LESBIA IN CATULLUS VIEW
Catullus met the woman destinated to occupy all his thoughts and his poetry production
in Rome. He called her Lesbia, like the elegiac poets fashion, who gave a
pseudonymus to women they loved. The choice of the name reveals the root of the poetic and
literary world of Catullus: Lesbia is the femminine gender of "lesbius"
and refears to the island of Aegean Sea, that was the Sapphos native country, an
important Greek woman poet, and Catullus found inspiration in her lines (like the poem 51,
that imitates Sapphos lyric, A.C. 10,1-2).
It is too difficult to understand Lesbias personality through Catullus
poems, because he cant give an obiective judgement since he is conditioned by his
love for her.
At the beginning of the relationship and just after a reconciliation, in succession of
a period of crisis, Catullus, thoughtless and happy for his love, makes Lesbia appear
beautiful and joy of his soul.
In fact, in the poem 86,5-6 he describes Lesbias actractiveness with these words:
"Lesbia formosa est, quae cum pulcerrima tota est,/ Tum omnibus una omnis
subripuit veneres". This thought can also be found in poem 107, where he
describes her "gratum animo proprie".
2,5-6 theres an image of Lesbia who is playing with a sparrow and is looking for
comfort of love pain amusing herself with the bird ("Cum desiderio meo nintenti/
carum nescioquid libet iocari/ et solacium sui doloris,/ credo, ut tum gravis acquiescat
ardor" ) and in poem 3,17-18 ("Tua nunc opera meae puellae/ flendo
turgiduli rubent ocelli" ) stand out the grace and
the delicacy of the note of affection.
Lesbias real nature comes out in lyric 8, in
which she leaves the poet, although she has been loved by him more than anyone, and
showing her incapacity to keep on being faithful to such a true love (v. 5 "Amata
nobis quantum amabitur nulla"; v. 9 "Nunc iam illa non vult"
v.14 "At tu dolebis, cum rogaberis nulla").
Then in a moment of anger, at the end of his restless love, Catullus underlines that
shes corrupted by pleasure and perdition: after leaving a sincere love, she prefers
other lovers chosen more for a fancy than for a true passion, (11,17-20 "Cum suis vivat valeatque moechis, quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium ilia rumpens").
But, even when love seems to get in a serene moment Lesbias behaviours and words
do not reassured Catullus, and troubled loves serenity (70,3 "Mulier cupido
quod dicit amanti/ in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua"), although in lyric
72,1-2 "Dicebas quondam solum te nosse Catullum, Lesbia, nec prae me velle tenere
Iovem" disillusion was growing.
Francesca Ferretto, Rosamaria Santoro, Giulia Scrinzi e Rachele Tommasi
Sirmione. Catullus' villa. Cryptoporticus: the rebuilt arcade