An Echo of Ars Poetica 5 in Petronius

It has for some time been recognized that the elegiacs in Satyricon 80.9 form two separate poems. Only the first, which treats the fickleness of friendship, is particularly apposite to the context, Giton's choice to abandon Encolpius for Ascyltus when the latter two almost come to blows disputing possession of the boy. The text reads:1
nomen amicitiae sic, quatenus expedit, haeret;
calculus in tabula mobile ducit opus.
dum fortuna manet, vultum servatis, amici;
cum cecidit, turpi vertitis ora fuga.
It has not been previously noticed that the last three words of the third line are an echo of the last three words of the opening sentence of the Ars Poetica (line 5), risum teneatis, amici, which fall in the same position within the line.2
Further evidence of Petronius' knowledge of Horace is in one sense no surprise. In the Satyricon the poet Eumolpus quotes what is arguably the most famous line in all of Horace, odi profanum vulgus et arceo (Odes 3.1.1), and praises Horace's curiosa felicitas in the same breath with Homer, Vergil, and the lyric poets (Sat. 118.4-5). What has not been so widely acknowledged is how up-to-date Eumolpus is in his literary taste. As Roland Mayer has shown in an important article on the Neronian literary renaissance, it was the Neronian age which rescued Horace and made him and the other Augustans canonical.3 Petronius' word-play shows that there was not only revived interest in Horace's satires and lyrics but also in the epistulae as well.
Petronius effects a telling inversion by his borrowing. Horace's friends cannot restrain a smile at the follies of a certain style in painting which mixes up animal and human forms with grotesque results. The friends of Petronius' speaker have mastered the art of keeping a false countenance in place, so long as that false front serves their purposes. The choice of vultum to replace Horace's risum is significant: all the facial expressions of such friends are unreadable, not just their smiles. The contrast between a world where self and expression (i.e., amusement and its expression in laughter) cannot be separated, even when one might wish, and a world of unknowable selves behind masks could not be clearer. Whatever hand placed the four lines of elegiacs treating a mime performance following these lines was impelled by a recognition of the theatricality of friendship in Petronius' world.
Whether this echo of the Ars Poetica in a poem in 80.9 lends support to the notion that the poet Eumolpus' theorizing about poetry in 118 (just before he recites his poem, the Bellum Civile, 119-124.1) represents a serious statement about poetry from Petronius himself is quite another question and beyond the scope of a note such as this. I would suggest caution, however, since the Ars Poetica, closes with a memorable portrait of a mad poet, whose behavior is not too distant from that of Eumolpus and is therefore not a particularly encouraging model upon which to found a Eumolpan poetics.4

Niall W. Slater
Universität Konstanz
University of Southern California

1I give the text of K. Müller, Petronius: Satyrica (Darmstadt 1983) 3rd ed.

2The fullest collection of parallels and echoes of Horace is to be found in the edition of O. Keller and A. Holder, Q. Horati Flacci Opera, vol. II, 2nd ed. (Jena 1925), with additions thereto published by Carl Weyman under the title "Zu Lucrez, Horaz, und Martial," Bayerisches Blätter für das Gymnasial-Schulwesen 63 (1927); on AP pp. 363ff. The only other echo there noted is in Apuleius de magica. For a most illuminating conversation about Horatian reception and the older literature thereon I am indebted to Prof. Dr. P. L. Schmidt.

3R. Mayer, "Neronian Classicism," AJP 103 (1982) 305-318. It was above all the odes which fell into neglect, a fact already noted by Kiessling in his lecture, "Ueber die Aufnahme der Horazischen Oden im ersten Jarhrhundert," Verhandlungen der 27. Versammlung Deutscher Philologen und Schulmänner (Leipzig 1870) 28-33 (with some remarks on the sermones in the following discussion 34-35). Mayer notes the Neronians were the first to praise each other in comparison to their Roman predecessors ("another Tibullus") rather than Greek models, as the Augustans themselves did. On canons and canon formation in Rome, see J. E. G. Zetzel, "Recreating the Canon: Augustan Poetry and the Alexandrian Past," Critical Inquiry 10 (1983) 83-105.

4I treat this question at much greater length in a reader-response study of the Satyricon now in progress. This note was written while enjoying the extraordinary hospitality of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung and the University of Konstanz. It may be of interest to note that I was struck by this connection while visiting the Goethe House in Frankfurt. A display there showed a friend's guestbook, in which Goethe had inscribed the words, "Risum teneatis amici. Horatius."