Latin poets to know and love.

Catullus

Catullus

84BC - 54BC

The first of the Big Four to write was Catullus. He was reportedly born in 84 BCE in Verona, but spent much of his adult life in Rome, and died young in about 54 BCE, ten years before the death of Julius Caesar. References in the poems suggest that he spent a year abroad at some point on the staff of the Governor of the Province of Bithynia, near the Bosphorus and Black Sea in modern Turkey.

Catullus 2

Passer, deliciae meae puellae

Passer, deliciae meae puellae

Lesbia's sparrow

Catullus 3

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque

Lugete, o Venerese Cupidinesque

A lament for Lesbia's sparrow

Catullus 5

Vivamus, mea Lesbia

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus

Let's live and love

Catullus 4

Phaselus ille

Phaselus ille quem videtis, hospites

Catullus's yacht

Catullus 7

How many kisses

Quaeris quot mihi basiationes

Catullus tries again to count the kisses

Catullus 8

Poor Catullus

Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire

Catullus resigns himself to losing Lesbia

Catullus 101

Catullus’s farewell to his brother

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus

Catullus mourns his loss

Horace

Horace

65BCE - 8BCE

Horace, with Virgil, is one of the twin giants of poetry in the time of Augustus. While Virgil was taking the Greek tradition of epic poetry and giving it a new set of completely Roman clothes with the Aeneid, Horace was taking the Greek tradition of lyric poetry that was the established stock-in-trade for much non-epic Roman poetry, and giving it a new and distinctly Roman character.

Odes 1.5

Pyrrha

Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa

Horace escapes drowning in the sea of love

Odes 1.9

Soracte

Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte

Life is short – enjoy it while you are young

Ode 1.32

Poscimur

Poscimur. Si quid vacui sub umbra

The strapline for the first line

Odes 1.37

Horace’s Cleopatra ode

Nunc est bibendum

Horace celebrates the defeat of Cleopatra

Odes 3.13

O Fons Bandusiae

O fons Bandusiae, splendidior vitro

Horace's tribute to a spring

Odes 4.7

Diffugere nives

Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis

Death comes to us all

Odes 3.30

Horace’s monument

Exegi monumentum aere perennius

Horace concludes the Odes - or so he thinks

Odes 2.7

Horace welcomes his army comrade

O saepe mecum tempus in ultimum

Horace welcomes his army comrade

Odes 3.5

Courage and decadence: the Regulus ode

Caelo tonantem credidimus Iovem regnare

Horace's Regulus ode

Ovid

Ovid

43BC - c.18CE

Ovid, born in 43BCE, was famous for his poetry about mythology and love and died in exile in about 18CE in what is now Romania.

From Amores 3.14

Ovid’s broad-minded advice to his mistress

Sit tibi mens melior

Kiss, but don't tell!

Metamorphoses Book 8, Lines 200 - 235

Daedalus and Icarus

postquam manus ultima coepto inposita est

The story of Daedalus and Icarus

Ovid Amores Book 2. 12

Ovid’s triumph

Ite triumphales circum mea tempora laurus

Ovid congratulates himself on success with Corinna

Propertius

Propertius

About 55 BCE - after 16 BCE

Much of Propertius’s work is love poetry to a mistress he calls Cynthia. A love/hate element often features in the feelings that poets express for their mistresses, and in Propertius both elements are particularly vivid.

Book 1, Elegy 1

Cynthia

Cynthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis

Propertius introduces Cynthia

Book 1, Elegy 3

Watching over Cynthia’s repose

Qualis Thesea iacuit cedente carina

Propertius returns from a night out

Propertius Elegies 1.16

The lover’s complaint to the door

Quae fueram magnis olim patefacta triumphis

The lover's complaint to the door

Virgil

Virgil

70BC - 19BC

Virgil was born in 70 BCE. Like Catullus, according to ancient commentators, he came from the North, near Mantua. His was a family of farmers, reasonably prosperous, to judge from his upbringing, but lower in the scale of wealth and social position than Catullus. He had a thorough education, reportedly studying Greek, Epicurean philosophy and rhetoric at Cremona, Milan and Naples.

Aeneid Book 1, lines 1-7

The Aeneid begins

Arma virumque cano

The Aeneid begins

Aeneid Book 1, lines 441-63

The Trojans reach Carthage

Lucus in urbe fuitmedia, laetissimus umbrae

Tears for the human predicament

Aeneid Book 2, lines 1-13

Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story

Conticuere omnes

Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story

Aeneid Book 2, lines 40-49

Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse

Primus ibi ante omnes, magna comitante caterva

Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse

Aeneid Book 2, lines 199-227

Laocoon and the snakes

Hic aliud maius miseris multoque tremendum

Laocoon and the snakes

Aeneid Book 2, lines 234 - 245

The Trojan Horse enters the city

Dividimus muros et moenia pandimus urbis

The Trojans seal their fate

Aeneid Book 2, lines 286-313

Hector visits Aeneas in a dream

ille nihil, nec me vana quaerentem moratur

The sack of Troy begins

Aeneid Book 2, lines 526 - 558

The death of Priam

Ecce autem elapsus Pyrrhi de caede Polites

The death of Priam

Aeneid Book 2, Lines 679 - 710

Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises

Talia vociferans gemitu tectum omne replebat

Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises

Aeneid Book 2 lines 707 - 746

Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost

Mihi parvus Iulus sit comes

Aeneas flees with his family as the foh of war descends

Aeneid Book 3, lines 231 - 267

The Harpy’s prophecy

Instruimus mensas arisque reponibus ignem

Aeneas and his men encounter the Harpies

Aeneid Book 3, lines 374 - 395

How Aeneas will know the site of his city

Nate dea, nam te maioribus ire per altum

Aeneas learns how he will know the site of his city

Aeneid Book 2, lines 65 - 89

Dido falls in love

heu vatum ignarae mentes!

Dido's fatal passion begins

Aeneid Book 4, lines 129 - 172

Dido and Aeneas: royal hunt and royal affair

Oceanum interea surgens Aurora reliquit

The splendid hunt, the lovers' cave

Aeneid Book 4, lines 173 - 195

Rumour

ille dies primus leti primusque malorum

Dido and Aeneas: the monster Rumour spreads the news

Aeneid Book 4, lines 362 - 393

Dido and Aeneas: Hell hath no fury …

Talia dicentem iamdudum aversa tuetur

Dido and Aeneas: the confrontation