The Satyricon is one of the most outrageous and strikingly modern works to have survived from the ancient world. Most likely written by an advisor of Nero, it recounts the adventures of Encolpius and his companions as they travel around Italy, encountering courtesans, priestesses, con men, brothel-keepers, pompous professors -and, above all, Trimalchio, the uveau riche millionaire whose debauched feasting and pretentious vulgarity make him one of the great comic characters in literature. Estimated to date from 63 - 65 AD, and only surviving in fragments, The Satyricon nevertheless offers an unmatched satirical portrait of the age of Nero, in all its excesses and chaos.
Titus Petronius Arbiter is reputedly the author of the Satyricon. According to Tacitus, Petronius' chief talent lay in the pursuit of pleasures, in which he displayed such exquisite refinement that he earned the unofficial title of the emperor Nero's 'arbiter of elegance' (arbiter elegantiae). Court rivalry and jealousy contrived to cast on Petronius the suspicion that he was conspiring against the emperor, and he was ordered to commit suicide in A.D. 66. He gradually bled to death, opening his veins, binding and re-opening them, passing his last hours in social amusement and the composition of a catalogue of Nero's debaucheries. J. P. Sullivan was Professor of Classics at the University of California, Santa Barbara when he died in 1993. He was the author of many works, including The Satyricon of Petronius: A Literary Study and Literature and Politics in the Age of Nero. Helen Morales is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is co-editor of the journal Ramus: Critical Studies in Greek and Latin Literature, author of Vision and Narrative in Achilles Tatius' 'Leucippe and Clitophon' and Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction, and editor of the Penguin Classics Greek Fiction.