Pompeiian wall painting, 1st c. AD
Cave canem!

CL311 Petronius' Satyricon
MW 2.30-3.50

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462
marnush@skidmore.edu Hours: W 9.00 Th 8.30 F 10.30

Research Paper
Web Resources
Classics Department
Skidmore College

During the Hellenistic era, the age between the death of Alexander in 323 BC and the principate of Augustus in 31 BC, the literary genre of the novel developed and flourished. Not surprisingly, Greek schools of rhetoric served as one of the backdrops for the origins of the novel, for it was there that students articulated imaginary and fantastic stories as they practiced their declamation. Other literary developments in Greece and further east - Milesian tales and Menippean satire - contributed to the beginnings of the novel, including romantic narratives from the ancient Near East. Finally, there are the works of such great Roman satirists as Horace and Lucilius which had an extraordinary impact on the development of the novel. By the first century A.D., Roman "Silver Age" authors made significant strides in improving this literary genre. We will examine the earliest Latin example of the novel: Petronius’ Satyrica. Petronius (floruit 50-65 AD), arbiter elegantiae to the court of the Emperor Nero (54-68 AD), framed and gave shape to the Roman conception of the novelistic form. Our focus will be on a set-piece within the larger work: the uproariously funny, scatalogical and frequently obscene Cena Trimalchionis or the “Dinner of Trimalchio.”
For some of you, this course represents your first experience devoting a semester to reading texts continuously, and so you will focus on sharpening your reading skills. Grammar review will continue to play a signficant role as you enhance your skills, but increasingly you will review Latin grammar on your own. We will, of course, discuss grammatical points as they arise, but we will concentrate on reading continuously. In addition, you will work on a research paper which will emerge from discussions of scholarship.

Students in CL311 Petronius' Satyricon will demonstrate the ability

  • to read continuous prose, employing skills developed in previous semesters of Latin
  • to effect the transition from grammar-based learning to reading comprehension
  • to contextualize Petronius' novel in its larger cultural settings, by becoming proficient with
    • biographical details about the author
    • a basic grasp of the entirety of the Satyricon
    • the literary world of the author
    • the origins and development of the novel in 1st century CE Rome
    • social aspects of the setting of the text
  • to use digital technology (web-based resources such as the lexical and morphological tools in Perseus, and cultural databases on ancient Rome) to enhance an understanding of Petronius' text.