Bookbeat: November 2011

A Commentary on the Satyrica of Petronius A Commentary on the Satyrica of Petronius

by Gareth Schmeling
Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Classics
(Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011)
Available via Amazon

The Satyrica is a thrilling piece of literature, and rare example of the Roman novel, credited to Gaius Petronius which is as modern today as the time it was written under the Roman emperor Nero. This is the first comprehensive commentary on the whole of Petronius’ Satyrica, and is an attempt to unify and comprehend, as much as possible, the fragmentary text by looking carefully at the bits and pieces which have survived. The Satyrica’s unique nature as a historical document from the ancient world has meant that it has been vigorously studied by social historians as it provides an insightful look into the lives of ordinary Roman people, such as the story of Trimalchio the Roman businessman, as well as enacting the evolution of Latin into the various Romantic languages as we know them today. Petronius puts into the mouth of each of his characters a unique level of Latin, so that the world of the Satyrica is populated not by characters who speak a kind of Latin which made Latin a dead language, but by flesh and blood people who have made Latin live until today.

Schmeling’s commentary offers readers an insightful analysis of this historically important text through philological, linguistic, historical, and narratological discussions, while highlighting past doubts on Petronius’ authorship of the Satyrica.

- Publisher

Named as one of the Books of the Year by The Times Literary Supplement, Akin Ajayi says "Gareth Schmeling’s Commentary on the Satyrica of Petronius (Oxford) is the fat fruit of an academic lifetime of attention to every detail of Petronius’s fragmented masterpiece. Writing in what threatens to be the twilight of classical studies, Schmeling has, I suspect, had the reliable last word on all aspects of his subject."

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