Thursday, 12 May 2016

Book #23

Trimalchio's Feast by Petronius


A satirical portrait of a drunken, orgiastic Roman banquet, hosted by the grossly ostentatious Trimalchio. 

Petronius writes the story of Trimalchio, an ex-slave whose life's ambition is to prove his wealth and exuberance. We're shown him hosting a feast of such luxury that his guests struggle to comprehend the food they're eating, the sights they're seeing, and the decadent scenes unfolding around them.

As feasts were common in Ancient Rome for displaying the host's power and wealth, Trimalchio goes to great lengths to display both. Petronius satirises this heavily, showing him to have shallowness of knowledge, taste, and morals. His vanity impacts his ability to quote mythology, and Petronius does well (perhaps blindingly so) to make us aware of his smoke and mirrors approach.

Strangely entertaining, but with no real plotline, Trimalchio's Feast is worthwhile for a glimpse into Ancient Rome and it societal nuances.

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