Catullus was a Roman poet in the 1st century BCE. His poems were known for being differently written from what his contemporaries were writing at the time. While others were writing more “manly” poetry, about their sexual conquests, Catullus was less racy in his writings. In his “Poem 1”, Catullus is dedicating his new poetry to a man named Cornelius. While not a love poem like he usually wrote, “Poem 1” shows several aspects of Roman culture and gives us a glimpse of how Romans tried to make a lasting impression on the world of the future.
In “Poem 1”, Catullus is simply dedicating his new poetry to Cornelius. He says that Cornelius “had the habit of making much of my poetic little”, which seems as if Catullus is saying that Cornelius made his poetry more of a big deal than it was worth. This may mean that Cornelius was very excited to be reading Catullus' poetry, implying that the two were friends, or that Cornelius was just an admirer of Catullus'. This is reinforced by the next line which states, “...the first in Italy, were boldly unfolding all past ages in three volumes...”.
In Rome, at this point in history, preserving one's legacy was a very important task to undertake. It was on the mind of most every notable Roman. Whether it was through great acts committed in the name of Rome or through great works of literature, everyone wanted to be remembered far down the line. What we see in Catullus' “Poem 1” is this notion of eternal preservation. Catullus says that he will give his new collection to Cornelius and that he hopes that, “for the sake of its patron may it survive a century or better.” This shows the Roman preoccupation with the preservation of their legacy.
Catullus' poem may also show the Roman idea of amicitia, or friendship. In Rome, friendship could be an actual friendship, where those involved have a sort of admiration and respect for each other, or a circle of favors where one Roman would do a favor...
Cited: Catullus. The Poems of Catullus
Trans. Charles Martin. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Cicero. Cicero 's Letters to Friends
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