The Roman Empire began to develop following the death of
Alexander in 323 B.C.
By end of 1st century B.C., the empire stretched from the
Strait of Gibraltar to Palestine.
Unlike Greeks, "Romans were above all a practical
people" (Norton [earlier edition] 987).
Conservative, held fast to mos maiorum, "the
custom of the predecessors" (19).
Latin writers "borrowed wholesale" from the Greek
originals, "as a tribute to the source" (Norton 20).
By end of 1st century B.C., Rome mired in civil wars due
to the instability of the city-states system.
44 B.C.: Julius Caesar died.
By 31 B.C., his nephew, Octavius, controlled the
western half of the empire, Marc Antony controlled eastern
half of the empire.
In 31 B.C., Octavius defeats Marc Antony, along with
Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, at Actium, thus uniting the empire
under one authority.
A.D. 96-180: "The longest period of peace that has ever
been enjoyed by the inhabitants of an area that included
Britain, France, all southern Europe, the Middle East, and the
whole of North Africa" (Norton [earlier
As empire fell to "barbaric invaders from the north" in
3rd and 4th centuries, the Catholic church, "with its center
and spiritual head in Rome, converted the new inhabitants,"
replacing secular authority with spiritual authority (Norton[earlier edition] 988).
84-54 B.C.: Catullus
70-19 B.C.: Virgil
43 B.C.- ca. A.D. 17: Ovid
31 B.C.: Battle of Actium
476 A. D.: Fall of Rome
Gaius Valerius Catullus (84?-54? B.C.)
Imitated Greek Poets, wrote long poems on Greek
"Lesbia": poetic representation of Roman woman with
whom Catullus had tumultuous affair
**Homework Questions ** 19:
How, according to the editors, did the ancient Greeks and
What does "mos maiorum" mean?
How is Catullus's poetry different from traditional Roman
Poem 5: "Let's live, Lesbia mine, and love"
What is carpe diem? How is it expressed in this
What will the old men say about their expressions of
love? Why doesn't Catullus care?
Poem 51: "In my eyes he seems like god's co-equal"
How does this poem compare to Sappho's "He
seems to me equal to gods"? (See also p. 20)
Explain the final stanza.
Poem 72: "You told me once, Lesbia"
Explain what Catullus means when he says he once loved
her "as a father loves his sons and sons-in-law" (4).
Explain the final three sentences.
Poem 83: "Lesbia keeps insulting me"
How is Lesbia's criticism of him to her husband a "good
thing" for Catullus?
Here's an alternative translation, taken from the Penguin
edition of Catallus's works:
Lesbia is extraordinarily vindictive
about me in front of her husband
who is thereby moved to fatuous laughter --
a man mulishly insensitive, failing to grasp
that a mindless silence (about me) spells safety
while to spit out my name in curses, baring
her white teeth, means she remembers me, and
what is more pungent still, is scratching the wound
ripening herself while she talks.
Other Discussion Questions: 569: "You'd like to know how many of your kisses"
What are the similarities and differences between this
poem and "Let's live, Lesbia mine, and love"?