Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Catullus on Contemporary Politics

Sometime in the mid 50s B.C., Catullus penned this scathing epigram (52) on the contemporary political scene:
What's your excuse, Catullus? Why not die right now?
That pimple Nonius occupies the curule chair.
Vatinius swears falsely by his consulship.
What's your excuse, Catullus? Why not die right now?

Quid est, Catulle? quid moraris emori?
sella in curuli struma Nonius sedet,
per consulatum perierat Vatinius:
quid est, Catulle? quid moraris emori?
The medical writer Celsus (5.28.7a) defines the word struma as "a swelling in which underneath some hard parts grow from pus and blood like little acorns" (tumor in quo subter concreta quaedam ex pure et sanguine quasi glandulae oriuntur). In his commentary Kenneth Quinn says that "Nonius is an excrescence on the body politic."

For some reason this summer, when I watch the Democratic and Republican conventions on the telly, this epigram of Catullus springs to mind. Are these two nincompoops really the best our country has to offer as candidates to fill the highest office in the land?

Thoreau never voted in his life. I'm tempted to imitate him in the upcoming presidential election.

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