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˜Neronian culture exploded in a glorious and ultimately rejected orgy of transgressive experimen-
tation. The result was excessive texts like the Satyricon, excessive arts like the Domus Aurea, and
excessive acts like the liberation of Greece.™
Petronius™ lessons in learning “ the hard way 113
orators (licking up the teacher™s bait, Sat. 3.4), of the Trojan horse (in the
Capture of Troy (Troiae halosis)) and of the cannibals at Croton, imagined
¬nally at Sat. 141 (˜Just shut your eyes and imagine you are devouring
a million sesterces instead of human ¬‚esh™, Eumolpus instructs, 141.7).
When the guests are served a zodiac platter in the Cena (35), made up
of foods representing all twelve signs and accompanied by Trimalchio™s
˜urbane™ lecture (39), they take spoof astrology lessons in understanding the
self by literally (and perhaps disturbingly) putting that knowledge inside
them.21 Yet whereas Manilius™ drive to grasp the praecordia of the sky and
how they relate to our inner worlds takes us on a journey of glorious,
satisfying progress, Petronius™ delving within, we shall see, is shadowed
by literal and metaphorical intestinum bellum (˜inside™, i.e., ˜civil™ war) and
leads not so much to clari¬cation and empowerment but to guilt and angst,
even horror. The trauma surrounding inside-bodies is perhaps epitomised
by the Trojan horse in the Troiae halosis, opened up to spur forth violence,
and shameful defeat. Meanwhile, the acceleration, concentration and re-
evaluation of literary education discussed in the Satyricon™s narratives and
dramatised in the ¬ction as a whole, work to oppose and destabilise a set
of educational ideals to do with the objectives, pacing and exclusivity of
learning “ yet these are precisely the ideals to which its audience necessarily
refers in attempting to untangle this text. This basic irony will surface
several times in the readings that follow, and I will be stressing the extent to
which investigations of how this novel deals with and represents imperial
knowledge turn a critical spotlight on readerly perspectives.

the world accord in g to en colpi u s
I want to start, then, by reviewing the ˜problem™ of ¬rst-person narration
in the Satyricon. For like the guests in Trimalchio™s dining room, myopic
second-guessers bound to be caught out (that™s part of the show), Petronius™
readers experience the world of the text via an impenetrable ¬rst-person
narrative told by an ˜unreliable narrator par excellence™,22 the drop-out stu-
dent Encolpius. Although he claims to be learned (˜both you and I know
literature™; et tu litteras scis et ego (10.5)), and (during the Cena and in the
picture gallery, for example) is intellectually inquisitive, Encolpius looks
dizzy and na¨ve, making discoveries by chance rather than by deduction,
skipping the smallprint (˜I couldn™t take them all in at once™ (30.1); ˜there

21 On hints of cannibalism in the Cena, see Rimell (2002) 49“59.
22 Rudich (1997) 186“7. The concept of the unreliable narrator is taken from Bakhtin, (1981), e.g., 402.
114 victori a ri me ll
were, like, six hundred of these jokes, which have now escaped my mem-
ory™ (56.10)), wandering haphazardly and blindly rather than planning his
route, even (in Sat. 6“7, 79) going round in circles and forgetting where
his lodgings are (˜“Excuse me Madam” I said, “do you happen to know
where I live?”™ (7.1)). As protagonist he reports more than once that he
is drunk and so unable, presumably, to see things clearly (˜we were also
drunk, and our ignorance of the area meant we™d have got lost even in
the daytime™ (79.2)). His literary knowledge, such as it is, is apparently
rarely used to his advantage: at Sat. 29.9, he does not recognise that Tri-
malchio has two of the most famous texts of the ancient world, the Iliad
and the Odyssey, painted on the walls of his atrium. As Odysseus (˜much
praised Encolpius™, polyaenos Encolpius (Sat. 127.7)),23 he forgets his anti-
dote to Circean magic and his resulting ˜epic™ performance inevitably ¬‚ops.
