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THE SATYRICON OF Gaius Petronius, Arbiter to Nero Petronius' bawdy masterpiece is considered by some to be an early form of the novel. Petronius had the notable job of advising Roman emperor Nero on style and fashion. After an unfortunate falling-out with Nero, Petronius was forced to commit suicide. Belated revenge came in the form of his will, which when read aloud in the Roman Forum, viciously mocked the mostly-mad emperor. The Satyricon is a "satire," intended to provoke laughter as well as disgust or censure. It has given our modern society much of the picture it has of Roman life beyond ancient monuments and Imperial inscriptions. A thinly-veiled exaggeration of reality, The Satyricon makes the days of doomed Herculaneum and Pompeii real -- and paints unforgettable pictures of Roman excess, including Trimalchio's famous feast.
Gaius Petronius Arbiter (c. 27 - 66 AD) was a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero. He is generally believed to be the author of the Satyricon, a satirical novel believed to have been written during the Neronian era (54-68 AD). Tacitus, Plutarch and Pliny the Elder describe Petronius as the elegantiae arbiter (also phrased arbiter elegantiarum), "judge of elegance" in the court of the emperor Nero. He served as suffect consul in 62. Later, he became a member of the senatorial class who devoted themselves to a life of pleasure. His relationship to Nero was apparently akin to that of a fashion advisor. None of the ancient sources give any further detail about his life, or mention that he was a writer. However, a medieval manuscript written around 1450 of the Satyricon credited a "Titus Petronius" as the author of the original work. Traditionally, this reference is linked with Petronius Arbiter, since the novel appears to have been written or at least set during his lifetime.