CATUL'LUS, GAI I'S VA LERIUS (c.87-c.54 n.c.). The greatest of the Roman lyric poets. lle was born in Verona, of a respected and well-to-do family. Very little is known of his personal life, though much may he learned from his poems, which are intensely subjective. He set tied in Rome in early life, and was on terms of familiarity with the leading men of the day C:esa• and Cicero among them—though he was himself in rather moderate circumstances, at least from the point of view of a bon eirant who required wealth to gratify his needs. In Rome he formed a passionate attachment for a woman whom he celebrates in his verse under the name of 'Lesbia."I'licre is little doubt that she was Clodia, the amorous and licentious sister of ('icero's enemy, B. Clodius Butcher. This was the consuming passion of his life, and the theme of many of his finest lyrics, in which we have tne throbbing life of an emotional yet not quite mature genius. In them we read the story of his earlier hopes and joys, then his jealousy, his quarrels and reconciliations, and at last his awak ening to the bitter truth, and his despair when he fully came to recognize the shamelessness and open infidelity of the woman whom he loved. Catullus is intensely personal in his poetry and utterly without reserve; and many of his shorter poems breathe the deepest affection for his friends, with the most stinging invective for his ene mies. The spirit of his love poetry is that
of the modern decadent Italian; so that in style, in temperament, and in imaginative eroti cism, Catullus is the literary prototype of Ca bride d'Annunzio. his longer poems are largely based on Alexandrian Creek models. The most notable are the two cpithalamia, or marriage entitled the .Vaptials of 'Welts and Thetis—and the weird, imaginative poem Ws, in strange Calliambic verse. This composition has no parallel in Roman literature and its spirit shows a subtle Oriental influence. Catul Ins was a master of poetic diction, and the most original of the Roman poets if we except Lucre tius. His shorter verse, however, is often marred by gross sensuality and even frank obscenity. De died at an early age, about mc. 5-1. We possess one hundred and sixteen of his poems.
The best editions of Catullus are those by Mit rens (Leipzig, 1885) and R. Ellis (Oxford, 1878; with standard commentary, ISS9) : there is a very good pocket edition by Postgate (London, 1889). Ile has been often translated into Eng lish—by Lamb ( 1821 ), Martin ( 186 t ) , Cran stoun (1867), Ellis (1871), Hart Davies (1879), and Craut Allen (the Attis only. 1892). Consult Sellar. Roman Peels of the Republic (Edinburgh, 1S63; 2d ed. ISS1).