Author: Petronius Arbiter


The conquests of the French have resulted, during this war, in a boon to knowledge and to letters. Egypt has furnished us with monuments of its aboriginal inhabitants, which the ignorance and superstition of the Copts and Mussulmans kept concealed from civilized countries. The libraries of the convents of the various countries have been ransacked by savants and precious manuscripts have been brought to light.

By no means the least interesting of the acquisitions is a fragment of Petronius, which we offer to the public, taken from an ancient manuscript which our soldiers, in conquering St. Gall, have sent to us for examination. We have made an important discovery in reading a parchment which contains the work of St. Gennadius on the Duties of Priests, and which, judging from the form of the letters employed, we should say was written in the eleventh century. A most careful examination led us to perceive that the work by this saint had been written on pages containing written letters, which had been almost effaced. We know that in the dark ages it was customary to write ecclesiastical works on the manuscripts containing the best authors of Latinity.

At a cost of much labor we have been able to decipher a morsel which we give to the public: and of the authenticity of which there can be no doubt. We render homage to the brave French army to which we owe this acquisition.

It is easy to notice that there is a lacuna in that passage of Petronius in which Encolpius is left with Quartilla, looking through a chink in the door, at the actions of Giton and little Pannychis. A few lines below, it relates, in effect, that he was fatigued by the voluptuous enjoyment of Quartilla, and in that which remains to us, there is no mention of the preliminaries to this enjoyment. The style of the Latin so closely resembles the original of Petronius that it is impossible to believe that the fragment was forged.

For the benefit of those who have not read the author, it is well to state that this Quartilla was a priestess of Priapus, at whose house they celebrated the mysteries of that god. Pannychis is a young girl of seven years who had been handed over to Giton to be deflowered. This Giton is the "good friend" of Encolpius, who is supposed to relate the scene. Encolpius, who had drunk an aphrodisiacal beverage, is occupied with Quartilla in peeping through the door to see in what manner Giton was acquitting himself in his role. At that moment a soldier enters the house.

Finally an old woman, about whom there is some question in the fragment, is the same as the one who had unexpectedly conducted Encolpius to the house of the public women and of whom mention is made in the beginning of the work.

Ipsa Venus magico religatum brachia nodo
Perdocuit, multis non sine verberibus.
Tibullus viii, 5.


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Chicago: Petronius Arbiter, "[Introduction]," Satyricon, trans. W. C. Firebaugh in Satyricon (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922), Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2018,

MLA: Arbiter, Petronius. "[Introduction]." Satyricon, translted by W. C. Firebaugh, in Satyricon, New York, Boni and Liveright, 1922, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2018.

Harvard: Arbiter, P, '[Introduction]' in Satyricon, trans. . cited in 1922, Satyricon, Boni and Liveright, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2018, from