Later, on board Lichas™ ship, his Odyssean ˜escape-from-the-Cyclops™-cave™
plot is desperately crude: he advocates splashing poet Eumolpus™ ink all
over, like cheap cologne, to disguise himself and his fellow stowaways as
Aethiopian slaves (rather than use it to ˜write™ branding marks “ Eumol-
pus™ more sophisticated plan, designed to revamp Odysseus™ self-revelatory
scarring as a strategy for disguise). When the gang happen upon a cloak
which has been stolen from them in Sat. 12, Ascyltos convinces Encolpius
to ignore his knowledge of of¬cial legal processes and legal rights in favour
of dissimulation, bribery and brute force (˜what™s the point of laws when
money rules?™, he argues in verse at Sat. 14.2).
Yet the problem is that Encolpius™ outlaw perspective, fogged by drink,
drugs, inanity or paranoia, is ours too: we cannot, as Auerbach, Sullivan and
Conte propose, ally ourselves securely with a sophisticate Author (Petron-
ius) and condescend to a buffoonish Narrator (Encolpius) from a position
of objectivity and superiority ˜outside™ the text:24 it is ultimately impossible
to disentangle narrator from author, or even narrator from protagonist,25

Cf. the epithet pol…ainov used by Homer for Odysseus, e.g., at Od. 12.184.
24 See Auerbach (1953) 47, Sullivan (1968) 258 and Conte (1996) 72 and passim. Laird (1999) 210 has
recently criticised this view.
25 The concept of Encolpius™ split (or coherent) ˜personality™ has been the source of much debate
in criticism of Petronius. Sullivan (1968) 81 argues that Encolpius™ character is disorganised and
fragmentary, not because he is at odds with himself, but because he displays ˜those traits which are
appropriate responses to the demands of the particular episode™. Against this, Beck argues (1973) that
Encolpius is two distinct personalities, the wise, retrospectively self-critical narrator and his former
wild, idealistic, foolish self. In his later article (1975), Beck reaf¬rms this idea, stressing the need to
˜disentangle™ narrator from protagonist: Encolpius™ foolishness is to be taken ˜at face value™, as is his
distanced, knowing commentary on it. Compare the counter-argument from Veyne (1964) 303“6,
who sets out claims for Encolpius™ ˜fausse na¨vet´™. Yet the point is rather that we never can tell when
Encolpius is telling it straight or pretending, is being na¨ve, or ironic, any more than we can tell (as
Petronius™ lessons in learning “ the hard way 115
to decipher whether Encolpius is simply a half-witted ¬gure of fun or
whether he is sometimes or always posing as a clown, empowered by ironic
self-mockery (the stand-up™s stock tactic) and by his audience™s inability to
tell when they are being manipulated or fooled. So when Encolpius says,
in typical form: ˜I kept quiet as if I didn™t know what the story was about™
(92.13)26 we confront several potential takes on his narration: is this a privi-
leged point where fausse naivet´ is transparent, where this idiot savant nods
and winks in our direction, or does it placard our narrator digging himself a
deeper hole, unaware even of what he doesn™t know? Or how do we read his
claim on glimpsing Trimalchio™s latest culinary riddle “ ˜Of course, being
pretty smart, I immediately realised what it was™ (Sat. 69.9):27 as guileless
self-in¬‚ation, or heavily ironic put-down, with wry stress on scilicet? This
is the central dilemma and joke of this text: the Satyricon tempts and dares
us to laugh, to boast we™re in the know, yet the ˜joke™s on you™ threat,
as in Roman satire, looms large and loud. The characterisation of Satyricon
as merely farce, pantomime, or light entertainment, a jolly experiment in
Neronian excess,28 has been contingent on ignoring or muf¬‚ing the com-
plexities of reading this ¬rst-person narrative, with its unsettling, satiric
Lack of authorial signposting of any kind (in the text as we have it),
and the unusual opacity of this narrative, are mirrored in Petronius™ hellish
or comically surreal cosmos. We are to imagine a world that could not
be farther removed from Pliny™s idea of the universe as a complex but
comprehensible whole governed by divine foresight. Whereas in Ovid™s
Metamorphoses and Fasti, divine agents are ¬‚awed characters inhabiting a
relativistic universe and offering con¬‚icting, subjective ˜truths™ (as critics
have argued, Ovidian encyclopedism repeatedly stages crises of legitima-
tion),29 in the Satyricon, gods, like mythic heroes and heroines, are merely
glamorous stage-names, men in costume, actors (˜Indeed, this place is so

Beck himself argues ((1982) 208) whether a line or passage in the Satyricon is ˜authorially privileged™.
