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Catullus Biography

Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC) was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.
Catullus came from a leading equestrian family of Verona in Cisalpine Gaul, and according to St. Jerome, he was born in the town. The family was prominent enough for his father to entertain Caesar, then proconsul of both Gallic provinces. In one of his poems Catullus describes his happy return to the family villa at Sirmio on Lake Garda near Verona. The poet also owned a villa near the fashionable resort of Tibur (modern Tivoli);his complaints about his poverty must be taken with a grain of salt.
The poet appears to have spent most of his young adult years in Rome. His friends there included the poets Licinius Calvus, and Helvius Cinna, Quintus Hortensius (son of the orator and rival of Cicero) and the biographer Cornelius Nepos, to whom Catullus dedicated the extant libellus which is the basis of his fame.
He appears to have been acquainted with the poet Marcus Furius Bibaculus. A number of prominent contemporaries appear in his poetry, including Cicero, Caesar and Pompey. According to an anecdote preserved by Suetonius, Caesar did not deny that Catullus's lampoons left an indelible stain on his reputation, but when Catullus apologized, he invited the poet for dinner the very same day.
It was probably in Rome that Catullus fell deeply in love with the "Lesbia" of his poems, who is usually identified with Clodia Metelli, a sophisticated woman from the aristocratic house of patrician Claudii Pulchri and sister of the infamous Publius Clodius Pulcher. In his poems Catullus describes several stages of their relationship: initial euphoria, doubts, separation, and his wrenching feelings of loss. Many questions must remain unanswered - most importantly, it is not clear why the couple split up - but Catullus's poems about the relationship display striking depth and psychological insight. One such poem with insight to the reasons of his parting with "Lesbia" is poem 11, which is addressed to his companions Furius and Aurelius and requests them simply to pass a farewell insult to Lesbia.

He spent the provincial command year summer 57 to summer 56 BC in Bithynia on the staff of the commander C. Memmius. While in the East, he traveled to the Troad to perform rites at his brother's tomb, an event recorded in a moving poem.
There survives no ancient biography of Catullus: his life has to be pieced together from scattered references to him in other ancient authors and from his poems. Thus it is uncertain when he was born and when he died. St. Jerome says that he died in his 30th year, and was born in 87 BC. But the poems include references to events of 55 and 54 BC. Since the Roman consular fasti make it somewhat easy to confuse 87 – 57 BC with 84 – 54 BC, many scholars accept the dates 84 BC – 54 BC,[1] supposing that his latest poems and the publication of his libellus coincided with the year of his death, a most unlikely proposition.[why?]
Catullus's poems were widely appreciated by other poets, but Cicero despised them for their supposed amorality.[citation needed] Catullus was never considered one of the canonical school authors, although his body of work is on the reading lists for Ph.D. programs in the classics. Nevertheless, he greatly influenced poets such as Ovid, Horace, and Virgil. After his rediscovery in the late Middle Ages, Catullus again found admirers. His explicit writing style has shocked many readers, both ancient[citation needed] and modern.

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