Few readers of Petronius can be spared the feelings of ambivalence which have dogged the reception of the Satyricon for close on two thousand years. Even in our more permissive age (perhaps especially in our more permissive age), it is difficult not to share the distaste earlier expressed by a Fielding or a Cowper, as we review the occasional episodes which jauntily recommend paedophilia and scopophilia among the diversions presented for our entertainment. On the positive side, we share with T. S. Eliot and Anthony Powell an appreciative exploration of the underside of the Roman imperial society as it really existed, in the company of a guide of devastating wit and devil-may-care gaiety, qualities which mark him off so decisively from the sober grauitas of much of the surviving Roman literature.
Following the publication of The Roman Novel in 1970, my approaches to the Satyricon were confined to occasional reviews in the journals until 1990, when the arrival of Costas Panayotakis from the University of Crete to undertake doctoral studies at Glasgow revived my waning enthusiasm. As often happens in these circumstances, the supervisor became the learner, and the publication of Dr Panayotakis's dissertation, Theatrum Arbitri ( Brill, 1995), will be heralded as an important contribution to Petronian studies. He has put me further in his debt by compiling the Select Bibliography which follows the Introduction to this translation. I must express warm thanks also to Professor Ted Kenney and Professor Bryan Reardon for helpful criticism of an early draft of the translation of the first episodes; and to