The dilemma of Encolpius™ ˜personality™ is by de¬nition insoluble. Indeed as Jones points out ((1987)
811), Beck™s separation of narrator and protagonist is already shaky when examined on its own terms,
as there are several instances in which our narrator gets ˜so involved in his recollections that he loses
his ironic distance™. Similarly, George (1966) ¬nds that despite arguing that Petronius would never
wish to identify himself with the effeminate, subtle-as-a-brick Encolpius, ˜the dissociation between
author and Encolpius is not complete™ (355).
26 utcumque tamen, tamquam non agnoscerem fabulam, tacui.
27 ego, scilicet homo prudentissimus, statim intellexi quid esset.
28 In the work of Auerbach (1953), Slater (1990), Sullivan (1968) and Panayotakis (1995), for example.
29 For further discussion of poetry and knowledge in Latin literature, from Lucretius to Ovid, see
Schiesaro (1997) and (2002). On epistemological crises in Ovid™s Fasti, see Newlands (1995) and
Barchiesi (1997).
116 victori a ri me ll
full of divine spirits that it™s easier to meet a god than a man™ (17.5); ˜for no-
one believes the gods are gods™ (44.17)); heaven is Trimalchio™s ceiling (˜we
were wondering what was going to be announced from the heavens next™
(60.2)), and the zodiac ¬ts on a plate (35). The Satyricon™s all-penetrating
mode of theatricality, the constant collision and confusion between the real
and the arti¬cial “ most hard-hitting at the level of the narration itself “
effectively takes a sledgehammer to epistemics.

dow n with s kool: c a rni va l, se x a nd t h e
u nivers i t y of li f e
Yet this is also a text which, as I have said, seems to elicit, demand and
contain an ultra-sophisticated level of literary knowledge. Many of the
stories and scenes that make up Satyricon are themselves concerned with
learning, education and the status of knowledge, and I want now to con-
sider these more closely. The main characters “ Encolpius, Ascyltos, Giton,
Eumolpus “ are educated men, or at least playacting as such (they are
˜just like students™; tamquam scholastici (10.6)), our narrator an adventur-
ing researcher whose curiosity gets him into trouble and propels the events
that constitute this ¬ction. The vocabulary of law, rhetoric and literary
criticism, as critics have recognised, seeps through the work as a whole,30
while the performances of myth (whereby characters act out versions of
well-known plots in the guise of mythical characters, such as the scene
of polyaenus Encolpius™ meeting with Circe at Sat. 126), often look like
(bungled) school suasoriae.31 The diners at the Cena jostle for intellectual
position, swopping witticisms, put-downs, horror stories, sermons: in this
pressured milieu, Niceros says he™s reluctant to recount his own adventure
because he fears being mocked (˜I am afraid your clever guests might laugh
at me™; timeo istos scholasticos, ne me rideant (61.4)), while the young scholar
Ascyltos is attacked for presuming that he is more educated than the lowly
freedmen, who all have degrees from the University of Life. Meanwhile,
Trimalchio sells himself as a learned symposiarch, setting his guests a menu
of riddles cooked up by the masterchef Daedalus, boasting of his libraries
and command of facts (˜I do nothing without a reason™; nihil sine ratione
facio (39.13)), dependent on an entourage of ˜experts™.32 But his learning

30 E.g., Barchiesi (1996) and Wooton (1976).
31 Shelton (1998) 117 comments on the speeches practised by the rhetor™s pupil: ˜The topics of their
speeches were much more akin to prose ¬ction than to legal actions or court cases™.
