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Catullus 63 In a Roman Context

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image of Mnemosyne

In this paper,1) Catullus' intentions in writing the Attis poem and his possible use of a Greek model are deliberately left out of account. Instead, the focus is on the meaning his poem may have had for his contemporary audience. Attis is a gallus, a castrated devotee of the Mater Magna, and thus a reconstruction is attempted of the mental picture that Romans of Catullus' time had of galli. Special importance is given to Lucretius' excursus on the Mater Magna, and his interpretation of castration as a punishment for lack of pietas. Finally, a slightly later source, Vergil's Aeneid, is used to suggest that Catullus' poem may also have been read as participating in a discourse about Roman national identity.


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