The Poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus/93

Text & TranslationEdit

Meter - Elegiac couplet

Line Latin Text English Translation
1 Nil nimium studeo, Caesar, tibi velle placere I care nothing much, Caesar, to want to please you
2 nec scire utrum sis albus an ater homo Nor to know whether you are a white or a black man

Connotations of The TextEdit

Caesar was a friend of Catullus’ family and apparently was quite friendly to Catullus even asking him to dinner. Catullus however, made it quite clear that he did not like Caesar. This is only one of several offensive poems directed at him.

The brevity of this piece highlights Catullus’ disregard and was a feature of the Latin neoterics, who broke away from the long epics.

Line 1Edit

  • velle placere - to want to please

The placement of two infinitives next to each other emphasises his point, as this would have been a noticeable structure to a Roman reader.

Line 2Edit

  • albus an ater - white or black

Note the assonance of albus an ater. Assonance, as well as alliteration, was a common poetic technique of Latin.


Line 1Edit

  • nimium - too much; excessively
  • placere - to please; satisfy; impress

Line 2Edit

  • albus, (adj.) - lit. white, however in this context not a matter of skin color in a racial sense but a reference to a Greek jargon for homosexuals who played a passive role in sex. A "white" man is pale, meaning womanly--as women were expected to stay indoors and therefore remain pale of skin, and plays the passive role.
  • ater – again, this literally means ‘black’, but here may allude to one who plays the active role in homosexual sex between men, black being the opposite of white/pale and womanly/passive.

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