Carmen 101 – Tranen van een broer

Tijdens zijn reis naar Bithynië bezocht Catullus het graf van zijn broer in de buurt van Troje. Hier gaf hij het traditionele geschenk aan de dode (inferiae), bestaand uit wijn, melk, honing en bloemen.

Latijnse tekst

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
     advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
     et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem.
quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum.
     heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi,
nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum
     tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,
     atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

1   aequor, oris n zee
    veho, vehere, v..., vectus lit having been carried, trans after travelling
    ad-venio, venire komen
    ad om te
    inferiae, arum f pl. grafoffers
    ut coni. finalis
    donarem acc. van ontvanger, abl. van geschenk
    nequiquam vainly
    alloquor, ... adresseren
    cinis, cineris f as; van de crematie
    quandoquidem since
    tete = te
    au-fero, au-ferre, abs-tuli  
    heu = eheu
    adimo, ere, ademptus  
    indigne adv.  
    interea strengthens nunc and need not be translated
    haec obj van accipe
    prisco more abl. causalis
    quae later geplaatst
    parens, parentis m/f hier: voorouder
    trado, ere hand down
    tristi munere abl of manner
    fletus, us m weeping
    multum manantia lit. much dripping, trans drenched
    mano, are  
    in perpetuum adv. forever
    ave atque vale  


Carmen 101

Langs vele volkeren, over vele zeeën heb ik gereisd en ben ik aangekomen, broer, bij deze ellendige/ongelukkige dodenoffers, om jou dit laatste dodengeschenk te geven en (om) tevergeefs jouw stomme/zwijgende as toe te spreken, aangezien het lot jou zelf van mij heeft ontnomen, ach ongelukkige broer, die onverdiend van mij is weggenomen. Ontvang nu intussen/hoewel deze offers die vroeger volgens de gewoonte van onze voorouders gegeven zijn, de tristige geschenken bij de dodenoffers, kletsnat van broederlijke tranen, gegroet broer en vaarwel in de eeuwigheid.


One of the most moving poems in the Latin language, this epigram on the
death of Catullus’s brother is important for two reasons. First, it shows the
use of the elegiac meter in what may have been its originary function, as a
song of lamentation. Second, it continues the story of the death of Catullus’s
brother from poem 68.
1–2. We know from poem 68 that Catullus’s brother died somewhere near
Troy. Catullus has come to visit the grave. Aduenio should be translated as a
present perfect, “I have come.” Inferias are offerings to the manes, spirits of
the dead, at the tomb. They consisted of gifts of honey, milk, and flowers and
were a ritual obligation of the family.
3–4. Donarem takes the accusative of the recipient and ablative of thing
given. Mortis = genitive of definition. Nequiquam nicely underlines the
pathos of the attempt to address the dead.
5. Tete = emphatic te. Mihi, the person from whom something is taken, is
always in the dative. Abstulit = perfect of aufero.
6. The entire line is a vocative addressed to the brother. Note that
indigne is an adverb. This line directly recalls 68.92.
7. Interea strengthens the adversative force of tamen, “but even so.”
7–9. An example of Catullus’s use of enjambment [33]. Haec is the direct
object of accipe in line 9 and the antecedent of quae. It is modified by
8. Tristi munere = a modal ablative, “as a sad gift.”
9. Multum = adverb.
10. Aue atque uale: the formula is common on gravestones.


One of Catullus's most famous poems and, since it has no sex in it, frequently anthologized in school texts; the occasion may have been during Catullus's journey to Bithynia in 57. Like 96, it assumes the possibility of communication between the living and the dead (Feldherr 2000, 216-20). The conventions of epigrams addressed to the latter were well established in the Greek tradition which Catullus inherited (see, e.g., Book 7 of the Greek Anthology for numerous specimens: 7.476, cited by Fordyce [1961, 388], is akin to Catullus's address in spirit). But the emphasis on family tradition is very Roman (Hopkins 1983, 201-202), and the poignancy of Catullus's ineffectual ("all in vain," nequiquam) grief is highlighted by the remoteness of his brother's grave in the Troad. His journey is universalized: lines 1-2 recall the opening of the Odyssey. Yet Catullus is very vague. We end up with no idea of the tomb itself (tumulus or headstone?), the gifts he brings are not itemized, and there is no invocation of the gods or the dead man's guardian spirits (Gelzer 1992, 26-32). But Feldherr rightly points out (2000, 223) "in how many ways the contrast between the irreversible flow of time and the present instant governs the poem's content." For Skinner (2003, 128), its position in the collection suggests closure "involving the failure of art to bridge the c1rasm between life and death, the illusory nature of Callimachean poetic immortality."




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