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The Satyricon (Meridian classics) Reissue Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0452010055
ISBN-10: 0452010055
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Editorial Reviews


"This version by a translator who understands the high art of low humor is conspicuously funny."

"William Arrowsmith's translation of The Satyricon meets the two fundamental requirements of the translator's art: perfect fidelity to the original and a vitality of style that tempts the reader to believe that the English version is not a translation.… A classic of literature."
—Allen Tate

"Arrowsmith's brilliant translation … at one stroke renders every other version obsolete."
London Times Literary Supplement

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

  • Series: Meridian classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reissue edition (November 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452010055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452010055
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By mp on October 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Petronius's "Satyricon" is, loosely defined, the story of Encolpius's odyssey through the Mediterranean world of the first century AD. Encolpius is a freeman and a scholar, whose distaste for popular culture, and disrespect for other people's privacy leads him into a strange, twisted, sexually disorienting series of misadventures.
The action of the plot commences when Encolpius stumbles upon a secret ritual performed by followers of Priapus, the Roman god of lust. In the context of other ancient novels, I think it is extremely important to note that the god who spurs the hero's wanderings is not Eros, the god of love, but Priapus, a perhaps degenerate form of Eros. Rendered impotent by the angry god, Encolpius begins experiencing external complications as well. Encolpius's lover, the boy Giton, and his best friend Ascyltus get into repeated quarrels over Giton's preference of partner: Encolpius or Ascyltus.
For a mere boy, Giton is presented throughout the "Satyricon" as its most shrewd and interesting character. He lurks on the peripheries of the main action, yet the reader can clearly perceive his manipulative actions, as he takes the side in any argument or dispute of the party most likely to win, switching camps at a moment's notice. In the dissolute moral background of Roman imperial society, Giton is shown to be the best at "doing as the Romans do".
As a curse-born eunuch, Encolpius roams about with Giton and the bombastic, and epically terrible poet Eumolpus, trying to restore himself to full masculinity. Along the way, Petronius presents us with a range of different critiques. The most impressive of these episodic satires is the oft-cited chapter five, "Dinner with Trimalchio".
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Michael Sympson on June 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Satyricon has reached us in a particularly bad shape, but it is not the only ancient text that makes you wonder whether its author, if he could rise from the dead, would be able to identify his own work from the concoctions of modern scholarship! Often the archetype for our endeavor is already removed from the original script by many centuries, and who knows whether the authorÕs own script had been free of errors. Even on papyrus, to produce a manuscript was slow and costly. Before the invention of the codex, scrolls in some cases could be a heavy and cumbersome affair of 90 ft. in length and up to 30 pounds of weight. Once a column had disappeared in the interior of such scroll, the author would be very reluctant to go through the trouble of unscrolling, if he could help it. So for his cross-references he would rather trust his memory, and of course nobody even considered making an index, because for scrolled material it is practically useless. It makes only sense if you can go between single pages. Worst of all, we look at a book that in all likelihood had never been disseminated very widely. Most copies seem to have been private notes, taken from the text with little regard of context. Since it is a frank and unashamedly lewd text, most copyists, like naughty schoolboys, copied out only the juicy bits for God knows what use. This has saddled the modern reader with a collection of snippets in a very sorry condition, which under-represents the entire text by 90% and over-represents the sex in it by 100%. Of reportedly some 20 books, only portions of book 14, 15, and 16 have survived in loose snippets from all over Europe, but nobody has yet established an undisputed order for all the fragments. For all we know, prior to the surviving part, the story starts at Marseilles.Read more ›
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you've seen Fellini's "Satyricon" and were utterly mystified by it like I was, it's no use reading Petronius' original to try to sort it out. If fact, it may not be much use reading the Satyricon at all. It is awfully disjointed, having been, I suppose, picked up in pieces of broken parchment off the desert floor. There are only maybe two or three stretches of it that are reasonably coherent, the only great one being "Trimalchio's Dinner," and even that can be obscure without a keen sense of humor, or in my case (being a bit dim) a brilliant and jovial Classics teacher. The reward, if you get it all, is one wonderful chapter of rich, ribald comedy, which you'll remember many years. Of the translations, Arrowsmith's (I've looked at one or two others, while cramming for Latin finals probably) seems to be about the best in flavor--merry, mock-dramatic, wicked--but one or two others are, technically, more accurate.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Octavius on March 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Petronius' Satyricon is a unique satire on decadence and pleasure. Although the story takes place during Nero's reign, one begins to see that many of the scenes have relevance to today's society and its own debaucheries.

The story follows the adventures of Aschyltus and Encolpio; two rhetoricians who are on an infinite quest for pleasure. Their frienship is challenged by their mutual attraction to Giton, a scoundrelous slave-boy who seems to have more wits and vices than all of the other characters. This triad of debauches is also joined by Emolpus, a trickster and pseudo-intellectual who's always scheming on how he can use his sophistry to hit the jack pot. The most memorable scene in the fragmentary work is Trimalchio's dinner; this chapter surprisingly brings the ancient past closer to modern times in its recital of the characters' casual conversations on money, opportunism, business, and, of course, pleasure.

Although some readers have complained that Arrowsmith's translation isn't faithful to some of the Latin terms, the truth is (as is the case with any other foreign works) that some of the words don't have a counterpart in the English language (or any other modern language.) It is therefore the duty of the translator to use his poetic licence in conjuring the best phrase or sentence that can convey the theme or jist of the statement in question. I personally found this translation the most faithful in trying to convey the type of low-brow humor and puns that Petronius seems to have intended in his work. I strongly recommend this translation above other for that reason.
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The Satyricon (Meridian classics)
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