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Love and Romance in Greece and Rome

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Study Guide for Catullus [84-54 BCE]

From the readings and class discussions, know the following names and terms:

lyric meters
dactylic hexameter
elegiac couplet
servitium amoris

As you do your reading, consider the following questions:
1. What kind of attitude does Catullus have toward his friends? toward his enemies? Are there any kinds of words, terms, or attitudes that he associates with each of the two groups?

2. What are Catullus' standards for good poetry? How do each of the poems in which he discusses poetry exemplify the standards he sets for himself? Is there any connection between Catullus' attitude to his poetry and to his life in general, at least as it is portrayed in the poems?

3. How does Catullus portray himself in the poems on poetry? in the epigrams? in the lyric poems? in the Lesbia poems? Is the picture a unified one or not? To what extent is it real and to what extent is it a persona?

4. How does Catullus define his feelings for Lesbia? What words, images, or metaphors? What basis in the relationship does the metaphor servitium amoris have? What non-erotic words does Catullus use to explain his feelings about Lesbia? Why does he use them? What satiric or epigrammatic elements can be found in the Lesbia poems?

5. Do you think Catullus could in reality have been as innocent of Lesbia's true feelings as he says he was? In general, to what extent do you think each of the Lesbia poems is an independent and spontaneous outpouring of emotion and to what extent is the collection a carefully calculated cycle and Catullus' personality in them a persona?

6. What is an epyllion? To what extent do Peoms 63-64 exhibit features of the epyllion? How does Catullus structure the longer poems? What parallels are there between the characters in 63-64 and the characters populating Catullus' shorter poems?


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