This one – Catullus 29 – is a bit odd. It’s not his usual cliquish banter and to some extent it seems as if he is writing it in code. There is another poem in which he talks of Mamurra as Julius Caesar’s greedy catamite so I think that’s what he is implying here in what seems to be a protest against the stripping of conquered provinces for personal benefit.
What I’ve written is accordingly quite free, and uses imagery that he doesn’t. One of the reasons for this is that the repetition of ‘Cinaedus Romulus’ is simply not going to shock us.
But I think this gets what he meant…
How can we bear this? Only someone like
Mamurra could; he’s shameless in his greed.
He’s stripped the Gauls, the Britons too, and he’d
Make Romulus his bum boy. Like a pike
That strips a lake of fish, he leaves behind
Desolate emptiness. He seems so fair,
like an Adonis. And you took him there,
great Caesar, knowing your cute boy would find
so much to steal. Like pigeons, he will peck
until the garden’s bare. He has devoured,
all his own cash, the loot of Spain. He scoured
the Black Sea coast sore. Now leaves Gaul a wreck,
Britain as well. What has he got on you?
That marriage? Did he bugger that up too?