32 At 76.11, Trimalchio reports that he was encouraged in his work by an astrologer called Serapa: ˜he
knew my own insides, and only fell short of telling me what I had had for dinner the day before™, the
Petronius™ lessons in learning “ the hard way 117
is obviously posed: he acts the Pythagorean at Sat. 56.4“5,33 preaching the
evils of eating lamb while also wearing sheepskin, whereas at Sat. 47.10, he
was Pythagoras™ nemesis, boasting of his cook™s ability to outdo ˜Pentheus™
mincemeat™. There are several points at which he could almost be paro-
dying (or badly impersonating) ˜of¬cial™ knowledge-orderers like the late-
Augustan Manilius or the sober Tiberian Celsus. His lecture on astrology
and the orbis of the zodiac dish at Sat.39 (Smith comments on its ˜pedantic
accuracy™34 ) is potentially a mish-mash of many ancient astrological writers:
compare this passage with Manilius™ account at Astronomica 1.672“80:
The circle is held by Cancer at the top, by Capricorn at the bottom, and is twice
crossed by the circle which balances day and night, whose line it cuts in the signs
of Aries and Libra. Hence the curve of the round is drawn through three circles,
and covers its straight path by its downward slope. Nor does it escape the sight of
the eye, as if it were just to be perceived in the mind, even as the previous circles
are perceived by the mind, but throughout its enormous circuit it shines like a
star-studded baldric and lights up heaven with its broad outline.
As Smith comments, Trimalchio has the zodiac dish in front of him as he
gives his exposition, and ˜is perhaps imagined as turning it round as he
proceeds, as if it were a celestial sphere™:35 Manilius™ orrery becomes Tri-
malchio™s edible platter, which also ˜draws the eyes™ of his audience (˜its
novelty turned the eyes of everyone™; novitas tamen omnium convertit ocu-
los 35.1, cf. Astronomica 1.677). At Sat. 47, similarly, when he plays doctor
and makes a speech on bowel health after returning from the bathroom,
Trimalchio looks as though he has been reading his Celsus. He says (47.2)
that for constipation he has found pomegranate rind useful, and ˜pinewood
boiled in vinegar™ (taeda ex aceto): Celsus 2.29 gives a long list of such reme-
dies. Or at 50.5“6, when Trimalchio boasts of his knowledge of Corinthian
bronze (˜and lest you think I™m some kind of ignoramus, I know perfectly
well how Corinthian plate originated™ (50.5)),36 he plays on (and mocks?)
a background of Roman connoisseurship of the metal which culminates in
Pliny™s entry in his Natural history 24.6.12:37

joke being, perhaps, that this ˜amazing™ fortuneteller can only inform Trimalchio of what he already
knows, and ˜prophesy™ what has already happened.
33 34 Smith (1975) ad loc. 35 Smith (1975) ad loc.
Compare Ov. Met. 15.116“21.
36 et ne me putetis nesapium esse, valde bene scio, unde primum Corinthea nata sint.
37 See also Vell. Pat. (1.13), discussed by Connors (1998) 20“1, who uses Corinthian bronze to distinguish
between two conquering generals, Scipio Aemilianus, who is cultured (elegans) and Mummius, who
is uncultured (rudis), and who therefore can™t tell the difference between true and fake Corinthian
bronze. For Connors, Trimalchio™s retelling of the story (he alone has real Corinthian bronze because
he obtained it from a craftsman named Corinthus) displays, on the one hand, his ˜foolish and ignorant
pretensions™, and on the other symbolises the Satyricon™s strategies of refashioning epic.
118 victori a ri me ll
But although it is agreed that there are no lampstands made of Corinthian metal,
this name is nevertheless often attached to them, because although Mummius™
victory destroyed Corinth, it caused the dispersal of bronzes from a number of the
towns of Achaia at the same time.
