Places: Carmina

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First transcribed: c. 50 b.c.e. (English translation, 1894)

Type of work: Poetry

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Rome

*Rome. CarminaCenter of Roman civilization that is the backdrop for most of Catullus’s poems. His verses include descriptions of the cosmopolitan circle in which he lived and wrote. When he describes the Spaniard Egnatius or his Roman friends Furius and Aurelius, for example, he does so from the perspective of an urban and urbane Roman.


*Verona. Catullus’s birthplace in northern Italy. His affection for Verona is reflected in the poems in which he mentions visits to the city or people and things associated with Verona. Catullus uses Verona and other towns as opportunities to celebrate his love of Italy and to satirize features of Italian life.


*Bithynia (bah-THIHN-ee-ah). Roman province in what is now Turkey, where Catullus spent an unsuccessful period as a minor administrative official. It provides the poet with occasion to laugh at himself and his unfulfilled ambitions of fortune-hunting there. In one poem, he presents Bithynia as an exotic place where a Roman official might acquire slaves to carry a litter.


*Troy. Region in Asia Minor associated with the ancient city of Troy that was, for Catullus, a place for mourning. In several poems he mentions the death and burial of his brother there, and one poem describes how he grieves at his brother’s tomb, dampening the soil of Troy with his own tears.

BibliographyConte, Gian Biagio. Latin Literature: A History. Translated by Joseph B. Solodow and revised by Don Fowler and Glenn W. Most. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. An excellent introduction to Catullus and his works in this comprehensive volume. Despite the relatively limited space, Catullus’ verse is explored in some detail.Ferguson, John. Catullus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Examines the life, career, and achievements of Catullus. Helpful on Catullus’ style and its influence on later writers.Janan, Micaela Wakil. “When the Lamp Is Shattered”: Desire and Narrative in Catullus. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994. Examines various approaches to Catullus’ work in terms of culture and sex. Sees Catullus as setting up “oscillations” between contradictory elements in human beings.Martin, Charles. Introduction to Poems of Catullus, by Catullus. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. In his introduction, Martin notes that Catullus was a technically accomplished poet who influenced modern writers such as Robert Frost and Ezra Pound.Stuart Small, G. P. Catullus: A Reader’s Guide to the Poems. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1983. A close-reading explication of Catullus’ works. Helpful in resolving textual problems.Zetzel, James E. Z. “Catullus.” In Ancient Writers: Greece and Rome. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982. An excellent starting point for study of the poet. Provides a fairly comprehensive survey of Catullus’ accomplishments, set within the context of Latin literature.
Categories: Places