Though ostensibly concerning itself with the marriage of Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis (parents of the famed Greek hero Achilles), a sizeable portion of the poem's lines is devoted to the desertion of Ariadne by the legendary Theseus. Although the poem implies that Theseus and Ariadne were in love, in reality the text never explicitly states that Theseus even looked at Ariadne. Told through ecphrasis, or the depiction of events on inanimate objects, the bulk of the poem details Ariadne's agonized solace. Her impassioned vituperations and eventual discovery by the wine-god Bacchus are some of the included plot events.
The poem relies heavily on the theme of nostalgia as Catullus reflects on what he believes are better times in Roman history. He wrote the poem during a time of civil war in Rome, even referencing brothers' blood being drenched in brothers' blood in line 399. He looks back on the wedding of Peleus and Thetis as a time where Gods may come to a wedding, unlike the modern times he lived in.
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