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(pĭtrō`nēəs), d. c.A.D. 66, Roman satirist, known as Petronius Arbiter because of his now generally accepted identity with Gaius Petronius, to whom Tacitus refers as arbiter elegantiae in the court of Nero. According to Tacitus, Petronius served first as proconsul, then as consul of Bithynia. He is remembered chiefly, however, as an indolent and profligate lover of luxury. When Tigellinus, a rival for the favor of Nero, caused the arrest of Petronius, the latter ended his own life, at Cumae, by slashing his veins. He made dying a leisurely procedure, attended by festivity among his associates. To him is accredited the authorship of a satirical work, Petronii arbitri satyricon, a romance with skillful delineation of characters, written in prose interspersed with verse. Parts of the 15th and 16th books have been preserved. Among the surviving fragments the most complete and valuable section is the Cena Trimalchionis (Trimalchio's Dinner), presenting a humorous episode of vulgar display on the part of a man whose great wealth is newly acquired. These satires furnish a vivid study of the life and manners of the time in a sustained, connected example of the colloquial language. The Latin style of Petronius is among the best of its period.


See translations by J. P. Sullivan (1986) and W. Arrowsmith (1987); study by N. Slater (1990).



(Gaius Petronius Arbiter). Year of birth unknown; died A.D. 66, in Cumae. Roman writer.

Petronius was called the “arbiter of taste” at the court of Nero. Implicated in court intrigues, he committed suicide. He is considered as most probably the author of the Satyricon. Written in the form of a Menippean satire, the novel provides a truthful reflection of the moral degeneracy of Roman society. Vignettes

of the public squares, taverns, and dens give a realistic picture of the everyday life of the middle and lower strata of Roman society. The plot consists of the amorous and picaresque adventures of characters from the “lower depths” of society. The erotic theme is treated on a low comic level. Part of the novel, the “Banquet of Trimalchio,” which describes the everyday life and mores of freedmen, is especially interesting. Writing from the viewpoint of an aristocrat and aesthete, the author satirically portrayed pretentious social climbers. The narrative manner of the Satyricon combines elegance with burlesque. The examples of colloquial Latin in the dialogue are of particular literary and linguistic interest. The text has been poorly preserved, and the extant manuscripts represent only an insignificant part of the novel.


Satyricon: Cum apparatu critico. Edited by K. Müller. Munich, 1961.
In Russian translation:
“Satirikon.” Translated by B. Iarkho. In Akhill Tatii: Levkippa i klitofont.… Moscow, 1969.


Istoriia rimskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1962.
Paratore, E. Il Satyricon di Petronio, parts 1-2. Florence, 1933.
Sullivan, J. P. The Satyricon of Petronius. London [1968].



called by Roman historian Tacitus “a man of refined luxury,” and “the arbiter of elegance”; lived in the reign of the emperor Nero. [Rom. Hist.: EB (1963) XVII 681]


Gaius , known as Petronius Arbiter. died 66 ad, Roman satirist, supposed author of the Satyricon, a picaresque account of the licentiousness of contemporary society
References in periodicals archive ?
The structure of the brothel and Cena in Petronius help to
Communis opinio holds that the author of the Cena was the Petronius described by Tacitus: (8)
118, cree que todo el episodio de Crotona "is placed in a less realistic setting than the events centring on Puteoli, presumably because Petronius was less familiar with the area and because his satire here is of a more literary and far fetched nature than heretofore" y G.
So Petronius and Paul are not far apart in time; neither are they far apart in subject matter.
O'Brien said: "We're stepping Petronius Maximus up from six furlongs to seven as we think it will suit him better.
PETRONIUS MAXIMUS romps home ahead of Vastitas at the Curragh
Runte, "Translatio Viduae: The Matron of Ephesus in Four Languages," RLA: Romance Languages Annual 9 (1997): 114; Runte, Wikley, Farrell, Seven Sages; Gaselee, "Bibliography of Petronius," 180-81.
In Petronius ([section] 83), Encolpius comes to a picture gallery where he sees paintings by Zeuxis, Protogenes and Apelles.
The usual characters are here too: Falco's young daughters Julia and Favonia; Petronius Longus and the vigils; the handsome playboy Titus Caesar; Falco's shifty father and ill-humored sisters; and Nux the dog.
8 in both structure and content, Petronius has done more than reproduce Horace's treatment: aside from spectacular food and entertainments, the protagonist encounters a group of freedmen who, in contrast to his own urbane Latin, speak in a language characterized by solecisms, graecisms, cliches, and proverbs.
The book thus revisits and complements the investigations of a flurry of criticism produced in the 1990s: Joel Relihan's Ancient Menippean Satire (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), Peter Dronke's Verse with Prose from Petronius to Dante (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), Scott Blanchard's Scholars' Bedlam (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1995), and my own Menippean Satire and the Republic of Letters, 1581-1655 (Geneva: Droz, 1996).