189. The Satyricon by Petronius (c. 68 AD)

Plot  : The adventures, amorous and otherwise, of Encolpius; his slave and lover Giton, and various other acquaintances.

My version is the New American Library edition translated by William Arrowsmith (1959)

My thoughts :  Only an incomplete text survives of this comedy, but most fragments are large enough to tell at least part of the story. The most lengthy surviving piece describes a feast hosted by the vulgarly rich Trimalchio, a former slave who has become wealthy as a merchant. Among the dishes served at the all-night banquet are “dormice dipped in honey, rolled in poppyseed”, and an enormous roast sow, from which dozens of live thrushes emerge upon the start of carving, which are then caught and offered to the guests to take home as souvenirs of the evening.  The evening becomes more farcical as the guests get more drunk until a mock funeral of their host is interrupted by firemen smashing the doors in.

Although much in love with his sixteen year old boy Giton, the latter sections see Encolpius also lusting deeply after the beautiful lady Circe, but his efforts prove fruitless twice. He reluctantly puts himself in the hands of two sorceresses to cure his impotence, but runs away when they apply a leather phallus “rubbed with a mixture of oil, pepper and ground nettleseed” to his rectum. Ouch.

Favourite lines/passages:

“We all have to die, so let’s live while we’re waiting”    page 78

Digressions/diversions:  Some more definitions (of p’s and q’s)

  • pother : fuss, bother
  • quondam : former, previous
  • querite : an individual Roman citizen

Personal rating:  Despite its incompleteness, I’ll rate it a 5/10.

Kimmy’s rating:  Impressed by all the food at the feast and live birds to chase. Bored by the human antics.

Next :  The Apocolocyntosis. The only surviving satire by Seneca (we think) so it forms a natural link from Petronius back to the remaining tragedies attributed to, but probably not, written by Seneca.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.