Carmen 29 –
This poem-the first of several in which we meet Mamurra-is addressed to Caesar
and Pompey, the "father and son-in-law" of the final line (24), which dates it
to before the death of Julia (Caesar's daughter, Pompey's wife) in )4, and probably
to late in 55, between the first and second expeditions into Britain, "when talk
of fortunes to be made from British plunder was in the air" (Fordyce 1961, 160),
and false rumors of the island's supposedly vast mineral wealth had not yet been
exploded. I agree with Neudling (1955, 89-90), Skinner (1979,145-46 with earlier
references), and Godwin (1999,144) that lines 1-10 are addressed to Pompey,
11-20 to Caesar, and the coda (21-24) to the two together. Mamurra is thus the
creature of them both.
29 and 57 (q.v.) look like the attacks which, Caesar claimed, left "ineradicable
stains" on his character (Suet. Diy. Jul. 73), though he and Catullus were subsequently
reconciled, and Quinn (1970, 256) adduces strong chronological arguments
that the poem which occasioned complaint and reconciliation was 57 (q.v. note),
probably datable to 58/7. In 29 the emphasis is on the corrupt exploitation of
privilege by subordinates, aided and abetted by the state's new autocrats (Skinner
"Wildwood Gaul" (Callia Comata) is Transalpine Gaul, where Roman habits and
culture have not yet caught on.
For Pompey's reputation as a cinaedus (passive homosexual)-pace Kroll (1922,
54), Fordyce (1961, r6r), and others who identify "Queenie Romulus" as Caesarsee,
for example, Calvus ap. Sen. Controv. 7+7; Pluto Pomp. 48.7; cf. Cic. Ad Q.
Fratr. 2.3.2. Holzberg (2002, 107) has a balanced discussion (but leaning towards
Caesar). The sarcastic use of the name Romulus, applied to ambitious, and particularly
to ultra-Republican, politicians, was widespread: Cicero, for example, was
known as "the Romulus from Arpinum."
II "That final island of the west," a highly inaccurate description, refers to Britain.
I3 Mamurra was later(94, 105, 114, 115) given the transparent nickname, "Prick"
(Mentula), by Catullus; it may have been this line which suggested it.
18 The allusion is to the loot acquired by Pompey and his troops during the final Eastern
campaign against Mithradates VI of Pontus in 64/3.
19 Here Caesar is the target. He campaigned in Lusitania (Portugal) as propraetor of
Further Spain in 6r, and made a very good thing out of it (Plut. Caes. 12). Spain
was long Rome's chief source of gold.
24 The allusion is to what some contemporaries, Catullus included~not to mention
many modern scholars-saw as "the breakdown of the republican system under
the recently renewed first triumvirate" (Thomson I997, 28I). That this was a considerable
exaggeration has been well argued by Gruen (I974, 90ff. and elsewhere).