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Old Flames

Peter Parsons, 10 January 1983

The Latin Sexual Vocabulary 
by J.N. Adams.
Duckworth, 272 pp., £24, September 1982, 9780715616482
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Ovid: The Erotic Poems 
translated by Peter Green.
Penguin, 450 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 14 044360 6
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Women’s Life in Greece and Rome 
by Mary Lefkowitz and Maureen Fant.
Duckworth, 294 pp., £24, September 1982, 0 7156 1434 7
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Heroines and Hysterics 
by Mary Lefkowitz.
Duckworth, 96 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 7156 1518 1
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... in any case, sophisticated rhetoric can create more picturesque disgust. Similarly with the novel: Petronius and Apuleius both maintain, in this narrow sense, verbal decency for indecent descriptions: cool ingenuousness in the one, and slangy euphuism in the other, do much better as foils. Less can be said about social levels, especially in a society where ...

‘Atimetus got me pregnant’

Emma Dench: Roman Popular Culture, 17 February 2011

Popular Culture in Ancient Rome 
by Jerry Toner.
Polity, 253 pp., £17.99, July 2009, 978 0 7456 4310 6
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... place to ordinary characters. Trimalchio, the freedman host of a lavishly vulgar dinner party in Petronius’ Satyricon, written during the reign of Nero, is a figure we think we recognise: The Great Gatsby started out as ‘Trimalchio in West Egg’. Through the eyes of the Satyricon’s narrator, we see the clash between Trimalchio’s legal status and his ...

One Kidnapping Away

Tim Whitmarsh: ‘How to Manage Your Slaves’, 3 December 2015

How to Manage Your Slaves 
by Marcus Sidonius Falx, with Jerry Toner.
Profile, 224 pp., £8.99, May 2015, 978 1 78125 251 2
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... free, were a significant class. There might be some sneering at their parvenu ways, as there is in Petronius’ portrait of Trimalchio, the pretentious, ostentatious but befuddled host in The Satyricon. But many rose to positions of great influence, particularly as government bureaucrats. Because Romans saw status differentiation as a matter of law rather than ...

What Might Have Happened Upstairs

Mary Beard: Pompeii, 16 September 1999

Pompeii: Public and Private Life 
by Paul Zanker, translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider.
Harvard, 262 pp., £30.95, March 1999, 0 674 68966 6
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... and political sway of the brash nouveaux riches, uncomfortably reminiscent of Trimalchio in Petronius’ Satyrica. This is an extremely intelligent and observant book (for the most part intelligently translated, though the House of Apollo irritatingly appears throughout as the House of ‘Apolline’). For all its self-confessed provisionality, it is by ...

What the Romans did

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 5 February 1987

English Classical Scholarship: Historical Reflections on Bentley, Porson and Housman 
by C.O. Brink.
James Clark, 243 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 227 67872 9
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Latin Poets and Roman Life 
by Jasper Griffin.
Duckworth, 226 pp., £24, January 1986, 0 7156 1970 5
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The Mirror of Myth: Classical Themes and Variations 
by Jasper Griffin.
Faber, 144 pp., £15, February 1986, 0 571 13805 5
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... example of the type, which survived into the Imperial period in the guise of men like Otho and Petronius. Even Augustus, at least during the early part of his career, seems not to have been without a taste for some of the pursuits which his propaganda against Antonius denounced. He took his wife Livia from her first husband while she was pregnant, and ...

Thoughts about Boars and Paul Celan

Lawrence Norfolk: The Ways of the Boar, 6 January 2011

... refined’ but admits puzzlement as to what the canon did with the feathers.) By the time of Petronius the dish was already an absurdity. Decapitated at the table, live thrushes (the poor man’s fig-pecker) fluttered out of the boar’s open neck to be recaptured by slaves acting the parts of huntsmen. A second slash of the sabre and sausages tumbled ...

A Light-Blue Stocking

Helen Deutsch: Hester Lynch Salusbury Thrale Piozzi, 14 May 2009

Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ 
by Ian McIntyre.
Constable, 450 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 1 84529 449 6
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... succeed Thrale himself) and she has gone down in Johnsonian annals as an 18th-century version of Petronius’ licentious Ephesian matron, confirming the impossibility of female constancy, matter too soft to bear even Johnson’s lasting mark. In ‘The Double Tradition of Dr Johnson’, Bertrand Bronson puzzled over the split in Johnsonian studies between ...

