- Series: Meridian classics
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Plume; Meridian ed. edition (November 1, 1983)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0452010055
- ISBN-13: 978-0452010055
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Satyricon (Meridian classics) Meridian ed. Edition
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"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."
"Arrowsmith's brilliant translation
at one stroke renders every other version obsolete."
London Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Gaius Petronius Arbiter was a Roman courtier. He was the author of the Satyricon, a satirical novel written during the Neronian era.
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.
William Arrowsmith was an American classicist, academic, and translator. His translations include works by Euripides, Aristophanes, and Petronius. He died in 1992.
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Top Customer Reviews
I certainly dissent from the opinion of the venerable New York Times. "One of the comic masterpieces in the literature of the Western world" the Satyricon is absolutely not. It is funny, it is a valuable artifact of Nero's Rome, it is an important source of information about life, living and loving in the Rome of Seneca from a viewpoint and genre of literature with which we would be a little less culturally rich had this work not survived at least in part.
Students of antiquity needn't regard this as a primary work in their collection, but this affordable translation of a rollicking comedy of decadence and debauchery is at very least a good tertiary work that just happens to be a humorous read translated masterfully. It is worth the price of a good used book.
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.
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". In it, we see a largesse, a gluttony, whose perversions are so outlandish, that we join with Ascyltus in laughing at it, while we secretly revel in its unquestionable splendor.
The excesses of this chapter can be seen as a model for the "Satyricon" itself: conversations begin and end on a whim; like Trimalchio, Petronius as author can be clearly felt in guiding the course of events. Trimalchio's restroom breaks are like those times in the narrative where Petronius himself seems to take breaks from the actual plot, as in Eumolpus's extended and inane epic poem on the Roman civil war. In any event, with all its literary styles, parodic forms, and its stubborn refusal to be simply categorized, the "Satyricon," even fragmentary as it is, is a fabulous text. Although some of the colloquialisms he uses are beginning to show signs of advancing age, William Arrowsmith's translation, almost fifty years after initial publication, is still lively and engaging English for a 21st century crowd.