Notes to Catullus, Carmina 36

annales, -ium m. pl.
book of annuals/chronicles; (pl.) history of several books. Here the title of a history written year by year in hexameter in the epic tradition of the early Roman poet Quintus Ennius (c. 239–169 BCE). The poem directly addresses and insults the work of Volusius (see also Carmina 95.7,8) as it is old-fashioned and overblown in the eyes of the neoteric poets.
Volusius, -i m.
Volusius, the name of an older poet who wrote Annales. It recurs in Catullus 95, where his cartae are found as a wrapping for fish.
caco, (I)
defile with excrement; defecate; defecate upon. Catullus' use of this vulgar term is his assessment of the quality of Volusius' work; cacata is the perfect passive participle, feminine vocative singular.
c(h)arta, -ae f.
papyrus (sheet/page); record/letter, book/writing(s); thin metal sheet/leaf. The repetition of hard 'c's and open 'a's make an unpleasant sound of criticism. Click on SPQR for a fresco of a roll (volumen) of Latin text.
votum, -i n.
vow; pledge; prayer; wish; votive offering. With this sudden shift of matter, the reader is warned that this will not be a straightforward poem of love or invective.
solvo, -ere, solvi, solutum
unbind, untie, free, loosen, release; solvite is an imperative, directly addressed to the Annales.
pro, preposition + ablative
on behalf of; for the sake of.
puella, -ae f.
girl; girlfriend, sweetheart (in Roman elegiac poetry). Catullus affectionately uses mea puella to refer to his main love interest, Lesbia (see Carmina 2, 3, 11, 13).
sanctus, -a, -um
sacred, inviolable, venerable; the adjective modifies Veneri with reverence.
Venus, -eris f.
Venus, the Roman goddess (counterpart of the Greek Aphrodite) of love, beauty, sexual pleasure, and fertility, and the mother of the Roman race. Full of charm and grace, she is usually depicted naked at her bath, or with her son Cupid (see SPQR), or with her lover, the god Mars.
Cupido, -inis m.
Cupid (counterpart of Greek Eros), son of Venus and the personification of desire and passion. Sometimes pictured as a mischievous child with bow and arrows or a flaming torch. The enclitic –que emphasizes the bond of both mother and son and beauty and passion (see also Carmina 3.1 and 13.12). What does it reveal about Catullus’s relationship with Lesbia?
voveo, -ere, vovi, votum
vow; dedicate; consecrate; the subject now is mea puella, whose words the poet repeats.
restituo, -ere, -stitui, -stitutum
restore, revive, bring back; restitutus essem is the pluperfect passive subjunctive in the protasis of a past contrary to fact condition, followed by the reflexive pronoun sibi (antecedent mea puella) in the dative case.
desino, -ere, -sii
leave off, cease, desist; the pluperfect subjunctive in the protasis of a past contrary to fact condition.
trux, trucis
fierce, savage; modifies iambos. Note the sibilance in ll. 4-7, capturing the hissing sound of Lesbia's disapproval.
vibro (I)
hurl; dart; infinitive following desissem.
iambus, -i m.
iamb, iambic verse, iambic poetry; invective poetry uses the iamb in choliambic meter (see Carmina 8 and 37, where Catullus portrays Lesbia negatively).
electus, -a, -um
select, choice; superlative adjective modifying scripta in l. 7. Noting the juxtaposition of the superlatives, consider whether Lesbia uses electissima to signify quality (the best) or whether she means the most particular (i.e., the iambi).
pessimus, -a, -um
wickedest; unkindest; most unskilled; most distressling; worst, the superlative form of malus (comparative peior). Lesbia uses it here to modify poetae (i.e., Catullus). In l. 9 Catullus takes up the adjective and uses it against his puella.
scriptum, -i n.
writing; literary work (usually pl.).
tardipes, -pedis
limping; halting; slow-footed, an epithet for Vulcan/Hephaestos, god of blacksmiths, artisans, fire and volcanoes. In mythology he was lamed when he was flung to earth from Olympus by Zeus as he was trying to protect his mother Hera (see SPQR). Catullus may also be punning on his "limping iambics."
do, dare, dedi, datum
give, grant; read daturam esse, a future active infinite in indirect statement introduced by vovit (l.4).
infelix, -felicis
unfruitful, barren; unlucky.
ustulo (I)
burn, scorch, singe; the gerundive ustulanda modifies scripta; it indicates necessity and is translated in the passive voice (see gerund/gerundive).
lignum, -i n.
firewood; wood for burning (usually pl.).
video, -ere, vidi, visum
perceive; consider; appreciate; introduces indirect statement: se vovere, with hoc as its object.
iocosus, -a, -um
playful, humorous; iocose is an adverb. The two terms are appropriate not only to Venus and Cupid (see SPQR) but equally to the Love poetry that Catullus is noted for.
lepidus, -a, -um
charming, witty, amusing; lepide is an adverb.
caeruleus, -a, -um
deep blue; sea blue; ablative of source modifying ponto.
creo (I)
create, bring into being, make; perfect passive participle, vocative, subject of the imperative face below in l. 16.
pontus, -i m.
sea; Venus/Aphrodite was born from the sea (see SPQR for her marine associations).
qui, quae, quod
who, which, what, a relative pronoun; it is repeated as quaeque in each of the following verses (ll.13-15). What is this repetition called? What is its effect?
