“The Influence of Contemporary Society and Politics in Catullus 51”

Alexander Kubish


This paper explores the possibility of an undercurrent of sociopolitical commentary in Catullus’s Poem 51. Taking as its starting point a recent theory arguing for such a commentary in Poem 11, it attempts to determine whether and to what extent it can be applied to Poem 51; these two poems are often studied together, as they both concern the character Lesbia and are the only two Catullan poems written in the sapphic meter. The paper examines elements of the poem such as word choice, meter, and stylistic devices, as well as differences between it and the Sappho poem it is based on. The argument is that there are elements of sociopolitical commentary in Poem 51 similar to Poem 11 and other ‘Lesbia poems’, albeit to a lesser extent.

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