In The Satyricon by Petronius, which one of the following of Trimalchio's things has symbolic function? the number of eunuchs color of clothes number of balls dropped fabric of clothes

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The clearest answer is that in The Satyricon, Chapter 5, the colors of Trimalchio's are symbolic. A number of colors are mentioned along with metallic gold and silver. Colors have deeply entrenched symbolism with much consistency between cultures and across time. The colors of clothing mentioned in Chapter 5 are scarlet, purple, blue, cherry-red, green, black, and white. 

Like gold and silver, black and white are considered oppositional to each other (they are not really opposites {i.e., "contrary or radically different" Random House Dictionary}  as there can't really be an opposite to a color though they can be in a relationship of opposition). Gold and silver adornment might be considered part of clothing though black and white are mentioned only as objects not related to clothing. Gold symbolizes wealth and good health as it is linked with the god of the Sun. Silver, associated with the Moon, is more complicated and symbolizes both (1) old age and weakness and (2) truth, beauty, and security. Trimalchio's adornments were silver and gold:

massive ring of silver gilt, and on the last joint of the next finger a smaller ring, apparently of solid gold

His robes and capes contained scarlet and purple. The symbol of scarlet ironically symbolizes both purification and sin while purple ironically symbolizes both great wealth and scarcity.

his bald head poked up out of a scarlet mantle, ...
over all was laid a napkin with a broad purple stripe or laticlave, and long fringes hanging down either side.

Another ironically oppositional pairing of colors is between green and cherry-red. The one symbolizes growth and life while the other symbolizes war, respectively.

the doorkeeper, [was] dressed in green with a cherry-colored sash,

When these colors and metals are analyzed in relation to Trimalchio, a metaphorical description, a character study, emerges that enlightens the reader as to Trimalchio's inner traits and to how society understand hi character traits.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team