Ancient Words of the Past: Two Romans

One Roman poet and another Roman writer are the topics of discussion in this article, which takes a look at two men who have made their mark in ancient history. One historic figure experienced a lyrical loss of love, where the other lost his recognition and majority of records pertaining to his achievements over the years.

Catullus (87 BC – 54 BC)

To explore the beauty of Roman lyric poetry, it is Catullus (born Gaius Valerius Catullus) that showcases greatness from during the 1st century BC. To this day, his work is still widely studied and many up-and-coming poets are still influenced by his poetry. He also has a way with artists as well. Not much is known about the life of this poet, yet some ancient sources (such as Ovid) state that it was Verona that served as Catullus’ birthplace. Although he is said to have lived most of his life in Rome , it is Verona that his family is believed to have resided , as a prominent equestrian family.

His family owned a villa at Sirmio on Lake Garda, where his father was known to entertain Caesar, who was at the time , the governor of Gaul. At some point, the poet even created a parody of Caesar, where he was forced to apologize and eventually did receive forgiveness. Catullus had many friends, including poets like Marcus Furius Bibaculus and an orator by the name of Q. Hortensius, who was known as a rival of Cicero in the law court scene. He was also the friend of biographer Cornelius Nepos, who was the object of dedication in one of Catullus’ book of poems.

In 61 BC, it is said that Catullus traveled to Rome, where he fell in love with the “Lesbia” of his poems , most likely Clodia Metelli, who was kin to Publius Clodius Pulcher. The woman, who was full of sophistication, was ten years older than Catullus and belonged to aristocratic society life, as a member of the Claudian family. They would engage in an affair that didn’t last too long, as Clodia would choose Caelius Rufus (an associate of Cicero) as her true love. He was actually a member of the same social circle
of Catullus. The poet leaves behind the following words:

“It is difficult to lay aside a confirmed passion.”

“What a woman says to her avid lover should be written in wind and running water.”

Vegetius (~375)

All of the achievements of Vegetius are relatively unknown, as the Roman writer who thrived during the Later Roman Empire , doesn’t have much written in the way of describing the kind of person he was or any other accomplishments. Born Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus , it is with the help of two surviving works that we know anything about this author who doesn’t have any other details surviving about his life or other achievements attributed to him. Mainly, it is “Epitoma rei militaris” that is the greater of the two work. Vegetius also wrote a lesser-known guide to veterinary medicine called “Digesta Artis
Mulomedicinae”. However, it is the quote attributed to the Roman below that is quite remarkable:

“Let him who desires peace prepare for war.”