Idalium, -i n.
Idalium, site of a famous cult of Venus/Aphrodite (modern day Dali in central Cyprus; click on the SPQR). Go to l. 14 for the verb governing all the sites in the accusative in ll. 12-15: colis, directly addressed to the goddess Venus.
Urium, -i m.
Perhaps Urium, a city on the coast of Apulia, or Uria, between Tarantum and Brindisium on the Via Appia. Neither is noted for its association with Venus/Aphrodite.
apertus, -a, -um
open; exposed; public, free; its precise meaning for Urium is unclear, especially in the plural. Note the threefold elisions in the line: sanctum-Idalium, Idalium-Urios, Uriosque-apertos. What is the effect?
Ancona, -ae f.
Ancona, a natural harbor above Picenum, which is rare on the Italian Adriatic coast, a site not readily associated with Venus/Aphrodite. Ancona is a Greek accusative. This verse contains two elisions: quaeque-Ancona and Cnidumque-harundinosam.
Cnidos/us, -i f.
Cnidos, a town in the southwest of Caria (see SPQR for map), famous for the worship of Venus; one of its temples is renowned for its Venus statue by Praxiteles (see SPQR for drawing of an ancient coin of Knidos).
harundinosus, -a, -um
reedy, full of reeds; modifies Cnidum. This is the only instance of this word, built on the noun harundo, meaning reed.
colo, -ere, colui, cultum
inhabit; cherish; cultivate; the present indicative in a relative clause of fact; the addressee is Venus.
Amathus, -untis f.
Amathus, a town in Cyprus (click on SPQR) known for the worship of Venus/Aphrodite. Amathunta is a Greek accusative; in scansion the h is simply a rough breathing, the Greek theta, not a consonant.
Golgi, -orum m. pl.
Golgi, a site in Cyprus (inland, between modern Nicosia and Larnaca) noted for the worship of Venus/Aphrodite.
Dyrr(h)achium, -i n.
Dyrrhachium, named after an eponymous founder or for the dangers of its rocky shoreline (unlucky breakers); an Adriatic port in Illyria across from Brundisium (modern-day Durazzo, Albania; click on the SPQR link). The Romans renamed the town Epidamnum (the dangerous location of Plautus' Menaechmi). A center of questionable business practice and prostitution, it has no cult association with Venus. Catullus ends his list of legitimate sites sacred to the goddess with this sly jab at Lesbia (see Carmina 37). In scansion, the h is a rough breathing, the Greek letter chi, not a consonant.
Hadria, -ae f.
the Adriatic, the portion of the Mediterranean Sea separating Italy from Illyria.
taberna, -ae f.
wooden hut, booth, stall, shop; inn; tavern, a seedy place of business, notably prostitution, it is the setting, which Catullus calls salax (lascivious), for Lesbia in Carmina 37 (for another negative reference, see Tacitus, Historiae II.64). It is in apposition with Dyrrhachium.
accipio, -ere, -cept, ceptum
receive, acquire; acceptum facere = credit someone with, release from (an obligation). The perfect passive participle modifies votum. Face is the pre-classical form of the imperative fac, addressed to o creata in l. 11.
reddo, , -ere, -didi, -ditum
repay; discharge (debt, loan, vow); the perfect passive participle modifies votum. Note the repetition of the concluding syllable -tum in lines 16-17. What effect does the sound have?
illepidus, -a, -um
lacking grace, refinement; predicate adjective modifying votum in l. 16.
invenustus, -a, -um
unattractive; unlovely; without charm; predicate adjective modifying votum in l. 16. Note the double elision: neque invenustum est.
interea, adverb
meanwhile; with vos venite, the poet turns from Venus to his original addressee, cacata carta.
ignis, ignis m.
fire, flame; object of the preposition in.
plenus, -a, -um
full; filled; it modifies vos and is followed by the genitives ruris . . . infacetiarum.
rus, ruris n.
country; farm; countryside.
infacetiae, -arum f. pl.
crudities, instances of clumsiness.
Annales: while l. 20 reprises l. 1 and is a good example of ring composition, it functions more like the conclusion of an arguement (QED) than a poetic refrain. In the course of his poem Catullus has cleverly contravened Lesbia's proposition, fulfilling her vow by destroying not his own invective poetry but rather Volusius' "masterpiece," by definition electissima pessimi poetae scripta.

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