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Catullus and His Finances

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Catullus and His Finances

Postby Brinestorm » Tue Jan 04, 2005 9:26 pm

The question of how Catullus sustained himself financially has been posed several times in my AP Latin course, yet my instructor still hasn't settled upon an asnwer. He stated that the most probable source of Catullus' money is the inheritance of his parents' wealth. Would that be accurate?

Furthermore, how much money did Catullus actually have? From the several dozen poems of Carmina which I've translated in class, I recall that he had one home near Rome and one or two vacation villas, so he must've lived quite comfortably. Yet, in a few poems such as the playful dinner invitation to his friend Fabullus, Catullus claims that his "little purse is full of cobwebs." Is this claim of financial troubles to be taken in lightly on account of the poem's light-hearted tone? Also, Catullus' financial woes in Bithynia are alluded to often, most notably in the poem in which Veranius leads him from the Forum to see his scortillum of a lover. The fact that he has two or three homes but cannot afford a litter and a crew of men to carry it seems odd to me. Was Catullus already losing his wealth by the time he departed for Bithynia?

And one final question: to what degree was Catullus' poetry published and was he monetarily compensated for it? I'm aware that the poetry was read outside of the urbanitas since Cicero had once declaimed it, but I'm very ignorant as to in what sort of printed circulation ancient Roman poetry might have been published.

Your Curious Catullus Fanatic,
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Postby tadwelessar » Thu Mar 17, 2005 8:06 pm

"little purse is full of cobwebs.

"nam tui Catulli plenus sacculus est aranearum"

I think that this doesn't mean he was poor, the poverty of poets is a well known "topos" in greek literature, and it has an ironic meaning in the context of that poem (he says to his friend that he will have a good dinner if he'll bring himself food and other things :)

. He stated that the most probable source of Catullus' money is the inheritance of his parents' wealth. Would that be accurate?

I think so, and I also suppose he herited also some "agri" from his family...[/quote]
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