The Grottoes of Catullus, the ruins of a Roman Villa in Sirmione

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Catullus Caves, in Sirmione, on the shore of Garda lake, are the ruins of an ancient and majestic Roman villa.


The name caves were coined during the Middle Ages when the ruins were buried by dirt and vegetation.

The villa was attributed to Roman poet Catullus since it was proved he had a residence in the Sirmione area.

The villa was built around I Century AD.

Afterward, the villa was abandoned.

Only in 1801, a general of Napoleone started to study the area.

Despite being in the middle of the Padana plain, the climate is the Mediterranean. Hundred of olive trees grow in the area.

Images of the Roman villa in Sirmione

Catullus was one of the greatest Roman poet. His surving works are still read widely.

Image: Catullus reading to his friends. Stepan Bakalovich (1857-1936)

Image: Catullus reading to his friends. Stepan Bakalovich (1857-1936)

Gaius Valerius Catullus was born to a leading equestrian family of Verona, in Cisalpine Gaul.  [Wikipedia]

The social prominence of the Catullus family allowed the father of Gaius Valerius to entertain Julius Caesar when he was the Promagistrate of both Gallic provinces. In a poem, Catullus describes his happy homecoming to the family villa at Sirmio, on Lake Garda, near Verona; he also owned a villa near the resort of Tibur (Tivoli). [Wikipedia]

It was probably in Rome that Catullus fell deeply in love with the “Lesbia” of his poems, who is usually identified with Clodia Metelli, a sophisticated woman from the aristocratic house of patrician family Claudii Pulchri, sister of the infamous Publius Clodius Pulcher, and wife to proconsul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer. [Wikipedia]

Image: Leighton, Frederic - Acme and Septimius - c. 1868

Image: Leighton, Frederic – Acme and Septimius – c. 1868

A Pastoral: to Septimius

Septimius holding his beloved Acme
in his lap, said: ‘Acme, mine, if I
don’t love you desperately, and love forever,
continually through all the years,
as much as he who loves the most,
in empty Libya and scorched India,
I’ll fight against some green-eyed lion.’

As he spoke, Love, to left and right,
sneezed his approbation.
But Acme lifted her head slightly
and her charming red lips spoke
to her sweet boy’s intoxicated eyes:
‘So, Septimius, mea vita,
let us always serve this one lord,
that more deeply and more fiercely
the fire will burn my tender marrow.’

As she spoke, Love, to left and right
sneezed his approbation.
Now profiting from these good omens
their mutual spirits love and are loved.
Septimius sets his little Acme,
above the Syrians or Britons:
faithful Acme makes Septimius
her one darling and desire.
Who might see more blessed creatures
who a love more fortunate?

Translated by A. S. Kline

Tears for Lesbia’s Sparrow

Sparrow, my sweet girl’s delight,
whom she plays with, holds to her breast,
whom, greedy, she gives her little finger to,
often provoking you to a sharp bite,
whenever my shining desire wishes
to play with something she loves,
I suppose, while strong passion abates,
it might be a small relief from her pain:
might I toy with you as she does
and ease the cares of a sad mind!

Translated by A. S. Kline

In his poems Catullus describes several stages of their relationship:
initial euphoria, doubts, separation, and his wrenching feelings of loss.  [Wikipedia]

Image: Image: Sir Edward John Poynter, Lesbia and her Sparrow, 1907

Source: Wikipedia 1 , 2
Photo: ; Flickr

Last Updated on 2022/01/11


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