The Satyricon as we have it begins with the speeches of Encolpius and
Agamemnon on the crisis in contemporary education outside the school
of rhetoric where Agamemnon teaches (Sat. 1“6), and similar speeches are
given by (poet and ˜teacher™) Eumolpus at Sat. 88, before the Troiae halosis
poem, and at 118, before the recitation of the Bellum civile (Civil war).
These diagnoses of infected Roman intellectual culture are played out in
the Bellum civile itself: Eumolpus™ epic sample imagines the seeds of civil
war sown in the ¬‚esh of those who shun the moral codes and strict curricula
of traditional education to guzzle up the satura of experiences, ideas and
material goods that is imperium romanum. Likewise, in the cityscape of
Croton, the population of cannibalistic legacy hunters “ a hungry new
breed of humanities students “ vilify all studia litterarum, all eloquentia
(116.6). Chrysis knows nothing of astrology, but can expertly read character
in a man™s face and walk (126.3), while Oenothea™s scholarship in impotence
and its cures is unsurpassed (134.10).
Indeed, throughout the text knowledge is focused on, or accessed
through, physical and sexual desires. Teachers are corrupt paedophiles: at
Sat. 85“7 Eumolpus tells Encolpius the story of how he convinced a pretty
boy™s parents into letting him teach their son, only to exploit his position
and seduce the boy with bribes (masters of oratory, who bait their hooks
with tasty titbits to pull the crowds, are accused of similar crimes in Sat. 3).
In Croton, Philomela (herself, elsewhere, a ¬gure whose myth connects the
birth of writing and elegiac poetry with rape and incest)38 entrusts her two
children to the poet Eumolpus for ˜instruction™ (˜he was the only man in the
whole world who could teach kids a wholesome philosophy on a daily basis™
(140.2)), which turns out to be a crash course in sex ed. The girl™s talent
in this area (sex and/as legacy hunting) is described as an arti¬cium (140.8)
which can mean trick, device or work of art as well as talent, craft, profes-
sion or education.39 The term perhaps recalls Philomela™s artistic trick, the
telling of her violation in a tapestry, but also, more obviously, the discussion
of the role of education and learning among the freedmen, where arti¬cium
is used twice to mean something like ˜learning™, for example at (46.7“8):

38 Kilgour (1990) 33 argues that the Philomela myth shows how ˜poetry is produced by the disorder of
relations and the confusion of identity represented as incest, cannibalism or civil war™.
39 OLD s.v.
Petronius™ lessons in learning “ the hard way 119
˜I want him to have a trade . . . literature™s a treasure, and education never
dies™.40 The second example comes at 58.14, where it is used ironically to
mean, approximately, ˜cunning™ by a freedman who discredits traditional
education as ˜nonsense™: ˜yes, I thank the gods for my “education” “ it™s made
me what I am™; ego, quod me sic vides, propter arti¬cium meum diis gratias
ago (58.14). Arti¬cium with its range of meanings, perhaps encapsulates the
freedmen™s boast that knowledge can be faked: in their world, ˜education™
is always also a scam or arti¬ce. Used in the Philomela episode, it hints
that we may not be sure who is teaching who within a system where both
learning and teaching are reducible to seduction, where knowledge is (just)
turning tricks, and where true intellect lives below the waist (˜It™s so much
more pro¬table to rub groins than minds™, as Encolpius puts it at 92.11). Yet
while these images comically degrade the pursuit of knowledge, they also
extend ideas about knowledge as a bodily as well as intellectual practice, and
spell out the sexual dynamic in all epistemophilia. After reading Petronius,
it is hard to turn back to Pliny™s Natural history or Frontinus™ On aqueducts
without feeling there is something narcissistic (and/or repressive) about the
obsessive, controlling diligence of their compilations.
