Petronius (pĬtrō´nēəs), d. c.AD 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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Petronius: Selected full-text books and articles

The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter By Petronius; William Burnaby Modern Library, 1929
Petronius and the Anatomy of Fiction By Victoria Rimell Cambridge University Press, 2002
The Romanesque Lyric: Studies in Its Background and Development from Petronius to the Cambridge Songs, 50-1050 By Philip Schuyler Allen; Howard Mumford Jones The University of North Carolina Press, 1928
Cena Trimalchionis By Petronius Arbiter; Martin S. Smith Oxford University, 1982
Prometheans, Ancient and Modern By Burton Rascoe G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1933
Critical Essays on Roman Literature: Satire By J. P. Sullivan Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963
Oxford Readings in the Roman Novel By S. J. Harrison Oxford University Press, 1999
FREE! Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius By Samuel Dill MacMillan, 1905 (2nd edition)
The True Story of the Novel By Margaret Anne Doody Rutgers University Press, 1996
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