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3. Catullus and Myth

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In this module, we explore Catullus’ presentation of the myth of Theseus and Ariadne in Catullus 64, focusing in particular on: (i) the framing of the myth of Theseus and Ariadne, and the concept of ecphrasis; (ii) the similarities between Ariadne and another abandoned princess, Media; (iii) the similarities between Ariadne and Sophocles’ Ajax, including Ariadne’s curse that Theseus suffer from the same forgetfulness/carelessness that he has shown to her; (iv) the similarities between Ariadne in Catullus 64 and yet another abandoned princess: Dido in Virgil’s Aeneid; (v) the importance of the concept of ‘forgetfulness’ in Theseus’ behaviour and Ariadne’s curse: Theseus ‘forgets’ to take Ariadne with him so he is cursed to ‘forget’ to change the sails on his ship from black to white, leading to the death of his father; and (vi) the arrival of Bacchus to the scene, and the tension between how much space Bacchus and his retinue must take up in the picture and how little of Catullus’ poem is devoted to describing him.


In this course, Dr Gail Trimble (University of Oxford) explores the poetry of Catullus (c. 84-54 BC). In the first module, we think Catullus’ first poem and what it might tell us about what he hopes to achieve with his poetry – which he describes as a ‘charming little book’ (lepidum … libellum) filled with ‘trivialities’ (nugae). After that, we think about the figure of ‘Lesbia’, the women with whom Catullus has a tempestuous relationship – and who may or may not be based on a real Roman woman. In the third module, we think about Catullus’ presentation of myth, looking in particular at his longest poem (64), before turning in the fourth module to consider Catullus’ invective poems. In the fifth module, we read through some of Catullus’ shorter poems – in particular poems 85 and 70 – before turning in the final module to think about the generic variety of Catullus’ collection.


Dr Gail Trimble is Associate Professor in Classical Languages and Literature at the University of Oxford. She works primarily on Latin poetry, with particular interests in Catullus, Ovid, Virgil and Horace. She is currently completing a commentary on Catullus 64, with newly edited text, to appear in the Cambridge University Press series Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries.

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APA style

Trimble, G. (2022, July 14). Catullus - Catullus and Myth [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Trimble, G. "Catullus – Catullus and Myth." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jul 2022,

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