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

CL311 Petronius' Satyricon: Overview
TuTh 11.10-12.30

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462
marnush@skidmore.edu Office hours: M 11.15-12.10 Th 1-2
Classics Department
Skidmore College

During the Hellenistic era, the age between the death of Alexander in 323 BCE and the principate of Augustus in 31 BCE, 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 CE, Roman "Silver Age" authors made significant strides in improving this literary genre. We will examine the earliest Latin example of the novel: Petronius’ Satyricon. Petronius (floruit ca. 50-66 CE), the arbiter elegantiae to the court of the Emperor Nero (54-68 CE), 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 and frequently obscene Cena Trimalchionis or the “Dinner of Trimalchio.”

Our work will take us in multiple directions - reading portions of the Cena in the original Latin, reading all of the extant novel in English, viewing five films that explore themes of food and dining, reading and responding to scholarship on a variety of topics, and writing a research paper on a topic of your choosing. So you can plan your semester, see the Schedule of activities associated with this seminar.

Learning Goals

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 the extant portions of the novel, Petronius' biographic details and his literary world, the genre of the novel in 1st c. CE Rome and social aspects of the setting of the text.
  • to use digital technology (e.g., the lexical and morphological tools in Perseus, and cultural databases on ancient Rome) to enhance an understanding of Petronius' text.