Catullus’ life was akin to pulp fiction. In Julius Caesar’s Rome, he engages in a stormy affair with a consul’s wife. He writes her passionate poems of love, hate, and jealousy. The consul, a vehement opponent of Caesar, dies under suspicious circumstances. The merry widow romances numerous young men. Catullus is drawn into politics and becomes a cocky critic of Caesar, writing poems that dub Julius a low-life pig and a pervert. Not surprisingly, soon after, no more is heard of Catullus.
David Mulroy brings to life the witty, poignant, and brutally direct voice of a flesh-and-blood man, a young provincial in the Eternal City, reacting to real people and events in a Rome full of violent conflict among individuals marked by genius and megalomaniacal passions. Mulroy’s lively, rhythmic translations of the poems are enhanced by an introduction and commentary that provide biographical and bibliographical information about Catullus, a history of his times, a discussion of the translations, and definitions and notes that ease the way for anyone who is not a Latin scholar.