The aesthetic foolsgoldstandard in Petronius

Erik Gunderson (University of Toronto)

This paper discusses the relationship between the aesthetic program of the Satyricon and its verse inserts; in particular, it explores the poetic productions of Eumolpus. The narrator and inset characters regularly deride his efforts. But one is given very few cues as to what, precisely the problem with his poetry is and why, exactly the (generally suspect) people in the world of the novel find it so appalling. Eumolpus’ kakozelia (i.e., his affected sublimity) in fact offers the inverted double of the novel’s own program (i.e., its artful stupidity). Eumolpus’ would-be golden verses consistently both fail to inspire and succeed in amusing precisely because, despite his cynicism, he has yet to abandon the idea that verses might somehow still be golden in the world in which he finds himself. The narrated world already bodes a new post-epic universe even as Eumolpus clings to the wreckage of hexameter verse.