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The Satyricon AND The Apocolocyntosis [Kindle Edition]

Petronius , Seneca , J. Sullivan
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Perhaps the strangest - and most strikingly modern - work to survive from the ancient world, The Satyricon relates the hilarious mock epic adventures of the impotent Encolpius, and his struggle to regain virility. Here Petronius brilliantly brings to life the courtesans, legacy-hunters, pompous professors and dissolute priestesses of the age - and, above all, Trimalchio, the archetypal self-made millionaire whose pretentious vulgarity on an insanely grand scale makes him one of the great comic characters in literature. Seneca's The Apocolocyntosis, a malicious skit on 'the deification of Claudius the Clod', was designed by the author to ingratiate himself with Nero, who was Claudius' successor. Together, the two provide a powerful insight into a darkly fascinating period of Roman history.

Product Description

About the Author

J.P. Sullivan has held appointments in Classics or Arts and Letters at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Texas, Buffalo, Minnesota, ad Hawaii. He is the author of The Satyricon of Petronius: A Literary Study, Propertius: A Critical Introduction, Literature and Plitics in the Age of Nero and Martial: The Unexpected Classic.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1223 KB
  • Print Length: 229 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0140443134
  • Publisher: Penguin; Rev Ed edition (27 Jan. 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI99AU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #481,416 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tall stories from the Court of Nero 7 Aug. 2001
By Martina
If like me, you have never quite recovered from the tedium of school Classics lessons a dose of Petronius will swiftly restore your jaded appetite for the great writers of Greece and Rome. To begin with, I prescribe Paul Dinnage's lively translation of "The Satyricon" (circa 60 AD) which provides a vibrant mosaic of the age of Nero.
Wherever a canon of literature is prized, a sort of literary reflex results in parodial imitations. In "The Satyricon", Petronius parodies "The Odyssey", weighing the journey of Homer's Odysseus against the picaresque adventures of Encolpius, the bisexual yet impotent narrator, while the wrath of Poseidon is set against that of Priapus. Petronius alternates verse and prose in an explicit exposé of literary form by interpolating short tales of sex, superstition, and lost legacies. Indeed, this internal story telling is developed to such a degree that the poet not only parodies "The Odyssey" but also satirizes the external narrative of Encolpius so that the parallel with Homer's Odysseus is doubly parodial.
One of the principle narratives, 'Dinner with Trimalchio', introduces the reader to the archetypal self-made man whose intellectual pretentiousness and general vulgarity is a model for many great comic characters of world literature and TV situation comedy. This section of "The Satyricon" establishes the poem as a text intriguing in its 'modernity'. Trimalchio, boasting of his improbable encounter with the Sibyl of Cumae, supplies T. S. Eliot with his epigraph to "The Waste Land" at the same time as enticing the reader into "The Odyssey" of Homer, Virgil's "Aeneid", and the "Metamorphoses" of Ovid.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only for academics 2 Jun. 2009
This is rightly hailed as a classic, being one of the clearest accounts of day-to-day Roman life for those outside the nobility and political and military elite during the Empire. And of course it is a fine example of political satire, with many subtle and not-so-subtle digs at public figures and writers of the era. All of this makes it a great academic read. And as such, I enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, it's a lousy novel. That's not the author's fault, but is simply because large chunks of the text have been lost over the last 1900 years so there are jarring gaps. While we can, to a limited extent, reconstruct parts of it, all that tells us is what the broad arc of the story might have been. It does not restore the text. You could cut chunks out of any good story, and then largely rebuild the tale, but if you were to read it with those chunks missing (which is the case with my copy of the Satyricon, which lacks even the briefest of inline notes about the missing sections) it would still not be a good read. It's almost a pity that the practice of translators/editors filling in the blanks themselves, making them up out of whole cloth, hasn't taken off, at least for mass-market paperbacks. But then, I suppose, there isn't a mass-market because it's not about some ghastly footballer or pig-faced slag from Essex.

