The Ancient Library

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2. When the historian states that Petronius in his dying moments despatched a writing to Nero ex­posing the infamy of the emperor's life, he evi­dently refers to the work of which we now possess the fragments. 3. Nero and his minions are held up to scorn under the guise of Trimalchio and his retainers. 4. The language bears the stamp of the best age of Latinity, and cannot have proceeded from any writer of the second or third century. Upon these we may observe :—

1. Tacitus certainly does not use Arbiter as a proper name, but merely as the term best suited to express the meaning he wished to convey, while Pliny and Plutarch who speak of the same Petro­nius, give no hint that he was distinguished by any such designation. On the other hand, it may be urged that although the name of Petronius is by no means uncommon in the annals of the empire, the cognomen of Arbiter is never found attached to it in inscriptions or in documents of any descrip­tion, which renders it probable that the word may be regarded as a title or epithet introduced by some grammarian or copyist for the purpose of marking out the individual described by Tacitus, and sepa­rating the author of the Satyricon from all other Petronii. 2. Tacitus, to whom alone we are in­debted for precise information regarding the Petro­nius put to death by Nero, says not one word of his having possessed any talent for literature ; and with respect to the sentence quoted above, upon which so much stress has been laid, no one who reads it with care, and without being wedded to a preconceived opinion, can for a moment believe that the words denote any thing except a short epistle filled with direct reproaches, composed al­most in the agonies of death to satisfy a craving for revenge. Indeed it is difficult to understand how expressions so little ambiguous could have been interpreted by any scholar to signify an ela­borate and a voluminous work of fiction. 3, The idea that Nero is shadowed forth under the form of Trimalchio is absolutely preposterous. Trimal­chio is in reality the representative of a class of persons who existed in considerable numbers after the downfal of the republic. He is depicted as a freedman of overgrown wealth, far advanced in years, inflated with vulgar purse-pride and osten­tation, coarse in manners and conversation, unedu­cated and ignorant, but eager to display an imper­fect smattering of ill-digested learning, and thus constantly rendering himself ridiculous by innume­rable blunders, ruled by a clever bustling wife, who had acquired complete dominion over him by studying his weaknesses, greedy of flattery, in­clined to be overbearing and tyrannical, but not devoid of a sort of rough good-nature—a series of characteristics in which it is certainly impossible to discern one trace of Nero. The notion of Burmann that Claudius was the prototype of Trimalchio, although not so glaringly absurd, is equally un­tenable. 4. The assertion regarding the language is frequently met by a flat contradiction, and Reinesius has gone so far as to stigmatise it as a farrago of Grecisms, Gallicisms, Hebraicisms, and barbarous idioms, such as we might expect to find in the worst writers of the worst period. This critic, however, and those who have embraced his sentiments appear to have contemplated the sub­ject from a false point of view. In addition to the corruptions in the text which are so numerous and hopeless as to render whole sentences unintelligible,



there are doubtless a multitude of strange words and of phrases not elsewhere to be found ; but this circumstance need excite no surprise when we re­member the various topics which fall under discus­sion, and the singular personages grouped together on the scene. The most remarkable and startling peculiarities may be considered as the phraseology appropriate to the characters by whom they are uttered, the language of ordinary conversation, the familiar slang in every-day use among the hybrid population of Campania, closely resembling, in all probability, the dialect of the Atellan farces. On the other hand, wherever the author may be supposed to be speaking in his own person, we are deeply impressed by the extreme felicity of the style, which, far from bearing marks of decrepitude or decay, is redolent of spirit, elasticity, and vigo­rous freshness.

Our author is twice quoted by Terentianus Maurus, once under the name of Arbiter', and once as Petronius; and if it were certain, as some have insisted, that Terentianus was contemporary with Domitian, one portion of the problem before us might be regarded as solved, but, unfortunately, the age of the grammarian is as much a matter of controversy as that of the novelist. Again, a very close resemblance has been detected between cer­tain expressions in Martial and Statius, and three passages in the Satyricon. Two of these, it is true, are not found in the extant copies, but are adduced incidentally by St. Jerome and Fulgentius; but even if we admit that there is no mistake or confusion in regard to these citations, we can form no conclusion from such a fact, for it is impossible to demonstrate whether Petronius copied from Martial and Statius, or Martial and Statius from Petronius, or whether they may not have borrowed from common sources without reference to each other. (Petron. Satyr. 119; Mart. xiii. 62; Hieron. Ep. cxxx. c. 19 ; Mart. ii. 12 ; Fulgent. Myiliol. v.; Stat. TJieb. iii. 661.) In like manner the testimonies of Macrobius (Somn. Sup. i. 2), Servius (Ad Virg. Aen. xii.), Lydus (De Magist. i. 41), Priscian, Diomedes, Victorinus, Isidorus, and Sidonius Apollinaris (Carm. xxiii. 155), lead to no result. The latter, indeed, when enumerat­ing some of the brightest lights of Roman litera-ture, places "Arbiter" immediately before Ovid, the Senecas, and Martial; but it is evident that he does not adopt any sort of chronological order, for Tacitus in his list takes precedence of the above, and at the commencement of his catalogue Cicero, Livy, Virgil, Terence, Plautus, and Varro follow in succession. Upon this passage, which is very obscurely worded, rests the assertion, ad­mitted without comment by many of the historians of Latin literature, that Petronius was a native of Marseilles.

If we sift with impartiality the whole of the evidence produced, and analyse with care the pleadings of the contending parties, we shall feel disposed to decide that, while upon the one hand there are no proofs nor even probabilities which can justify us in pronouncing that the author of the Satyricon is the same person with the Petro­nius of Tacitus, so on the other hand there is good reason to believe that the miscellany in ques­tion belongs to the first century, or that, at all events, it is not later than the reign of Hadrian, although we cannot pretend to fix a narrower limit, nor to hazard a conjecture as to the indi-

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