was Aristaeus.

Cyrene, furthermore, was connected to the poet Callimachus. Callimachus was considered chief of the elegiac poets; his elegies were highly esteemed by the Romans (see Neoterics), and imitated by Catullus.

Line 7[edit | edit source]

  • aut quam sidera multa - or as many as are the stars

The number of stars in the sky is how many kisses is enough for Catullus. This of course is infinite and the poetic reference serves to make his point within the metaphor.

Line 8[edit | edit source]

  • furtivos hominum vident amores - which see the secret love affairs of men

Could this be a clear reference to Catullus himself?

Line 11[edit | edit source]

  • curiosi - inquiring men

This is a reference to the gossip that was present at the time of Catullus' affair. He is thought to have been having an affair with a senator's wife, and as such the gossip in the Senate was potentially damaging.

Line 12[edit | edit source]

  • mala fascinare lingua - an evil tongue bewitch

In witchcraft, it was believed that if the evil one had a specific number that was related to the victim, [in this case the number of kisses] then it would make the spell more effective. Catullus is urging Lesbia to kiss him so many times that any potential evil-doer would not be able to count them. This would also serve to quench Catullus' lust for Lesbia.

Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

Line 1[edit | edit source]

  • quaero, -ere, -sivi, -situm - seek; ask
  • basiatio, -onis, f. - kissifications [real word]

Line 2[edit | edit source]

  • satis superque - enough and more than enough

Line 3[edit | edit source]

  • Libyssus, -a, -um (Libya, -ae, f.) - Libyan
  • harena, -ae, f. - sand; beach

Line 4[edit | edit source]

  • lasarpicifer, -era, -erum - silphium bearing; plant used in medicine for baldness - the gum of which is called asa foetida
  • Cyrenae, -arum, f. (Cyrenis - locative. case) - Cyrene, North East Africa

Line 5[edit | edit source]

Line 6[edit | edit source]

  • vetus, veteris (adj.) - aged; old; ancient
  • sepulcrum, -i, n. - tomb; grave;

Line 7[edit | edit source]

  • sidus, sideris, n. - a group of stars; the heavens

Line 8[edit | edit source]

  • furtivus, -a, -um - secret; concealed; stolen

Line 9[edit | edit source]

  • basiare - to kiss

Line 10[edit | edit source]

  • vesanus, -a, -um - mad; insane; wild; love-sick

Line 11[edit | edit source]

  • curiosus, -a, -um - curious; nosy; inquisitive; thoughtful

Line 12[edit | edit source]

  • fascino, fascinare, fascinum, -i, n. - enchant; bewitch; fascinate
  • lingua, -ae, f. - tongue; speech; language

External Links[edit | edit source]