Article

Petronius

Costas Panayotakis

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online December 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0040
Petronius

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The Satyricon of Petronius, whom most (but not all) scholars nowadays identify with emperor Nero’s courtier Titus Petronius Niger, recounts, in an elegant first-person prose narrative interspersed with poems of various length, the adventures of the comic rogue Encolpius (“Mr. Groin”) and his companions as they travel around the Bay of Naples in search of a hedonistic life and a free meal (see General Overviews). Petronius held a consulship in 62 ce and was, according to Tacitus, Nero’s “tutor in refinement” (hence, he is sometimes called “Petronius Arbiter”). He exploits the sexual and satirical encounters of Encolpius with teachers of rhetoric, orgiastic priestesses, excessively wealthy freedmen, mediocre poets, nymphomaniac ladies, useless witches, and unscrupulous legacy hunters to poke fun at the social, religious, cultural, and aesthetic issues of his time (see Social, Historical, and Cultural Context). The narrative contains erudite allusions to a host of widely divergent literary genres, which are subverted for the learned readers’ amusement (see Intertextuality). The beginning and the end of the text are not extant, and this contributes to the controversial character of the novel. The Satyricon influenced the development of European and American prose fiction (see Reception) and remains indispensable as a source book of Roman civilization.

Article.  8325 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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