Main content


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the poetry of Catullus - some of the greatest verse of his time, and some of the most scurrilous - and his influence on Roman and later poetry

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catullus (c84-c54 BC) who wrote some of the most sublime poetry in the late Roman Republic, and some of the most obscene. He found a new way to write about love, in poems to the mysterious Lesbia, married and elusive, and he influenced Virgil and Ovid and others, yet his explicit poems were to blight his reputation for a thousand years. Once the one surviving manuscript was discovered in the Middle Ages, though, anecdotally as a plug in a wine butt, he inspired Petrarch and the Elizabethan poets, as he continues to inspire many today.

The image above is of Lesbia and her Sparrow, 1860, artist unknown


Gail Trimble
Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford

Simon Smith
Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Kent, poet and translator of Catullus


Maria Wyke
Professor of Latin at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

53 minutes

Last on

Thu 9 Jan 2020 21:30


Maria Wyke at University College London

Simon Smith at the University of Kent

Gail Trimble at the University of Oxford

Catullus – Wikipedia



Josephine Balmer, Piecing Together the Fragments: Translating Classical Verse, Creating Contemporary Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Anne Carson, Nox (New Directions, 2009)

Gaius Valerius Catullus (trans. Simon Smith), The Books of Catullus (Carcanet, 2018)

Catullus (trans. Guy Lee), Catullus: The Complete Poems (Oxford University Press, 1998)

Catullus (trans. Brandon Brown), The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (Krupskaya, 2011)

William Fitzgerald, Catullan Provocations: Lyric Poetry and the Drama of Position (University of California Press, 2000)

John Godwin, Reading Catullus (Liverpool University Press, 2008)

Julia Haig Gaisser, Catullus: Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

Gilbert Highet, Poets in a Landscape (NYRB, 2010)

R.O.A.M. Lyne, The Latin Love Poets: From Catullus to Horace (Oxford University Press, 1981)

Jon Stone, Bad Kid Catullus (Sidekick Books, 2017)

T.P. Wiseman, Catullus and His World: A Reappraisal (Cambridge University Press, 2008)



  • Thu 9 Jan 2020 09:00
  • Thu 9 Jan 2020 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.