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Fate of a Satyricon-based slave

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman mosaic showing slaves
Roman mosaic showing slaves

The position of a slave in the Roman world is well illustrated in a fragment of the work – Satyricon, whose authorship is attributed to Gaius Petronius – the first-century expert in good taste and artistic values. The author describes how one of the characters in the work, a certain Trimalchion – a liberator who achieved freedom and wealth with hard work and perseverance – clicks on his slave with his fingers. The slave brings a potty, which master can use for defecation. Then he brings a bowl of water to wash his hands.

Trimalchion after washing his hands decides to finally wipe his fingers in the hair of a slave. An action takes place in the house of Trymalchion, what is the best-known episode of the novel, Trimalchion’s Feast. It is believed that the figure of Trimalchion is a caricature of the emperor Nero himself. Only about a tenth of the whole work has been preserved, written in the form of the so-called Greek romance, presenting in a funny, but at the same time very realistic way, life of various layers of contemporary Roman society.

  • Gaius Petronius, Satyricon

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