Catullus and his World: A Reappraisal
Chapter Titles for the book:
a.. A World not Ours
b.. Clodia: Pleasure and Sway
c.. The Trial of Marcus Caelius
d.. Catullus in Context
e.. 'LESBIA ILLA'
f.. The Unknown Catullus
g.. The Afterlife of Lesbia
From the Preface:
"...The first three chapters of this book do not concern Catullus himself directly. After an introduction to warn the reader that the world of the first century B.C.. is more alien than we sometimes think, the high society and political life of the Rome of that time are illustrated through the personalities of Clodia Metelli and M. Caelius Rufus. Traditionally (since 1862), those two individuals have been treated as part of Catullus' own story. I have quite deliberately kept them separate, preferring to emphasise the limits of our knowledge, which those who believe in the traditional view have not always recognised. But I hope that any reader who really must identify Clodia Metelli as Catullus' 'Lesbia', and Caelius Rufus as his successful rival for her favours, will be able, without too much mental effort, to make his own synthesis of chapters II, III and V. As the final chapter shows, he will be in good company."
A World not Ours
Wiseman stresses that we know less about the period than we think, most of what we know is about politics via Cicero. We might get a different pictures it we had a set other--no longer extant--writings instead, which might have been more helpful to understand Catullus.
He invites us to study Ancient Rome like "visiting some teeming capital in a dangerous ill-governed foreign country, nothing can relied upon, most of what you see s squalid, sinister, or unintelligible, and you are disproportionately grateful when you find something you can recognize as familiar."
He then discusses at length "gratuitous" violence and explicit sex, having warned that the rest of the chapter is not for the squeamish.
Clodia: Pleasure and Sway
That chapter discusses the Claudians and their connections and he tries to get beyond Cicero's hostile rhetoric on Clodia. He discusses her connections to the ludi and the theatre, her involvement-as far as it might go-with politics, and generally what Patrician ladies could and could not do and did. (None of this is unfamiliar to most of us.) Her stormy relationship with Metellus Celer, and her independence. Wiseman writes: "To our age, with its egalitarian and essentially puritanical preconceptions, she is a figure fascinating but scarcely comprehensible. It takes the eighteenth century to do her justice."
The Trial of Marcus Caelius
The trial, Marcus Caelius himself, and the aftermath take up this chapter.
We will discuss it ourselves via Cicero, and for those who are familiar with the novel, The Venus Throw, " by Steven Saylor who is known for his excellent research.
I hope this helps those who have been unable to get the book!
Roman History Reading Group
Member of Literature Reading Circle
Cohost, Ancient Classical History Forum
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