Little is known about the life of Petronius Arbiter (peh-TROH-nee-uhs AHR-beht-ehr). Perhaps a senator with ties to the Neronian court, he is reputed to be the author of the Satyricon (c. 60 c.e.; The Satyricon, 1694). This lengthy but fragmentary Latin work combines both prose and poetry to recount the adventures of its hero and narrator Encolpius and assorted other characters as they travel about southern Italy.
Much of the Satyricon has been lost, but the extant portions of the work are episodic in nature and often depict contemporary Roman society with exaggerated realism. The most famous episode is the “Cena Trimalchionis” (“Trimalchio’s Dinner Party”), in which the main characters are guests at an extravagant and vulgar dinner party. Other episodes are of a romantic or more graphically sexual nature, and the work features inserted tales and poetic interludes that derive from and reflect on the plot of the text.