The Same Old Solotaire

Peter Wollen, 4 July 1996

‘Salome’ and ‘Under the Hill’ 
by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
Creation, 123 pp., £7.95, April 1996, 1 871592 12 7
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Aubrey Beardsley: Dandy of the Grotesque 
by Chris Snodgrass.
Oxford, 338 pp., £35, August 1995, 0 19 509062 4
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... telling improper stories and shaking with laughter as she dies ‘thinking of saints and of Petronius Arbiter’. She has a table with four ornamental dolls dressed, Yeats told Lady Gregory, like Beardsley drawings, and she turns them to the wall when a priest comes to say Mass. The lady of Yeats’s poems was Mabel. ‘I cannot overstate her strange ...

Sheets of Fire and Leaping Flames

Thomas Jones, 24 September 2020

In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny 
by Daisy Dunn.
Collins, 338 pp., £9.99, August, 978 0 00 821112 7
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... Ambiguities of Grammar’; it too has been lost) and – unlike Seneca, Lucan or Petronius – avoided being implicated in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate the emperor in 65 ad. In the 70s, under Vespasian, he was appointed to a series of senior administrative positions, and in 79 was admiral of the fleet stationed at Misenum, on the ...

An Infinity of Novels

Philip Horne, 14 September 1989

A Short Guide to the World Novel: From Myth to Modernism 
by Gilbert Phelps.
Routledge, 397 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 415 00765 8
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The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction 
by John Sutherland.
Longman, 696 pp., £35, March 1989, 0 582 49040 5
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The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 1875-1914 
by Peter Keating.
Secker, 533 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 436 23248 0
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... receive emphasis but its nascent modernity: ‘What is particularly impressive is the way in which Petronius ... practised one of the most sophisticated techniques of the modern novel,’ and ‘Richardson had an intuitive understanding of modern psycho-pathology.’ The teleological pressure here, with the achievements of former times repeatedly being ...

Daisy packs her bags

Zachary Leader: The Road to West Egg, 21 September 2000

Trimalchio: An Early Version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by James L.W. West III.
Cambridge, 192 pp., £30, April 2000, 0 521 40237 9
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... is the name of the wealthy and vulgar ex-slave in the best-known chapter of the Satyricon by Petronius (c.AD 27-66), ‘Cena Trimalchionis’, variously translated as ‘The Party at Trimalchio’s’ or ‘Trimalchio’s Feast’. Trimalchio’s feast provides what West calls ‘one of the best accounts of domestic revelry to survive from the reign of ...

Ave, Jeeves!

Emily Wilson: Rom(an) Com, 21 February 2008

Plautine Elements in Plautus 
by Eduard Fraenkel, translated by Tomas Drevikovsky and Frances Muecke.
Oxford, 459 pp., £79, November 2006, 0 19 924910 5
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Plautus: ‘Asinaria – The One about the Asses’ 
translated by John Henderson.
Wisconsin, 252 pp., £13.50, December 2006, 0 299 21994 1
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Terence: The Comedies 
translated by Peter Brown.
Oxford, 338 pp., £9.99, January 2008, 978 0 19 282399 1
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Terence: Comedies 
translated by Frederick Clayton.
Exeter, 290 pp., £45, January 2006, 0 85989 757 5
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... BC) and Terence (c.185-159 BC) – as well as the two comic novels, the Satyricon by Petronius (who lived a short, eventful life under Nero, c.27-66 AD) and the Golden Ass by the great orator, neo-Platonist philosopher, priest and magistrate Apuleius (c.123-180 AD), give us some of our best evidence as to how the dominant Romans felt about the ...

The Road to West Egg

Thomas Powers, 4 July 2013

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by Sarah Churchwell.
Virago, 306 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84408 766 2
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The Great Gatsby 
directed by Baz Luhrmann.
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... rich former slave whose money and grossly extravagant dinner party form the central episode in Petronius’ Satyricon. Churchwell, with characteristic energy and fullness of detail, explains why this notion popped into Fitzgerald’s head. Trimalchio and the Satyricon were much in the newspapers in the fall of 1922 as the New York Society for the ...

Wilderness of Tigers

Michael Neill: Shakespeare’s Latin, 19 March 2015

Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity 
by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 281 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 0 19 968479 3
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... means of a sign showing Hercules supporting the world on his shoulders, over a motto derived from Petronius: Totus mundus agit histrionem. Shakespeare’s plays often flaunt their Roman heritage: Titus Andronicus is structured around a series of allusions to Ovid that can even seem to shape the course of the action – most strikingly in the episode where ...

I want to love it

Susan Pedersen: What on earth was he doing?, 18 April 2019

Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Little, Brown, 800 pp., £35, February 2019, 978 1 4087 0741 8
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... Sophocles, Strindberg and Webster; in March he went on to Coleridge, Chaucer, Fielding and Petronius, and then had a go at Proust, Mann, Boswell and David Hume. He took a turn through French literature then doubled back to the English Romantics. He read Cicero and Virgil, Gibbon and Congreve, Goethe and Nestroy, Machiavelli and Hobbes, Gerard Manley ...

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