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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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Appendix I - Vegetables and Bald Heads (Petr. 109.10.3-4) 345


Appendix I Vegetable and Bald Heads (Petr. 109.10.3-4)* 1. At Satyrica 109.9-10 Eumolpus recites some verses1 poking fun at the plight of his two friends, Encolpius and Giton, whose heads have been completely shaved in the futile attempt to pass them off as fugitive slaves having been so punished, thus enabling them to escape recognition by Lichas and Tryphaena. Three elegiac couplets are followed by seven hendecasyllables. Here I mean to concentrate on a single problem, posed by an expression in the hendecasyllables. Addressing presumably Giton (or perhaps both him and Encolpius) in the sec- ond person singular, Eumolpus tells him: “Poor head, you gleamed with hair / than sun and moon more fair; / bronze-bald, as tuber round / rain-born in garden ground, / now mocking girls you dread”.2 I have purposely adopted this transla- tion by Bracht Branham and Kinney,3 though I do not agree with the reference to rain, because it preserves the exact equivalent of the Latin word around which our problem revolves, namely tuber. Giton’s bald head is called smoother than polished bronze or than a vegetable, referred to as tuber, which is round, grows in a vegetable garden, and is generated by water: levior aere vel rotundo / horti tubere, quod creavit unda (vv. 3-4; 9-10 of the whole poem). Opinions as to the nature of this vegetable have varied, and may fall into three categories. By far the greatest number of interpreters take this tuber to be some sort of mushroom...

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