The Satyricon

The Satyricon is another Roman novel, this one written in the first century, by Petronius, who was the emperor Nero’s arbiter of good taste. Which, to be honest, sounds like the ultimate nightmare job, and Petronius was forced to commit suicide in 66 AD.

The Satyricon is not complete. We have maybe a fifth of it, and what we have is fragmentary. There is a complete description of an over-the-top Roman dinner party, and some other more-or-less complete incidents, but there are gaps, and odd jumps that suggest errors. It can’t be an easy text to translate.

It is also very, very rude. The title actually means “Dirty Stories”, and the main “romantic” triangles are between two men and a teenage boy. (One of the men is constant, but the second changes in the bits we have.) There’s a lecherous priestess, a brief visit to a brothel, and several bed scenes. The famous dinner party actually has less sex than just about any other part.

As a result of all the problems, I’m not sure that this is just worth reading for entertainment. There’s too much missing. On the other hand, it is a very interesting document of Roman attitudes at the period, and provides some very useful information on aspects of life that don’t figure in most text books — that is definitely useful for writing roleplaying games. (Why yes, everything I read serves as research for what I write. That’s how writers tend to work.)

So, very much worth reading to learn more about the period, but not really worth reading if you’re just after dirty stories.

Posted in Books, History.

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