Carmen 13 –
The poetical dinner invitation was a familiar topos in Greek and Roman literature,
often accompanied by professions of poverty-based simplicity. Catullus gives it a
fresh twist by telling his guest to bring his own food and wine as well as a girlfriend;
all he himself will supply as host is the scent of his lover, who smells so
sexy that Fabullus will wish he was all nose. The phallic joke is unmistakable; so
is the nature of the smell (convincingly identified by Littman 1977). If Catullus is
too poor (in theory) for food and wine, he certainly can't afford expensive perfume.
Amusingly, this was not one of the poems that Fordyce omitted from his
edition on the grounds (1973, v) that they "do not lend themselves to comment in
English." Kirkpatrick, too (1998,303-305), misses the point in his supposition that
what the girl brings with her is simply a great new aphrodisiac.