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The Recollections of Encolpius

The Recollections of Encolpius: The Satyrica of Petronius as Milesian Fiction

Gottskálk Jensson
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Barkhuis
  • Book Info
    The Recollections of Encolpius
    Book Description:

    While nineteenth-century scholars debated whether the fragmentary Satyrica of Petronius should be regarded as a traditional or an original work in ancient literary history, twentieth-century Petronian scholarship tended to take for granted that the author was a unique innovator and his work a synthetic composition with respect to genre. The consequence of this was an excessive emphasis on authorial intention as well as a focus on parts of the text taken out of the larger context, which has increased the already severe state of fragmentation in which today's reader finds the Satyrica.The present study offers a reading of the Satyrica as the mimetic performance of its fictional auctor Encolpius; as an ancient road novel told from memory by a Greek exile who relates how on his travels through Italy he had dealings with people who told stories, gave speeches, recited poetry and made other statements, which he then weaves into his own story and retells through the performance technique of vocal impersonation. The result is a skillfully made narrative fabric, a travelogue carried by a desultory narrative voice that switches identity from time to time to deliver discursively varied and often longish statements in the personae of encountered characters.This study also makes a renewed effort to reconstruct the story told in the Satyrica and to explain how it relates to the identity and origin of its fictional auctor, a poor young scholar who volunteered to act the scapegoat in his Greek home city, Massalia (ancient Marseille), and was driven into exile in a bizarre archaic ritual. Besides relating his erotic suffering on account of his love for the beautiful boy Giton, Encolpius intertwines the various discourses and character statements of his narrative into a subtle brand of satire and social criticism (e.g. a critique of ancient capitalism) in the style of Cynic popular philosophy.Finally, it is argued that Petronius' Satyrica is a Roman remake of a lost Greek text of the same title and belongs - together with Apuleius' Metamorphoses - to the oldest type of Greco-Roman novel, known to antiquity as Milesian fiction.

    eISBN: 978-94-91431-37-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-XII)

    • 1.1 Text, Context and Identity
      (pp. 3-28)

      This study is an attempt to interpret theSatyricain accordance with its original design as an extended fictional narrative, in defiance of the severe limitations imposed by the fragmented state of the extant text. Despite the copious measures of material still extant from the originalSatyrica(175 pages in the standard edition),¹ anyone wishing to advance a literary interpretation of the work faces the daunting task of working with an extraordinarily fragmented text. As the result of obscure events in the textual history of theSatyrica, the modern text must be reassembled from four different and overlapping traditions, the...

    • 1.2 The Desultory Voice of Encolpius
      (pp. 29-84)

      The ancient philosophical and rhetorical theory of narrative, though often neglected by classicists and literary critics alike, arguably offers better tools for the study of ancient narration and narrators than does the modern discipline of narratology. The ultimate reason for its excellence lies in the different goals and practices of ancient literary production. While the ancient theorists were attempting to explain a literature composed for vocal reading and public delivery, modern narratologists have naturally seen their task as that of studying printed texts read silently by a solitary reader. These pragmatic differences are reflected in the usage of terminology and...


    • 2.1 Sorting the Fragments
      (pp. 87-135)

      The coherence of the plot can be assumed to be the most important quality of theSatyrica, if it is to be read as an extended fictional narrative. Because of the limited interest shown lately by scholars in this larger aspect of the work, little consensus exists as to what was told by Encolpius in the lost early part of the story. In my view, the work as we have it cannot well be read without some idea about the earlier context. Throughout the extant text and in the fragments are scattered references to the lost earlier parts, which need...

    • 2.2 Retrospective Soliloquies and Dialogues
      (pp. 136-173)

      In the oldest of the extant Greek romances, those of Chariton (first century C.E.) and Achilles Tatius (second century C.E.) a common motif is the stepping aside of the hero or heroine to utter an emotionally charged statement containing a retrospective survey of fateful events thus far unfolded. InCallirhoë, such outbursts (mostly Callirhoë’s) take the form of soliloquies, prayers and dialogues with other characters, and tend to focus on the turning points of the story (the festival of Aphrodite and the wedding, Callirhoë’sScheintod, the robbing of the tomb, the voyage to Ionia and her sale to the new...

    • 2.3 Rewriting the Satyrica (My Turn)
      (pp. 174-188)

      The interpretive summary I am about to offer will bring together the reconstruction of the previous chapters and serve as an aid to the reader in rehearsing the fragmentary and sometimes incoherent story told in what is left of theSatyrica. The preserved text contains numerous explicit and implicit references to lost episodes. We should interpret these references just as we do other passages of the work, and in doing so we inevitably form ideas about what was in the lost parts. Any complete interpretation of theSatyrica’s fragments includes this sort of expansion, for otherwise we must paradoxically treat...


    • 3.1 Ancient Narrative in personis
      (pp. 191-244)

      After the preceding three chapters, dedicated to the summary and reconstruction of theSatyrica, we are now ready to consider in more detail the narrative form, including its ancestry and place in the family of Greco-Roman literary forms. As we saw in the first two chapters, discussions of this topic in the scholarship usually begin from the premise that theSatyricais constructed from two or more established primary forms, beginning with the prosimetric or “Menippean” satire and the Greco-Roman novel and continuing with a long list of known genres (ancient and modern) that are thought to have lent components...

    • 3.2 The Hidden Genre
      (pp. 245-302)

      In this final chapter, I intend to submit new arguments regarding the origin and mode of composition underlying theSatyricaof Petronius. I have attempted earlier to show that the text under scrutiny is written expressly for performance by a single actor, or ancientlectorin the sense of a lively reciter. It has also been shown, in the central chapters, that the originalSatyricawas not as radically episodic as is often assumed, but rather exhibited a central plot constructed around the person of the narrator, and organized by a technique which on the whole resembles that used in...

  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. 303-304)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-318)
  9. Index
    (pp. 319-328)
  10. Abstract
    (pp. 329-330)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-331)