Puluinar diuae geniale Sintesi culturali e ampliamento spirituale nel carme 64 di Catullo
Until recently, there has been a tendency to view learned Latin poetry of the late Republican period as a chapter of Hellenistic poetry, a perspective which has overshadowed the role played by such poetry in bringing about the more specifically Roman developments of this tradition. As a case study, this paper proposes a focus on Catullus’ poem 64, a small-scale epic poem (epyllion) in which the conciliation of differences – existential, religious, cultural, linguistic, stylistic – is thematised, and is thus refracted throughout the many layers of the text itself. From a standpoint located at the heart of a present age ‘of iron’, devoid of justice and of the gods, stems the yearning for the opposite condition, which the poem’s narrator identifies in Greek myth and, more precisely, at the heart of the heroic age. The narrator’s utterance is a sort of poetic ritual which, availing itself of a number of Greek models and of procedures acquired from other genres (the cult and rhapsodic hymn in particular), seeks to evoke the gods, summoning them to become manifest for men to behold again as once in the theoxenic age, which had been inaugurated by the marriage of a mortal man (Peleus) with a goddess (Thetis). This attempt is, to all intents and purposes, a failure: the bride does not appear and the Olympians, just like the images of a lectisternium, cannot transcend their mere ‘presence’ at the wedding itself. The structure of the text, moreover, suggests that the Greek model adopted by the narrator in order to explain the story is unfit to fulfil its purpose precisely on account of its being traditional and schematic. Such a failure, however, itself represents the deep and authentically innovative significance of this poem, whose influence on later poetic production is incalculable. What it reveals are the true, difficult conditions which were to enable Greek myth to once again become the object of narratives in the ‘modern’ Roman context. Indeed, had these problems not become the focus of awareness and of accompanying reflections on poetic form, the poets of the next generation would never have been able to give rise to a wholly Roman production of the long-form epic poetry stemming from Homer.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Marco Fernandelli, “Puluinar diuae geniale Sintesi culturali e ampliamento spirituale nel carme 64 di Catullo”, in: “Sacrum Facere. Atti del V Seminario di Archeologia del Sacro. Sacra peregrina. La gestione della pluralità religiosa nel mondo antico”, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2019, pp. 23-80