Without Restraint (Catullus 16)

[For mature audiences only.] There is more to Catullus 16 than hair-raising obscenity, argues Sam Eaton. While many scholars think the tone of this poem is good-natured and jocular, Sam points out that the use of the verb pedicare very rare, and combined with the fierce alliteration of p sounds throughout the poem, likely indicates that Catullus means business. In the context of Roman sexual mores and seen against the background of his other poems, Catullus’ discussion of his own potential homosexual acts is not emasculating, but the opposite: an assertion of masculinity, and a declaration that he will write about his own emotions frankly.


Pedicābo ego vōs et irrumābo,
Aurēlī pathice et cinaede Fūrī,
quī mē ex versiculis meīs putāstis,
quod sunt molliculī, parum pudicum.
Nam castum esse decet pium poētam 5
ipsum, versiculōs nihil necesse est;
quī tum denique habent salem ac lepōrem,
sī sunt molliculī ac parum pudicī,
et quod prūriat incitāre possunt,
non dīcō puerīs, sed hīs pilōsīs 10
quī durōs nequeunt movēre lumbōs.
Vōs, quod mīlia multa basiōrum
lēgistis, male mē marem putātis?
Pedicābo egō vōs et irrumābo.

Image: Bust of Emperor Caracalla, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, Italian, Rome, about 1750–70. Marble, 28 in. high Source: http://goo.gl/Ghj0jy

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