Petronius’s Satyricon: Trimalchio and Encolpius Essay
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Dec 14th, 2019

Petronius’s Satyricon: Trimalchio and Encolpius Essay

Satyricon is a unique literary work which is a combination of first-person narration and tales encompassing the lives of even the ordinary Greek people. Gaius Petronius wrote it around 61 AD inspired by the lavish lifestyle in Rome, literature, art, and self-expression, vulgar abuse of wealth, pretension, and religious superstition depicting Nero in some parts of the novel (Wilson, 2007). Tacitus, a famous historian, was the main source of Petronius’ life.

Petronius worked as a consul during Nero’s reign. He is known as “the Arbiter” which means “judge of elegance” whom Emperor Nero often consults about matters regarding luxury, extravagance, art and literature.

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However, a rival got jealous over who accused him of treason. In response, Petronius committed suicide instead of being executed (Ruden, 2000). Petronius wide experience on literature and arts allowed to explore write a sophisticated book about the people in different ranks.

Satyricon main characters include (1) Encolpius, who is the narrator; (2) Trimalchio, a slave; (3) Agamemnon , teacher of Encolpius; and (4) Fortunata, the wife of Trimalchio (“”Dinner with Trimalchio” from the Satyricon,”).

Encolpius is very clever and adventurous man who is also a student of rhetoric who composes and delivers speeches. Encolpius was cursed by the phallic god, Priapus, to be impotent and he travels all along with his friends Giton and Ascyltos just to find a cure. Ascyltos, a young and gay, is also a student of rhetoric.

Giton, on the other hand, is a slave who accompanied them throughout their journey. Along their travel, they a met a poet named Eumolpus whom they met on the road and decided to travel with them also (Sergius, 2005). They traveled to Campania, a Greek town and delivered a speech there about his dislike on the prevailing literature. He said accused the proponents of declamatory education as the root. However, Agamemnon who is a declaimer, blame in on the parents instead. His friend Ascyltos on the other hand, left in escape from Agamemnon.

More disputes has happened, but one of the most significant events in on the novel is the Dinner with Trimalchio. Trimalchio used to be a slave; but because of his perseverance, he was able to freed himself and attain wealth and power at the same time. The foursome happens to be invited by Trimalchio and his wife, Fortunata, on a lavish dinner that they never imagined. Aside from the Encolpius and his friends, high ranking people are also invited such as the rich, lawyers, traders, merchants, and other free men.

Trimalchio’s house, as described by Encolpius, is very spectacular especially the wall paintings of a watch dog whom Encolpius thought was real; painting of the Trimalchio’s life; Iliad and Odyssey; and gladiatorial combat (Wilson, 2007). Encolpius is fascinated by all the wall paintings saying that, “There was no time in which to examine them all”. Trimalchio is fashioned with napkin with purple border, his left hand wearing rings one of pure gold with iron stars around it, a golden arm-band on his right arm, and a bracelet mad of ivory.

Trimalchio is described as a senator and equestrian fanatic. Trimalchio believes in some superstition such as right foot forward first, preoccupation with death and zodiac dish. Each zodiac is represented with a specific dish such as ram on Aries, beef on Taurus, kidneys on Gemini, crown on cancer, sow’s womb on Virgo, African fig on Leo, balance on Libra, seafish on Scorpio, bull’s eye on Saguitarrius, lobster on Capricorn, goose on Aquarius and mullet on Pisces (Gill, 2007). Encolpius asked a servant and learned more of the how wealthy Trimalchio is.

Trimalchio purchased expensive wool, pitch, pepper, rams, bees from Attica and other sorts of things he bought. His wealth continues to increase and is clever enough to conceal if his business goes bankrupt by announcing an auction. Throughout the dinner, Trimalchio tried to discuss and boast all about his life and how he got the wealth he is enjoying. He is implying that he used to have nothing at all; but despite of that, he is now richer and powerful. He entertains hi guest with extravagant dishes and exhibitions, the way he treated his slaves and his pretence of education (Gill, 2007).

When Trimalchio excused himself to the toilet, the freedmen soon discussed about different sort of things such as weather, public games, education of their children, and the problems they encounter. After Trimalchio finished, he continues to delight them with more dishes. Stories are told about witches, and werewolf. Another guest came, a stonesmason named Habinnas, with his wife and chat with Trimalchio’s wife about their jewelries. However, Encolpius and his friends are getting bored and irritated and tried to leave the dinner.

The foursome are prevented to escape by a servant; but after hearing a sound of horns when Trimalchio tried to portray his funeral, they escaped (Gill, 2007). More adventures followed as the foursome tried to escape by the sea. The setting of the dinner is speculated to have happened either in Naples or Pompeii. Petronius tells about freedman and it is assumed that most of the freedmen in Satyricon are Greek or Macedonian slaves who have learned Latin without receiving any proper education (Sergius, 2005).

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