Infobox Writer
name = Petronius

caption =
birthdate = ca. 27 CE
birthplace =
deathdate = ca.66 CE
deathplace =
occupation = Novelist
notableworks = "Satyricon"
influences =
influenced =

Petronius (ca. 27–66) was a Roman writer of the Neronian age; he was a noted satirist. He is identified with Gaius Petronius Arbiter, but the manuscript text of the "Satyricon" calls him Titus Petronius.

Life and work

The historian Tacitus describes a Petronius who was the "elegantiae arbiter", "judge of elegance" in the court of the emperor Nero. This Petronius is generally thought to be the same Petronius who is named in manuscripts as author of the "Satyricon", a fragmentary novel in Latin describing the adventures of a homosexual pair, Encolpius and Giton. The work itself reveals nothing directly of Petronius' fortunes, position, or even century, so the identification of the author with Nero's courtier must remain speculative. Some lines of Sidonius Apollinaris, from his "Carmen XXIII", refer to him and are often taken to imply that he lived and wrote at Massilia. If, however, one accepts the identification of this author with the "Petronius" of Tacitus, Nero's courtier, it follows either that he was born in Massilia, or that Sidonius refers to the novel itself and that its scene was partly laid at Massilia.

The chief personages of the story are evidently strangers in the towns of Southern Italy. Their Greek-sounding names (Encolpius, Ascyltos, Giton, etc.) and literary training accord with the characteristics of the old Greek colony in the 1st century. The high position among Latin writers ascribed by Sidonius to Petronius, and the mention of him by Macrobius beside Menander among the humorists, when compared with the absolute silence of Quintilian, Juvenal and Martial, seem adverse to the opinion that the "Satyricon" was a work of the age of Nero. But Quintilian was concerned with writers who could be turned to use in the education of an orator.

In fiction

There are many references to and elaborations on Petronius' "Satyricon", which can be found there. Petronius himself appears as a character in:
* Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel "Quo Vadis" and its adaptations (but see below for the film), where C. Petronius is the preferred courtier of Nero, using his wit to adulate and mock him at the same time. He is horrified at Nero's burning of Rome, and eventually commits suicide to escape both Nero's antics and his anticipated execution.
* in Robert A. Heinlein's novel "The Door into Summer", in which the protagonist's cat is named "Petronius the Arbiter".
* in Jesse Browner's novel "The Uncertain Hour", which recounts Petronius' final banquet and suicide (as told by Tacitus, [ "Annals" 16] ).
* in Anthony Burgess's novel "The Kingdom of the Wicked", Gaius Petronius appears as a major character, an advisor to Nero.

In recent times, a popular quote on reorganization is often (but spuriously [cite web
title = Petronius Arbiter, Time Traveller
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-14
] [cite web
url =
accessdate = 2008-05-22
] [cite web
title = The Quotations Page
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-14
] ) attributed to a Gaius Petronius. In one version, it reads:

We trained hard ... but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.

In film

*Fellini Satyricon (1969) is a stylized adaptation of Petronius' novel.

*In the 1951 film of Quo Vadis, Petronius is portrayed by Leo Genn, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

*In the 2001 film of Quo Vadis, Petronius is portrayed by Boguslaw Linda. It's the first polish adaptation of this particular Sienkiewicz's novel.

ee also

See also author

* Satyricon
* Supplements to the Satyricon
* Asteroid 3244 Petronius named after the satirist



External links

* [ Latin text] of the "Satyricon" from [ The Latin Library]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Petronius — [pi trō′nē əs] (Gaius) died A.D. 66; Rom. satirist: often called Petronius Arbiter …   English World dictionary

  • Petronĭus — Petronĭus, 1) Titus Flavius P., Bürger aus Reate, war im Bürgerkriege Centurio unter Pompejus u. wurde Stammvater der Flavia gens, s.u. Flavius. 2) Publius, war 24 v. Chr. Statthalter von Ägypten, kriegte gegen die Äthiopier unter der …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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  • Petronius — Den Namen Petronius tragen folgende historischen Persönlichkeiten: Titus Petronius gen. Arbiter (* ca. 14, † 66 n. Chr.), irrtümlich auch Publius Petronius Niger, römischer Politiker (Suffektkonsul wohl 60/61) und Schriftsteller, Autor des… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Petronius, SS. (3) — 3SS. Petronius Episc. et Soc. M. M. (12. März). Der heil. Bischof Petronius und die hhl. Priester Modestus, Domitianus u. Eustasius2 sammt den hhl. Carpus1, Firmus8 (Confirmus), Paulus39, Macedonius2, Patricius2, Felcion, Jovenianus, Hilcarius9,… …   Vollständiges Heiligen-Lexikon

  • Petronius — noun Roman satirist (died in 66) • Syn: ↑Gaius Petronius, ↑Petronius Arbiter • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author …   Useful english dictionary

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