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EARLY LYRIC POETRY AT ROME. 1. The beginnings of lyric poetry among the Romans reach back to the prehistoric period of the city, and were as rude and shapeless as was the life of her people. Amid the rough farmer-populace of the turf-walled village by the Tiber the Arval Brethren and the Salii chanted their rude litanies to the rustic deities, — for even then religion was a prime cause in moving men toward poetry. In roughly balanced Saturnian verses men spoke regret and panegyric for the dead and praises for the valorous deeds of the living. The mimetic passion and rude wit of the Roman led him also into boisterous personal satire and into epigram more pungent than polished. But until the last few decades of the Republic these products of the Muse are either anonymous or connected with names well-nigh forgotten, and the remnants that have come down to us display no striking poetic excellence.
2. The progress of a national literature is perhaps rarely by fits and starts, even though it appears so to be. But the front advances in such a uniform line, that only now and then, when one wave sweeps out far beyond the rest, is the general advance of the tide remarked. So it would probably be unjust to the unknown poets of the Roman Republic to believe that their work did not mark a continual advance from period to period in lyric feeling and expression. Yet only in the first half of the last century before Christ did Latin poetry enter upon its first period of brilliancy. Amid the hot passions, the vigorous hatreds, the feasts and brawls, the beauty and the coarseness, of life in the capital during this most active period in the his. tory of Rome, there arose a school of writers who, though often conservatives in politics, were radicals in poetry. The tendencies of the traditional Roman past were by them utterly disregarded. Inspiration was drawn from the stirring life into which they were plunged, as well as from the sympathetic study of the sources of poetic art among both the earlier Greeks and the Alexandrians. As was to be expected, their models of rhythm were not the rude hexameters and ruder Saturnians of their Roman predecessors, but the more polished versification of the Greeks; and their subjects were sometimes their own personal experiences and emotions, and sometimes themes suggested by their Greek prototypes. So a new school of Roman poetry arose and flourished, to be superseded in turn by the polished Augustans, who cultivated the niceties of elegance, but at the expense of verve.
3. Of this new school of poets the most prominent and interesting figure is Catullus. It is possible to know him personally as only now and then an ancient writer can be known to us, and yet he gives us but few definite biographical facts concerning himself, while still fewer are given by other authors of his own and later ages. But the little body of poems that constitute his extant works is so replete with his intense personality, and shows forth so unreservedly his every emotion, that the man stands out before us as does no other man of the age with the exception of two or three of its political leaders. And all this is true, even though we acknowledge, as we are bound to do, that in many questions of importance concerning his life we must be content with a working hypothesis instead of a series of established facts, and that the biographer, as the interpreter of the poems of Catullus, must be understood to be presenting probabilities, and not certainties.
4. With regard to his full name we are left in some doubt. He refers to himself by name in his poems twenty-five times, but in each case only by the cognomen, Catullus, while the better manuscripts of his writings are inscribed simply Catulli Veronensis Liber. Yet there is no difficulty in ascertaining his gentile name from other writers. Varro (L. L. VII. 50), Suetonius (Iul. 73), Porphyrio (on Hor. Sat. I. 10. 19), Charisius (I. 97), Jerome (Chron. a. Abr. 1930), all give it as Valerius. There are fewer references to his prænomen. Four of the later and interpolated manuscripts give it in their titles as Quintus, and until lately it was supposed that to this indication might be added the testimony of the elder Pliny (N. H. XXXVII. 81). Relying upon such authority Scaliger went so far as to emend 6.67. 12 so as to bring in for the unintelligible words qui te the prænomen of the poet in the vocative, Quinte ; and his suggestion won the approval of even so keen a critic as Lachmann. But it is now universally conceded that the initial Q. prefixed to the word Catullus in the passage specified from Bliny is an interpolation, the best MS., the codex Bambergensis, containing only the cognomen without prefix. There is, moreover, positive evidence in favor of a different prænomen. Jerome (1.c.), in speaking of the birth of the poet, calls him in full C. Valerius Catullus, and Apuleius (Apol. 10), whose accuracy, however, in the matter of names is not above suspicion, calls him C. Catulius. In the face, then, of the testimony of interpolated manuscripts only, his prænomen must stand established as Gaius.
5. Concerning the birthplace of Gaius Valerius Catullus there is abundant testimony. The titles of the best MSS. of his works call him Veronensis, and Jerome (1.c.) declares him born at Verona. In this testimony concur his admirers among the poets of the centuries immediately following (e.g. Ov. Am. III. 15. 7; Mart. I. 61. I; X. 103. 5; XIV. 195 ; Auson. Op. 23. I); and his own writings furnish confirmatory evidence of the same fact. He calls himself (c. 39. 13) Transpadanus • he possessed a villa at Sirmio on the shore of Lacus Benacus near Verona (c. 31); he was acquainted with Veronese society (cc. 67, 100); and he spent part of his time at Verona (cc. 35, 684).
DATE OF BIRTH AND OF DEATH. 6. The year of his birth and that of his death are stated by Jerome in his edition of the Chronicles of Eusebius, probably on the authority of the De Poetis of Suetonius. Under date of the year of Abraham 1930 (= B.C. 87) Jerome says, Gaius Valerius Catullus scriptor lyricus Veronae nascitur, and under chat of 1960, or, according to some MSS., 1959 (= B.C. 57, or 58), he says, Catullus XXX. aetatis anno Romae moritur. There is nothing to contradict Jerome's date for the birth of the poet, but unfortunately for our belief in his entire accuracy, a number of the poems of Catullus were clearly written later than B.C. 57, — some of them at least as late as the end of the year 55 B.C., or the beginning of the year 54 (e.g. CC. II, 29, 53, 113). Jerome is, therefore, certainly wrong about the date of the poet's death, and hence about at least one of the two other statements, the date of his birth and his age at death. The only scrap of evidence from other sources on these points is the vague statement of Ovid that Catullus died young (Am. III. 9. 62 obuius huic [in Elysio] hedera iuuenalia cinctus tempora cum Caluo, docte Catulle, tuo).
7. The poems of Catullus himself furnish us, however, with some good negative evidence concerning the date of his death. It probably occurred in the year 54 B.C. In the first place, there are no poems that clearly must have been written later than the close of the year 55 B.C., or the earlier months of the year 54, nor any that are even capable of more ready explanation, if a later date for their composition be supposed. The remark about the consulship of Vatinius (c. 52), which did not take place till the end of the year 47 B.C., forms no exception to this statement (cf. Commentary), and the prosecution of