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Arbitri Nugae

Petronius’ Short Poems in the "Satyrica</I>


Aldo Setaioli

This book aims to provide a comprehensive inquiry into the short metrical intermezzos inserted in the prose narrative of Petronius’ Satyrica. The text of each poem has been thoroughly investigated; in addition, special attention has been devoted to their function in the context and to the aspects connecting Petronius with the literature and culture of his time. Numerous contacts with other ancient authors have been pointed out to illustrate Petronius’ attitude to the cultural and literary heritage on the one hand, and the character of his own work on the other.


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Introduction - Petronius’ Poems in the Satyrica 1


Introduction Petronius’ Poems in the Satyrica* Though occasionally verse may be found in other ancient novels (e.g. Apul. met. 4.33 and 9.8) and quotations from Homer, linguistically integrated in the text, often appear in Chariton, the Satyrica is unique in ancient fiction in that no less than 30 poems (including the Virgilian cento at 132.11) appear in the preserved parts alone. There are then at least as many poems that have been transmitted as fragments under the name of Petronius, mainly in the Anthologia Latina. Though these are anything but devoid of interest and have been rightly revalued1 after a long neglect largely due to mistrust in their Petronian authenticity, we may confidently assume that the lack of a context makes their full appreciation impossible. The poems transmittetd together with the prose by Petronius’ direct tradition are in fact an integral part of the novel2 and acquire full meaning and import only in relation to the prose frame in which they appear. On the one hand literary nods and allusions often interpenetrate both the poems and the surround- ing prose; and on the other, as we shall see, several of the poems that can be at- tributed to Encolpius define and demarcate a level distinct from that of the prose narrative, but inseparable from it, in that verse and prose alternate in expressing the moods of the character, as he goes through his multifarious adventures, or of the narrator, as he reports and recalls his past vicissitudes later in time.3...

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