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Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 B.C. – c. 54 B.C.) Poems 28, 29, and 57

Poem 28. To Veranius and Fabullus.

Hey! -- It’s Piso’s buddies, his flat-broke crew, with their bundled-up, handy little sacks! Awesome Veranius, and you, my Fabullus, how’s it going? Haven’t you suffered enough cold and hunger with that loser? In the account-books, is there a payment of a little profit, so that I, having accompanied my own praetor, might pay a gift back to myself with a little profit? Oh, Memmius, well and for a long time while I was on my back you, at your ease, shoved your dick — the whole rod — into my mouth. But, as far as I see it, you were in the same boat: for with a prick that wasn’t the least bit smaller you were stuffed. Seek out some noble friends! And may the gods and goddesses grant you many evils, you disgraces to Romulus and Remus.

Notes:

Veranius and Fabullus were noble friends of Catullus, who served together in Spain and in Macedonia. In Macedonia, they served under Piso.

Piso. Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus was consul in 58 B.C. and was the Roman governor of Macedonia from 57 to 55 B.C. He was also Julius Caesar’s father-in-law.

Praetor. A magistrate, often used to administer Rome’s colonial provinces. Here praetor is a reference to Memmius, Catullus’ boss in the Roman territory of Bithynia (in modern Turkey).

Memmius. Gaius Memmius was the praetor of Bithynia circa 57 B.C. Catullus served on his staff in Bithynia for about a year.

Romulus and Remus. The legendary founders of the city of Rome.

Poem 29. To Romulus the Boy-Toy.

Who can see this, who can stand it, unless he’s shameless, greedy, and a gambler,

that Mamurra has what long-haired Gaul and farthest Britain had before? Romulus the Boy-Toy, will you see and put up with this crap? And will Mamurra now, proud and overflowing, fly through everyone’s beds like a little white dove or an Adonis? Romulus the Boy-Toy, will you see and put up with this crap? You are shameless, greedy, and a gambler. “Sole Commander,” was it in Mamurra’s name that you were in the farthest island of the west? So that your fucked-out Prick might eat his fill two or three hundred times? What else is this perverse liberality? Did he not squander enough, or waste enough money? First, his father’s goods were torn to pieces. Second, the war spoils from Pontus. Then third, the booty from Spain, which the gold-bearing Tagus River knows. Now he’s feared by Gaul and Britain. What of this wickedness do you support? Or what can he do except devour fattened-up estates? Was it in Mamurra’s name — the richest of the city — that you lost everything, father-in-law and son-in-law?

Notes:

Romulus the Boy-Toy. This is a very insulting name for Gnaeus Pompey Magnus (d. 48 B.C.), “Pompey the Great,” Julius Caesar’s ally in the First Triumvirate, his son-in-law, and his eventual enemy in civil war. While “Romulus” is a reference to the founder of Rome, the Latin word catamitus, which I’ve translated here very tamely as “Boy- Toy,” was exceptionally offensive in Roman culture when applied to an adult man like Pompey.

Mamurra was from the noble “equestrian” social class in Rome, and was a close ally of both Pompey and Julius Caesar. Mamurra accompanied Caesar on various military campaigns as his praefectus fabrum (a military engineer, or a special technical assistant). As we learn from this poem, the corrupt Mamurra got rich from this relationship, by financially exploiting the lands that his friends Caesar and Pompey had invaded.

Gaul. A region in western Europe subdued by Caesar after a years- long military campaign against the “long-haired” native tribes. Today it is mostly France.

Britain. The island that today constitutes England and Scotland. Caesar conducted two brief military expeditions in Britain, but failed to conquer it.

Adonis was a figure from Greek and Roman mythology, a symbol of beauty and desire.

Sole Commander. This is a reference to Julius Caesar.

Farthest island of the west. Britain.

Prick. Catullus in his poems often referred to Mamurra with the very crude Latin slang term mentulus (“Prick”).

Pontus. This is a region in Anatolia (modern Turkey) on the Black Sea, annexed by the Romans in 63 B.C.

Tagus River. A major river in the Iberian Peninsula, the Tagus runs east-west through what is today Spain and Portugal.

The city. Rome.

Father-in-law and son-in-law. Gnaeus Pompey had married Julius Caesar’s daughter Julia in 59 B.C., solidifying their political alliance by becoming family.

Poem 57. To Gaius Julius Caesar.

They go together well, those perverted dicksuckers who take it up the ass: Caesar and Mamurra. No wonder! On both — one’s from the city, the other from Formia — the same stains are soaked in deeply, and won’t go away. Alike diseased, both twins, two guys with a little bit of game, in one little bed. One’s not a more hungry adulterer than the other — companions, and rivals, among the little girls. They go together well, those perverted dicksuckers.

Notes:

Gaius Julius Caesar (100 B.C. – 44 B.C.). As we’ve already seen above, Catullus was very familiar with Julius Caesar, a populist politician from an elite Roman family and a supremely talented

general. Catullus was only one of many voices in Rome criticizing Caesar for his political ambition and for his sexual impropriety. After Catullus’ death, that impropriety included, most famously, the married Caesar’s very public adultery with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, with whom he fathered an illegitimate son.

The city. Rome.

Formia is a city on the western coast of Italy, about a hundred miles south of Rome. It was Mamurra’s hometown.