Catullus' brilliantly pungent, spare sketches of a great civilisation beset by civil war and social unrest portray a turbulent and magnificent period of the Roman Republic. Catullus was a genius of the lyric and the epigram, a master of both love poems and lampoons. His talent was to depict life and society in the golden days of the Roman Republic, with wit and elegiac tones to awaken a sense of love, loss and time passing - 'But ours is one brief day of light/Before the long last, everlasting night'. Born in Verona, Catullus belonged to a wealthy and influential family. He was a fashionable youth and his early writing was often about love, but already showed his trademark style of brevity and wit so successful in later works of sharp social commentary. Over a 20-year period he wrote continuously and became widely popular. At this time many great Romans were emerging centre stage - inspirational leaders like Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, learned men and orators like Cicero. The great slave revolt under Spartacus shook Rome's confidence but was put down without mercy. Catullus moved to Rome, where he entertained in the style of fashionable and wealthy young men, holding dinner parties and having love affairs. His famous poems to 'Lesbia' refer to Ciodia, a married woman with whom he conducted a long but unsatisfactory affair, and are widely held to be his greatest work. Following the ultimate failure of this love Catullus wrote little more and died in obscure circumstances around the time of Caesar's invasion of Britain. He whose poems had been so popular during his lifetime was soon forgotten. Indeed his entire body of work would have been lost to us, most destroyed with the libraries of Alexandria, had not a single book containing 100 poems, just over 2000 lines, been rediscovered in the 14th century.