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The Satyricon and The Apocolocyntosis of the Divine Claudius (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 2, 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0140444896 ISBN-10: 0140444890 Edition: Revised 5th
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

About the Author

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, statesman, philosopher, advocate and man of letters, was born at Cordoba in Spain around 4 BC. He rose to prominence in Rome, pursuing a career in the courts and political life, for which he had been trained, while also acquiring celebrity as an author of tragedies and essays. Falling foul of successive emperors (Caligula in AD 39 and Claudius in AD 41), he spent eight years in exile, allegedly for an affair with Caligula’s sister. Recalled in AD 49, he was made praetor and was appointed tutor to the boy who was to become, in AD 54, the emperor Nero. On Nero’s succession, Seneca acted for some eight years as an unofficial chief minister. The early part of this reign was remembered as a period of sound government, for which the main credit seems due to Seneca. His control over Nero declined as enemies turned the emperor against him with representations that his popularity made him a danger, or with accusations of immorality or excessive wealth. Retiring from public life he devoted his last three years to philosophy and writing, particularly the Letters to Lucilius. In AD 65 following the discovery of a plot against the emperor, in which he was thought to be implicated, he and many others were compelled by Nero to commit suicide. His fame as an essayist and dramatist lasted until two or three centuries ago, when he passed into literary oblivion, from which the twentieth century has seen a considerable recovery.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised 5th edition (December 2, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on July 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
It was not easy being a poet and scholar in Nero's day. Since the Emperor regarded himself as the poet par excellence, everyone else was ultimately disposable. Both Petronius and Seneca were ultimately requested to commit suicide and did so, lest the Praetorian Guard were called in to "assist" them.
In the earlier days of Nero's rule, when there was some possibility that his would be one of the rare enlightened reigns, Petronius and Seneca joined Nero in a regular after-dinner literary society where the humor was frequently raunchy and the sex more often than not perverted.
The SATYRICON was originally a fairly long episodic spoof of the ODYSSEY: its hero offends the God Priapus by ransacking his temple and is stricken with impotence. He and his friends and bedmates wander through Italy recounting their adventures. The only fairly intact sequence tells of a dinner by a nouveau-riche merchant named Trimalchio who holds an elegant banquet but whose base-born origins are always showing. All the rest of the episodes are fragmentary, though not without interest.
Seneca takes the recently poisoned Emperor Claudius down a peg by spoofing his deification. Starting with Julius Caesar, the Romans turned many of their leaders into gods upon their demise. Claudius -- who was by no means the nice guy portrayed in the Robert Graves books -- gets short shrift in the underworld. A clue: The title is usually translated as "The Pumpkinification of Claudius." Seneca was treading carefully here, as Nero's mother was Claudius' wife and is generally considered to have been the one who poisoned him.
These are not works that you can sit down and read as if they were novels. The introductions are not only helpful, but mandatory to understanding what follows. Both works, along with the works of Lucan, are essential to understanding this darkly fascinating period of Roman history.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By krebsman VINE VOICE on June 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How much you appreciate THE SATYRICON depends on why you're reading it. If you're reading for a good story, look elsewhere. This is a fragment. The missing parts are gone forever. We can only imagine what the missing parts contained. But if you're reading for a glimpse into Roman life in first century AD, this is a treat. It's a very readable translation that is also very funny. I laughed out loud a couple of times. The introduction explains that it is a spoof of THE ODYSSEY. Odysseus gets blown around the Mediterranean as a result of having offended Poseidon. In THE SATYRICON the protagonist has offended Priapus and must suffer his wrath as the bounces around the Bay of Naples.

This work is famous for its depiction of the uber-freedman, Trimalchio, and his excessively vulgar banquet, and it lived up to my expectations. Oh how I wish that someone would miraculously discover the missing parts. What there is of this is great.

The APOCOLOCYNTOSIS is an amusing brief work (once again fragmentary) by Seneca that gives some insight into the sensibilities of the time. Also included are several chunks of text that were perhaps part of the SATYRICON at one time. There are detailed notes and introductions for everything. I can't imagine anything better, other than complete texts. Five stars.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Petronius, according to the translator's notes, was a person of unidentified occupation and member of Emperor Nero's court. Chances are that Petronius got by ingratiating himself with the rich and famous, perhaps by amusing them with his stories. It's also fair to guess that he joined some of their debuaches - perhaps some of this is drawn from experience - and that the tales grew in the telling.

The story starts with the narrator Encolpius, with his friend Asclytus, and with the toyboy they share, Giton. What follows is a wandering series of encounters. They split and reunite a number of times, usually around some improbable scheme. Later on, the aging poet Eumolpus takes Asclytus' place in the story, in Giton's intimacy, and in the petty schemes with Encolpius.

At one point, Encolpius is found spying on the ecstasies offered up to one of the gods. The punishment for that lewd interlude is in kind, to have ecstasy thrust upon (and into) him beyond bearing. That's an early passage, and sets the tone for all the other adventures and escapes in this book.

Towards the end, his dissolute ways make him the Cialis poster boy. He seeks an aged witch for aphrodisiac treatment, and she gives it to him all different ways. To his dismay, many ways involve her own aged body in the treatment. A reader with a vivid imagination will see lots more humor than this 1965 translation would have dared put on paper.

But I wonder, is this really the best translation? Yes, it has some integrity - Sullivan has been careful to note breaks in the manuscript. He even adds a chapter of "fragments," too broken and disjoint to guess at. The reader doesn't get a false sense of continuity caused by the translator's patches.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By César Tort on March 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
Rome, centuries ago..

In the vast and important Greek and Roman literature from which we still live, there are just a few novelists. Maybe for an overwhelming majority of illiterates it would be much more affordable the theater, which is enough to listen, that the written narrative which must be read. The same was true of poetry and the rhapsodies recited in public.

The fact is that in Greece there are only few examples of novels, apart from Daphnis and Chloe (Oxford World's Classics), and from the Romans only Apuleius and Petronius, whose work we offer here.

It appears that, at the time, the Satyricon enjoyed considerable popular success, for both Tacitus and Quintilian commented it in their manuscripts, although it is apparent that neither knew it directly, only from hearsay. It is likely that they did not grant it much literary value because its style and form collided with all the concepts in vogue.

However, the Satyricon was not lost and copies were kept in the Middle Ages, while jealously concealed because of its subject matter [pederasty] and for being the work of a pagan. The work continued to be ignored by the public to the point that only scholars knew its title, but believed it was lost.

Therefore, a scandal broke when, in 1664, appeared the first edition of Pierre Petit.

Soon after, the Satyricon was translated into several languages, including ours, with such success that has made it one of the great bestsellers in history. There were those who sought to take advantage that the work is incomplete, rewriting it to their liking. It was easy nevertheless to expose them.
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