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5. Catullus as Epigrammatist

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In this module, we think about some of Catullus’ shorter poems, focusing in particular on: (i) the artistry of poem 85, including the balancing of phrases, the movement from active to passive verbs from the first to the second line, and the lack of any direct objects; (ii) the artistry of poem 70, including the repetition of the word ‘dicit’ (she said), the use of the word ‘sed’ (but), and the slight shift from ‘mea mulier’ (my woman) to simply ‘mulier’ (a woman) from the first to the second couplet; (iii) the epigrammatic nature of part of Ariadne’s speech in poem 64, including (once again) the delicate balancing of phrases, the use of the word ‘sed’ (but) to provide a turning-point, and the repetition of words in different senses; and (iv) the sense of balance in poem 62, which presents an ‘amoebean’ exchange between a group of girls on the one hand, and a group of boys on the other.


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.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Trimble, G. (2022, July 14). Catullus - Catullus as Epigrammatist [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Trimble, G. "Catullus – Catullus as Epigrammatist." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jul 2022,

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