Highways and Rivers Bureau

In the Gilbert Highet book mentioned previously, Highet dedicates a chapter to the poetry of Catullus, including a brief biographical aside on Catullus’s time spent, somewhat surreally, as an imperial administrator in Bithynia, or northwest Turkey. Here, Highet inserts a paranthetical aside, hoping to draw a comparison that would suggest an entire and, as it happens, incredibly interesting parallel history for European literature: “(Imagine Lord Byron as assistant principal of the Highways and Rivers Bureau of a small province in India.)” Imagine, indeed, Byron in the Himalayas, writing of river meanders and mountain forts, deltas the size of whole English counties and flooded step wells, and the poetry that might result.

One thought on “Highways and Rivers Bureau”

  1. Just shows that Highet is ignorant. Bithynia was not a backwater, but an absurdly wealthy, and strategically important part of the Roman Empire. Imagine Lord Byron on the staff of the Governor-General of Calcutta instead. Catullus was in the very the seat of Roman wealth and power in the east, in a culture that had been urban longer than his own.

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