In the classical tale "The Satyricon," Petronius Arbiter makes a strong, yet humorous, statement about the social life of the Romans. Rather than telling the story of Encolpius and his companions heroically, which was the typical approach of other writings around 1 AD, Petronius chose to show the true life and vernacular of the Roman lower and middle class through satire and comedy. Narrator Encolpius, a former gladiator, goes on adventures with his best friend and former lover Ascyltos as well as his slave and current lover Giton. Yet Encolpius constantly worries about whether or not Giton's affections are waning. The trio participates in various parties, events, and celebrations, but their attention is less focused on properly worshipping the gods and more fixated on the sexual nature of the wild bacchanals. Written during Emperor Nero's era, with "The Satyricon," Petronius gives the reader a realistic sense of what life during the famously cruel emperor's life was truly like. While he was known for his tyrannical persecution of Christians, Nero's reign was also filled with over-the-top celebrations in honor of the gods. Petronius was a frequent visitor to Nero's bacchanals, meaning that "The Satyricon" is a fictional first-hand account of the time. The work is not only a precious gem of Western literature because of its wit, but because it gives modern readers a realistic glimpse into history.
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January 01, 2013
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