One only for those with an academic interest in the era.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very short but interesting none the less 21 Jan. 2000
Satyricon is a very short piece, 62 pages in total. Some of the translation is a bit odd and the translators have obviously used some poetic license to give it a contemporary feel. It is none the less quite an interesting piece on the excesses of a wealthy character called Trimalchio, who lived during the reign of Nero in Imperial Rome. It would certainly give you a good contrast to someone like Pliny the Younger.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 22 Oct. 2014
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Darkly Fascinating 17 July 2002
By James Paris - Published on
It was not easy being a poet and scholar in Nero's day. Since the Emperor regarded himself as the poet par excellence, everyone else was ultimately disposable. Both Petronius and Seneca were ultimately requested to commit suicide and did so, lest the Praetorian Guard were called in to "assist" them.
In the earlier days of Nero's rule, when there was some possibility that his would be one of the rare enlightened reigns, Petronius and Seneca joined Nero in a regular after-dinner literary society where the humor was frequently raunchy and the sex more often than not perverted.
The SATYRICON was originally a fairly long episodic spoof of the ODYSSEY: its hero offends the God Priapus by ransacking his temple and is stricken with impotence. He and his friends and bedmates wander through Italy recounting their adventures. The only fairly intact sequence tells of a dinner by a nouveau-riche merchant named Trimalchio who holds an elegant banquet but whose base-born origins are always showing. All the rest of the episodes are fragmentary, though not without interest.
Seneca takes the recently poisoned Emperor Claudius down a peg by spoofing his deification. Starting with Julius Caesar, the Romans turned many of their leaders into gods upon their demise. Claudius -- who was by no means the nice guy portrayed in the Robert Graves books -- gets short shrift in the underworld. A clue: The title is usually translated as "The Pumpkinification of Claudius." Seneca was treading carefully here, as Nero's mother was Claudius' wife and is generally considered to have been the one who poisoned him.
These are not works that you can sit down and read as if they were novels. The introductions are not only helpful, but mandatory to understanding what follows. Both works, along with the works of Lucan, are essential to understanding this darkly fascinating period of Roman history.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient fun 23 Jun. 2010
By krebsman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
How much you appreciate THE SATYRICON depends on why you're reading it. If you're reading for a good story, look elsewhere. This is a fragment. The missing parts are gone forever. We can only imagine what the missing parts contained. But if you're reading for a glimpse into Roman life in first century AD, this is a treat. It's a very readable translation that is also very funny. I laughed out loud a couple of times. The introduction explains that it is a spoof of THE ODYSSEY. Odysseus gets blown around the Mediterranean as a result of having offended Poseidon. In THE SATYRICON the protagonist has offended Priapus and must suffer his wrath as the bounces around the Bay of Naples.

This work is famous for its depiction of the uber-freedman, Trimalchio, and his excessively vulgar banquet, and it lived up to my expectations. Oh how I wish that someone would miraculously discover the missing parts. What there is of this is great.

The APOCOLOCYNTOSIS is an amusing brief work (once again fragmentary) by Seneca that gives some insight into the sensibilities of the time. Also included are several chunks of text that were perhaps part of the SATYRICON at one time. There are detailed notes and introductions for everything. I can't imagine anything better, other than complete texts. Five stars.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful bawdy 29 July 2005
By wiredweird - Published on
Petronius, according to the translator's notes, was a person of unidentified occupation and member of Emperor Nero's court. Chances are that Petronius got by ingratiating himself with the rich and famous, perhaps by amusing them with his stories. It's also fair to guess that he joined some of their debuaches - perhaps some of this is drawn from experience - and that the tales grew in the telling.

The story starts with the narrator Encolpius, with his friend Asclytus, and with the toyboy they share, Giton. What follows is a wandering series of encounters. They split and reunite a number of times, usually around some improbable scheme. Later on, the aging poet Eumolpus takes Asclytus' place in the story, in Giton's intimacy, and in the petty schemes with Encolpius.

At one point, Encolpius is found spying on the ecstasies offered up to one of the gods. The punishment for that lewd interlude is in kind, to have ecstasy thrust upon (and into) him beyond bearing. That's an early passage, and sets the tone for all the other adventures and escapes in this book.

Towards the end, his dissolute ways make him the Cialis poster boy. He seeks an aged witch for aphrodisiac treatment, and she gives it to him all different ways. To his dismay, many ways involve her own aged body in the treatment. A reader with a vivid imagination will see lots more humor than this 1965 translation would have dared put on paper.

But I wonder, is this really the best translation? Yes, it has some integrity - Sullivan has been careful to note breaks in the manuscript. He even adds a chapter of "fragments," too broken and disjoint to guess at. The reader doesn't get a false sense of continuity caused by the translator's patches. On the other hand, the reader doesn't get a full sense of continuity, either. On the scale from academic rendering to storytelling, I wish this were a bit more in the storytelling direction. No matter, it's a great story anyway.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The world's first long novel! 18 Mar. 2012
By César Tort - Published on
Rome, centuries ago..

