Petronius Arbiter

, a Roman satirist, was a favourite of Nero, supposed to be the same whom Tacitus | mentions in book xvi. of his Annals, and was proconsul of Bithynia, and afterwards consul. He is said to have discovered a capacity for the highest offices; but abandoning himself to voluptuousness, Nero made him one of his principal confidants, and the superintendant of his licentious pleasures, nothing being agreeable or delightful to that prince but what Petronius approved. This raised the envy of Tigellinus, another of Nero’s favourites, who accused him of being engaged in a conspiracy against the emperor. Upon this, Petronius was arrested; and, being condemned to death, he caused his veins to be opened and shut, from time to time, while he conversed with his friends on verses and poetry. He afterwards sent Nero a book, sealed up by his own hand, in which he described that emperor’s debaucheries under borrowed names, and died about the year 66. His “Satiricon,” and some other pieces, are written in elegant Latin, bat filled with such obscenities, that he has been called autor purissimte impuritatis. A fragment of his works was found in the seventeenth century at Traou, a city of Dalmatia, in the duchy of Spalatro, which contains “The Supper of Trimalcion,” one of his most indelicate pieces. Many disputes have arisen concerning its authenticity, which however now seems to be admitted; but some other fragments, taken from a manuscript found at Belgrade in 1688, and published at Paris by M. Nodot, in 1694, are yet under suspicion of being forgeries. There is a great deal of uncertainty, both about the works and personal history of Petronius; and in Maittaire’s “Corpus Poetarum” are verses by five different poets named Petronius. Although no English critic has disgraced himself by employing his time in illustrating this abominable author, Chalderius, Sambucus, Goldast, and other foreign scholars, have been less scrupulous. Burman’s edition of 1709 and 1743, 4to, is usually reckoned the best; but some prefer that of Antonius, printed at Leipsic in 1781, 8vo. 1

1 Vossius de Poet. Lat. Fabricii Bibl. Lat. —Saxii Onomast.