ALMOST all scholars today identify the author of the Satyricon with the Petronius whom Tacitus describes as 'the arbiter of elegance' of the emperor Nero. This Petronius had earlier been a competent administrator as governor of the province of Bithynia, and he subsequently attained the honour of the consulship (? AD 62). He then retired into a private life of refined luxury, from which he was advanced by Nero to enliven the cultural life of the court. But his close relations with the emperor Nero attracted the vindictive envy of the praetorian prefect Tigellinus, who succeeded in alienating him from Nero's affections and in engineering his downfall. He was forced to commit suicide in AD 66. His ribald novel dates to the closing years of his life.
P. G. WALSH is Emeritus Professor of Humanity at the University of Glasgow. His publications include Apuleius, The Golden Ass (Oxford World's Classics, 1995), and The Roman Novel ( 1970, 1995).