Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Classical Studies

First Advisor

Joseph Farrell


This dissertation considers the poetry of Catullus and its often express concerns with matters of language through the lens of the Roman grammatical tradition. I argue that in Latin poetry, and in Latin literature more broadly, there existed a persistent interest in discussing linguistic matters--owing in large part to an early imitation of Greek authors who engaged openly with their language--and that this interest was articulated in ways that recall the figure of the professional grammaticus and the ars grammatica, the scientific study of the Latin language. I maintain that this interest becomes particularly widespread during the final decades of the Roman Republic, and so I present Catullus as a particularly representative example of this phenomenon. In each chapter I examine Catullus' poetry with reference to a different aspect of the grammaticus' trade. The first chapter considers the concept of latinitas, an idealized form of Latin that was discussed by professional grammatici, and coordinates Catullus' interaction with foreign words, morphology and phonology with similar approaches to the discussion of language as they are expressed by other poets and prose authors. In the second chapter I examine one of Catullus' most ambitious poems, his translation of Callimachus' "Lock of Berenices", and argue that the philological aspects of his translation are typical of the activity and concerns of professional grammatici and of Latin translators of Greek more generally. In the final chapter I consider the possibility that traces of contact with certain known figures from the professional sphere of grammatica, Parthenius of Nicaea and Valerius Cato, can be detected in Catullus' verses, and I use these possible traces to explore an array of features of Catullan poetic craft. In each instance I demonstrate first that grammatical interests can be identified in Catullus' verses and that these interests align with the ways in which other Latin authors engage with language, and second that, by reading the poet in this way, we situate him and his poetry within a far more expansive literary and cultural phenomenon that gestures towards the lasting influence of the ars grammatica.

Included in

Classics Commons