Quote for the day

I Hate

I love

“I will sodomize and face-f*ck you” – Catullus 16

I hate and I love. And if you ask me how, I do not know: I only feel it, and I am torn in two.

By Catullus 84-54 BCE

Born to a equestrian (noble) family in Verona, Catullus belonged to the elite. His family entertained Julius Caesar when he was just a Proconsul and owned multiple villas. Like any boy whose family has money, he went to the then equivalent of New York City – Rome – and became an artist. Later in life, he roasted Julius but, according to the historian Suetonius, when he apologized Caesar invited him to dinner. That said, Suetonius was writing about a hundred years after the fact so there’s no way to know if the story is true or not.

Everything we know about Catullus is about his younger years. He generally comes across the edgy artist archetype who died around age thirty. Like most young Romans of noble families, he had a governmental job and went to Bithynia around two years before he died, where he served as an aide to Gaius Memmius, the local Governor. We also know he was overwhelmed with grief at his brother’s death. We don’t know why his brother died, but we know his ashes were kept in Northwestern Anatolia, near the ancient City of Troy.

Not much of Catullus’ writing survives today. We know he existed because there are a lot of references to him throughout the next several centuries, but his actual work was lost for more than a thousand years, and surfaced in a single manuscript in 1300. We don’t even have the original manuscript, just three copies of it. They contain about 116 of his poems or “Carmen.” The names are typically given as “Carmen #” or “Catullus #” and you’ll see either if you search them. Carmen is generally translated as “poem,” but the root is probably from a word relating to song or singing. Poetry wasn’t held in great esteem by the Romans until the Augustinian period. At the time of Catullus, it was seen as suspicious and a little too effeminate. If you did like poetry, it was far more fashionable to be like Cicero who preferred poetry that was martial and epic…

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