Catullus 101

Catullus 101 is an elegiac poem written by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. It is addressed to Catullus' dead brother or, strictly speaking, to the "mute ashes" which are the only remaining evidence of his brother's body.

The tone is grief-stricken and tender, with Catullus trying to give the best gift he had to bestow (a poem) on his brother, who was taken prematurely. The last words, "Hail and Farewell" (in Latin, ave atque vale), are among Catullus' most famous; an alternative modern translation might be "I salute you...and goodbye".

The meter is elegiac couplet, which was usually employed in love poetry, such as Catullus' addresses to Lesbia. However, the elegy couplet was originally used by ancient Greek poets to express grief and lamentation, making it an entirely suitable form to express Catullus' mourning.


LineLatin textEnglish translation
1 Multās per gentēs et multa per aequora vectus Carried through many nations and over many seas,
2 adveniō hās miserās, frāter, ad īnferiās, I arrive, brother, for these wretched funeral rites
3 ut tē postrēmō dōnārem mūnere mortis so that I might present you with the last tribute of death
4 et mūtam nequīquam alloquerer cinerem and speak in vain to silent ash,
5 quandōquidem fortūna mihi tētē abstulit ipsum since Fortune has carried you, yourself, away from me.1
6 heu miser indignē frāter adempte mihi Alas, poor brother, unfairly taken away from me,
7 nunc tamen intereā haec, prīscō quae mōre parentum now in the meantime, nevertheless, these things which in the ancient custom of ancestors
8 trādita sunt tristī mūnere ad īnferiās, are handed over as a sad tribute to the rites,
9 accipe frāternō multum mānantia flētū. receive, dripping much with brotherly weeping.
10 Atque in perpetuum, frāter, avē atque valē. And forever, brother, hail and farewell.

Another elegy

This is one of three poems in which Catullus tries to cope with the loss of his brother. The other poems are Catullus 65 and 68B. The cause of his brother's death is unknown; he apparently died before 57 BC in Bithynia, a northwest region of modern-day Turkey, near the ancient city of Troy.

Modern translations

In addition to its inclusion among the many translations of Catullus' collected poems, Carmen 101 is featured in Nox (2010), a book by Canadian poet and classicist Anne Carson that comes in an accordion format within a box. Nox concerns the death of Carson's own brother, to which the poem of Catullus offers a parallel. Carson provides the Latin text of 101, word-by-word annotations, and "a close and almost awkward translation." Although Nox shares some features with an artist's book in its unconventional format and incorporation of multimedia art, it is mass-produced rather than unique.2

The poem was also adapted in 1803 by the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo as the sonnet In morte del fratello Giovanni, ("Un dì, s'io non andrò sempre fuggendo/di gente in gente...") which commemorates the death of the poet's brother, Giovanni Foscolo.

Musical settings

This poem, as translated by Aubrey Beardsley, was set by the composer Ned Rorem under the title "Catullus: On the Burial of his Brother". The Austrian music group Dargaard have also performed this poem in song on their album Rise and Fall, naming it "Ave Atque Vale". Composer Frank Brickle set it for voice and two guitars in tribute to his mentor, Milton Babbitt.

The Norwegian band Tristania used "ut te postremo donarem mortis" in the choir of the song "Angina" from the album "Beyond the Veil" (1999). The band is famous for using the latin choirs in their songs.


  1. ^ The intensive pronoun ipse in this context contrasts the ash to the actual person who existed: Oxford Latin Dictionary, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982, reprinted 1985) p. 965, entry on ipse, meaning 5 ("the actual").
  2. ^ Ben Ratliff, "Lamentation," New York Times Sunday Book Review 3 June 2010 online.


  • Cederstrom, E (1981). "Catullus' Last Gift to his Brother (c. 101)". Classical World. 75 (2): 117–118. doi:10.2307/4349341. JSTOR 4349341.
  • Bright, DF (1976). "Non Bona Dicta: Catullus' Poetry of Separation". Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica. 21: 106–119.
  • Howe, NP (1974). "The 'Terce Muse' of Catullus 101". Classical Philology. 69 (4): 274–276. doi:10.1086/366109.
  • Robinson, CE (1965). "Multas per gentes". Greece and Rome. 12: 62–63. doi:10.1017/S0017383500014819.
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