Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–54 BCE). Modern bronze bust on the Piazza Giosuè Carducci in Sirmione, Italy.
From Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, edited by Thomas K. Hubbard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).
Catullus was born in 84 B.C.E. and died at the age of thirty. A series of his polymetric poems concern the boy Juventius and Catullus’ rivals (possibly competing poets) Furius and Aurelius.
7.50 Catullus 99
Juventius, honey-pot, I snatched from you while you were playing
A tiny kiss, sweeter than ambrosia’s sweet.
But no way did I get it for free: an hour or longer,
As I recall, you had me nailed on the cross
While I made abject apologies, yet all my weeping
Didn’t abate your cruelty one jot.
Oh, the instant I’d done it you dabbed your lips with water,
Raised a soft hand and knuckled them clean
So that no trace of my mouth should remain, as though expunging
The filthy saliva of some pissed-on whore. 10
Since then, what’s more, you’ve never quit making my love-life
A living hell, tormenting me every which way,
So that soon my poor kisslet turned from sweet to bitter,
Ambrosia no longer, but hellebore.
Well, since such is the penalty for your abject lover,
Henceforth I will never snatch another kiss!
Bronze statue of an aristocratic boy (detail). Roman, Augustan, ca. 27 B.C.–14 A.D. Rhodes, Greece. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art.