September 05 , 2009

The Satyricon


This Housemartin Classics edition includes the full original text as well as an easy to use interactive table of contents.

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The Satyricon

The Satyricon of Petronius is the only directly realistic novel that has come down to us from the ancient world. Its value as a picture of everyday life under the early Roman Empire is thus unique. But the work itself is far from being merely a dry record of facts. It communicates with masterly force and humour, satire and lyricism, the very…

Satyricon (or Satyrica) is a Latin work of fiction in a mixture of prose and poetry (prosimetrum). It is believed to have been written by Gaius Petronius, though the manuscript tradition identifies the author as a certain Titus Petronius. As with the Metamorphoses of Apuleius, classical scholars often describe it as a "Roman novel", without necessarily implying continuity with the modern literary form.

The surviving portions of the text detail the misadventures of the narrator, Encolpius, and his lover, a handsome sixteen-year-old boy named Giton. Throughout the novel, Encolpius has a hard time keeping his lover faithful to him as he is constantly being enticed away by others. Encolpius's friend Ascyltus (who seems to have previously been in a relationship with Encolpius) is another major character.

It is one of the two most extensive witnesses to the Roman novel, the only other being fully extant Metamorphoses of Apuleius, which is quite different in style and plot. Satyricon is also extremely important evidence for the reconstruction of what everyday life must have been like for the lower classes during the early Roman Empire.

The work is narrated by its central figure, Encolpius, a former gladiator. The surviving sections of the novel begin with Encolpius traveling with a companion and former lover named Ascyltos, who has joined Encolpius on numerous escapades.

Encolpius' slave, a boy named Giton, is apparently at Encolpius' lodging when the story begins. Giton is constantly referred to as "brother" throughout the novel, thereby indicating that they were lovers.

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