More generally, the Satyricon makes frequent reference to the decline of
eloquence and de-valuing of education (a theme familiar to us from Seneca,
Columella, Quintilian, and the Roman satirists). In the dialogue outside
the rhetorical school at Sat. 1“6, Encolpius argues that pupils these days are
turned into complete fools by their education, that colleges teach nothing
but vapid clich´; students are all fed on the same banal diet, schools resem-
ble stuffy kitchens, a stinking environment which stalls all re¬nement of the
senses/intellect (sapere = to taste/to know, 2.1). Oratory, ruined by the ¬‚at-
ulent Asiatic style, has gone to the dogs, and no literature today matches the
Greats of old “ Sophocles, Euripides, Demosthenes, Thucydides. Indeed,
Encolpius™ image of clich´d sententiae as ˜honey-balls of phrases, every word
and act sprinkled with poppy-seed and sesame™ (1.15),41 gets served up by
the king of bad taste, Trimalchio, for his very ¬rst course, ˜dormice rolled
in honey and poppy-seed™ (31.10).42 The teacher Agamemnon is apparently
also one of the guests, and ¬nds himself censured by the chattering freed-
man Norbanus for thinking he is above dinner-table banter, and accused
of being ˜mad with learning™ (scimus te prae litteras fatuum esse (46.2)), just
as the students are insanientes at Sat. 3.2. When the freedmen guests talk
about education, they reject learning for its own sake and are suspicious
40 destinavi illum arti¬cium docere . . . litterae thesaurum est, et arti¬cium nunquam moritur.
41 mellitos verborum globulos et omnia dicta factaque quasi papavere et sesamo sparsa.
42 glires melle atque papavere sparsos.
120 victori a ri me ll
of elite systems of knowledge: quali¬cations are esteemed for their voca-
tional (i.e. cash) value. Denied a conventional education, these ex-slaves
boast certi¬cates in survival and (night-class) diplomas in Sales & Mar-
keting. Norbanus tells Agememnon about his young son, who never lifts
his nose from the slate; he can do simple division, is relishing Latin, and
has made a decent start on Greek, but doesn™t want to earn a living (non
vult laborare (46.6)). His other son is no scholar, but is curiosus, and can
˜teach you more than he knows himself ™ (plus docet quam scit (46.6)). In
the Cena, knowledge, or the types of knowledge to be privileged, are being
rede¬ned, but now Norbanus implies that expertise can be simulated, given
a bit of enthusiasm and the gift of the gab (and you can™t teach that): it™s
not a system, it™s a lingo. Norbanus argues that his boys have dipped quite
enough into literature “ it™s time to cash in the CV points, for it™s not what
you know but what you do with it that counts: (˜law has bread and but-
ter in it™; habet haec res panem (46.7)). Similarly, in Sat. 57“8, a freedman
explodes with rage at Ascyltos™ condescending attitude; having paid for his
own freedom, this ex-slave didn™t need an education (˜no, I never learned
geometry, criticism, or other such nonsense™ (58.7)), and claims that Ascyl-
tos™ father wasted his money on private school fees. He thanks the gods
for the practical education he received as a slave, which taught him basic
manners and how to look after numero uno; now he™s not just street smart,
he™s loaded (˜let™s go to the forum and borrow cash; then you™ll see that
my iron ring commands credit™ (58.11)). Out of all the surviving episodes
of the Satyricon, the Cena in particular gets us thinking about the ranking
and validity of different kinds of knowledge (practical versus theoretical,
worldly-wisdom versus conventional expertise). It also draws attention to a
cultural context in which freedmen could rise to magisterial positions, but
where apparently the prestige of teachers (many of them freedmen) was at
an all-time low, while for slaves, education usually meant only the power
to serve their masters in a particular way. Trimalchio™s head-chef Daedalus
has a ˜very good mind™ (70.3), but is a slave in his own labyrinth, and when
Habinnas voices his beliefs in ˜practical™ education at Sat. 68, he is referring
to a ˜hopelessly clever™ slave, who is a ˜servant to his talents™ (68.7), and
turns out to be ˜nequissimus™ (worthless, 69.4).
