Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Southern Italy

*Southern Italy. Region in which most of The Satyricon is set. Until the Pyrrhic and Second Punic Wars of the third century b.c.e., much of southern Italy—especially its seaports—was controlled by Greek colonists. Writing in the first century c.e., Petronius used the continuing presence of Greek influence, and the stereotyping by urban Romans of Greek greed, dishonesty, homosexuality, and overblown philosophizing to create scenes of life in southern Italian towns that are both caricatures of Greek stereotypes and assaults on traditional Roman sensibilities.


*Puteoli (poo-CHOH-lee; now Pozzuoli). Southern Italian port city, west of Naples, that Petronius portrays as suffering from high prices, food shortages, and bad gladiatorial games. According to Petronius, Puteoli lacks any real sense of high culture. Despite being a Greek town in origin, it has no room for poetry, and both its philosophy and its art are decadent. Petronius is, however, actually, critiquing Roman culture as a whole, a dangerous thing to do during the age of Emperor Nero.

Puteoli’s role as a major port for eastern goods meant that it had both a prevalence of Easterners and a general ethic focused on money, as embodied in Trimalchio. Encolpius himself, however, is truly an outsider to this ethic, a beggar and an exile, and is thus easily lost in Puteoli’s maze of streets.

The city’s shrine to Priapus, into which Encolpius and Ascyltus stumble, sets the sexual tone of the work. The prevalent homosexuality that is taken for granted throughout Puteoli seems the one characteristic binding Encolpius to...

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(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Auerbach, Erich. “Fortunata.” In Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Translated by Willard R. Trask. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968. A masterly study of Trimalchio’s banquet that contrasts Petronius’ treatment of fortuna with Homer’s.

Bagnani, Gilbert. Arbiter of Elegance: A Study of the Life and Works of C. Petronius. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1954. Includes discussions of the date and authorship, Roman propaganda literature, the language of The Satyricon, and a comparison of Alexander Pope and Petronius.

Slater, Niall W. Reading Petronius. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. Explores the humor of The Satyricon through an initial linear reading, two readings focusing on various language systems and on Petronius’ comedic purpose, or lack thereof.

Sullivan, J. P. “The Satyricon” of Petronius: A Literary Study. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968. Discusses authorship and date of The Satyricon, Petronius’ choice of form, satire, criticism, and parody in the work, the author’s humor, and sexual themes.

Todd, Frederick Augustus. “The Satiricon of Petronius.” In Some Ancient Novels:Leucippe and Clitophon,” “Daphnis and Chloe,” “The Satiricon,” “The Golden Ass.” Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1968. In his contrast of The Satyricon with earlier classical romances, Todd declares Petronius’ work to be unique in his use of common, highly individualistic characters, realistic scenes, and lack of rhetorical flourish. He points out that Petronius suits the language to the character and is one of the chief sources for information about spoken Latin.