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