In the vast and important Greek and Roman literature from which we still live, there are just a few novelists. Maybe for an overwhelming majority of illiterates it would be much more affordable the theater, which is enough to listen, that the written narrative which must be read. The same was true of poetry and the rhapsodies recited in public.

The fact is that in Greece there are only few examples of novels, apart from Daphnis and Chloe (Oxford World's Classics), and from the Romans only Apuleius and Petronius, whose work we offer here.

It appears that, at the time, the Satyricon enjoyed considerable popular success, for both Tacitus and Quintilian commented it in their manuscripts, although it is apparent that neither knew it directly, only from hearsay. It is likely that they did not grant it much literary value because its style and form collided with all the concepts in vogue.

However, the Satyricon was not lost and copies were kept in the Middle Ages, while jealously concealed because of its subject matter [pederasty] and for being the work of a pagan. The work continued to be ignored by the public to the point that only scholars knew its title, but believed it was lost.

Therefore, a scandal broke when, in 1664, appeared the first edition of Pierre Petit.

Soon after, the Satyricon was translated into several languages, including ours, with such success that has made it one of the great bestsellers in history. There were those who sought to take advantage that the work is incomplete, rewriting it to their liking. It was easy nevertheless to expose them.

Presumably, however, the author would not work at top speed like if we should go to a literary prize. He seems to have devoted years to this task. Do not forget that what is now known are only fragments of the original, estimated in twenty books. He might have started writing when Caligula reigned and Nero followed, to see the publication during the reign of the next emperor. It can be no coincidence that the book mentions contemporary events known to all, or that the author considered worth mentioning many names.

This is a job too conscientious not to be the work of a professional. Moreover, the action does not take place in Rome, but in the provinces and almost none of the men are Latins. It seems as if the author had had an interest in showing the reality of the empire, a reality ignored in the capital.

The novel consists merely of the travel story of Encolpius and his servant Gitone through different locations. The incidents, sometimes unrelated, their adventures and the people they encounter are the text of the Satyricon, which lacks a plot as was the style of the epoch. We could actually say that it consists of countless short stories of the two protagonists. This technique influenced many centuries later the books of chivalry, the picaresque and even Don Quixote (Penguin Classics). Throughout many incidents the author reveals us an extraordinary real view of the life in the Roman provinces, although tinged with irony.

Petronius simply tells us what he saw. In a way, his novel was an approach to realism, leaving aside the epic tone of the tragedies to focus on current issues, as Aristophanes did in Greece. And that was the pattern followed by Petronius. There is a huge difference between his style and that of other contemporary writers.

Poets, despite their undoubted genius, are pompous and in the tragedies the dialogues are extremely emphatic. Petronius by contrast, remains accessible to everyone. He expressed himself in a conversational tone, which justifies the use of a first person that conveys the feeling that someone is telling us a live tale. That's why today we can read his Satyricon with the same interest of his times and nothing of its freshness is lost.

Writing is, in a sense, a childbirth with the same joys and suffering. Both things must have accompanied Petronius in this trip with Encolpius and Gitone through the decline of Rome.

(by Jacinto Leon Ignacio)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Political and literary satires 17 Feb. 2010
By Christopher R. Travers - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Satyricon is an interesting story on many levels. It includes a fascinating look into concepts of friendship and love in Rome, and is one important source we have for views of magic and witchcraft in Rome. The work has a great deal to tell us about Roman society, and perceptions of Roman society despite its satirical nature. Secondly, just as Livy and Virgil tend to draw a great deal from the Illiad, this work draws from the Odyssey but does so in what seems to be intended to be a humorous way. It is also an enjoyable read.

The Apocolocyntosis is a humorous skit mocking the late emperor Claudius's ascent into godhood. The title includes a play on words (if Apotheosis is turning a person into a god, then Apocolocyntosis is turning a person into a gourd or pumpkin). The message seems to be that Claudius was a gambler who was more fit to be remembered for his gambling tools (made of gourd?) than honored as a god. There are subtle elements to this metaphor which are dependent on a good knowledge of the Hellenistic world (such as the widespread cult of Tyche, the goddess of luck).

The translations are easy to read and well put together. This edition also adds insightful introductions and copious end-notes to help the serious student get more out of these works. I would highly recommend it.
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