We might say, more broadly, that the Satyricon™s irreverent take on
the relationship between (traditional) knowledge, authority and power is
indicative of its ˜topsy-turvy™ world43 and wobbly, Saturnalian universe. So
in Agamemnon™s speech at Sat. 3“5, roles are reversed when teachers are

43 Holzberg™s phrase (1995) 63.
Petronius™ lessons in learning “ the hard way 121
parasitic on their pupils, feeding them only what they want to hear. In the
Cena, the dominant mode of acting and theatricality confounds hierarchy,
and slaves and professors, freedmen and knights alike neck Falernian wine
by the gallon. At Sat. 57“8 the freedman Hermeros knocks eques Ascyltos
off his high horse, lashing him with the satirist™s favourite quip (˜you see
the lice on others, but not the ¬‚ea on yourself ™ (57.7)),44 before turning
on Giton, ¬rst for laughing out of turn at the outburst (˜Merry Saturna-
lia indeed “ what is this, December? When did you pay ¬ve percent on
your freedom?™ (58.2)) and then for his obsequiousness (˜I™ll bring down the
wrath of Athena on you, and that guy who ¬rst made you his slave™ (58.7)).
Hermeros confronts his opponent with a series of riddles (˜What part of us
am I? I come far, I come wide “ solve me!™ (58.8)),45 a suitable conclusion
to a speech which seems contradictory and potentially self-implicating.
Hermoros™ tirade enacts the transgressions of the Saturnalia (ex-slave puts
aristocrat in his place and slurs higher education), but he goes on to berate
Giton ¬rst for not acting according to his subservient status, and then for
not standing up to his master (hence they are both tarred with the same
brush: ˜like master, like slave™ (58.3)). Like Giton (with his long curls: he
is a cepa cirrata, ˜curly-headed onion™ 58.2), Hermeros himself was once a
puer capillatus (˜a boy with long curls™) who was devoted to his master, and
while he was a slave for forty years, nobody could tell whether he was a
slave or free (57.9); he is (or was) both the effeminate, sycophantic slave,
and the arrogant, aspirational gent he attacks “ for, as he says himself, it is
in rotten ¬‚esh that worms will breed (57.3). His speech seems to blur, more
than reverse, the roles of master and slave, eques and freedman, typifying
the angry satiric persona which ultimately undercuts its own authority.

not what you know . . .: know l edg e,
satire a nd roma ni s ati on
However, almost all critics have argued for reading anti-intellectual postur-
ing in the Cena as straightforwardly, farcically comic. Implicitly, then, these
rough-and-ready speeches function as an anti-model for Petronius™ readers,
cueing mockery of these ex-slaves™ crass, low-life, dumbed-down perspec-
tives. While this is one valid reading, I would suggest that the humour of
(anti-)intellectualism, in the Cena and throughout the Satyricon, is poten-
tially much more layered and satirical, and might be framed differently as a
creative reordering of hierarchy, a mischievous take on regulating scientism,

44 45
in alio peduclum vides, in te ricinum non vides. qui de nobis longe venio, late venio? solve me.
122 victori a ri me ll
of the kind we see in Varro, Celsus, Seneca or Pliny. In the speeches berat-
ing education at Sat. 1“5, the images of endemic decline, of the loss of
precision, clarity, originality and moral muscle in an era of conspicuous
consumption, solipsism and greed, the consequent degrading of the teach-
ing profession, the new generation of obnoxious, spoon-fed students, the
nostalgic throwbacks to schoolrooms of old, are very familiar “ but do they
af¬rm the current moralising vibe, or is this nauseating, textbook clich´? Is
Encolpius™ performance at Sat. 1“2 sincere or self-mocking, does its clumsi-
ness cynically or unconsciously enact the inadequacies of those it purports
to attack, and is he voicing his own opinions or simply following a for-
mula dictated to him by a teacher, who may or may not be his respondent,

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