The moral cesspool that Rome had become in the first century AD is the subject of The Satyricon by Petronius. The work itself was originally quite a long one, perhaps as long as a thousand pages. The extant portion, however, is only a small fraction of the original. The work contains a mixture of prose and verse, serious and comic elements, and erotic and decadent passages. It possesses a sophisticated humor and a very ironic tone. It is the creation of a Roman gentleman whose insights were keen.
The most famous part of this book is the description of Trimalchio’s banquet. It is a marvelous glimpse of the utter degradation and opulence on display in the home of a fabulously wealthy freedman. We are also provided with informal table talk that abounds in vulgarisms and solecisms which give us insight into the unknown Roman proletariat. From start to finish, The Satyricon is one of the best descriptions we have of daily life among the common denizens of Rome.
This version was translated by W. C. Firebaugh.