The buffoonish orator Agamemnon’s poem on education at the beginning of Petronius’ Satyricaincludes an allusion to Horace Sermones 1.4 which recreates the structure of Horace’s allusion there to the parabasis of Aristophanes’ Knights.In this paper I demonstrate how this previously undetected network of allusions not only shows an unprecedented degree of intertextual sophistication on the part of Petronius, but also enables new readings of a set of passages in the Satyricawhere rivers are used to describe poetic style. I also depict Horace’s engagement with Old Comedy as more complex than has been previously recognized.
Intertextuality has been a focus of Petronian scholarship since Collignon; recent work has unearthed a wealth of allusions to Augustan poetry in particular, which often undercut the characters who knowingly or unknowingly make them (Slater, Conte, Connors, Rimell, Courtney). Rimell notes the importance of water imagery in Petronius’discussions of style, but commentators on both Petronius (Courtney, Breitenstein) and Horace (Zetzel, Scodel, Freudenburg, Cucchiarelli, Clausen) have been content to trace such images back to Callimachus.
In the parabasis of Knights, Aristophanes characterizes his older rival Cratinus as out of control by likening him to a river in flood (526ff). In Sermones1.4, Horace opens by mentioning Cratinus Aristophanesque, and then ten lines later criticizes his own older rival, Lucilius, for flowing along like a flooding river. In this paper I demonstrate how Horace, by establishing himself as working within the tradition of Old Comedy and mentioning together Cratinus and Aristophanes, prepares us for this allusion to Knights, in which he borrows Aristophanes’ image todistinguish his own style from Lucilius’ in the same polemical terms as Aristophanes had distinguished himself from Cratinus.
Ithen argue that at Satyrica 5, Petronius has his character Agamemnon allude to Horace Sermones 1.4.11: the reference to Lucilius which precedes the poem, followed by the metrical allusion to Persius (limping iambs followed by hexameters), establishes the genre of satire in the reader’s mind; when Agamemnon concludes his advice on the poet’s education and practice with an exhortation to flow like a river, we cannot help but think of Horace’s critique of Lucilius for doing just that. The structure of the allusion, moreover,creates what Thomas first called a “window-reference,” in which a reference looks back through an allusion in one author to that author’s own source. Horace establishes an important generic background at the outset (Old Comedy), then borrows an image used by one practitioner of that genre to describe an older one (Aristophanes’ criticism of Cratinus as a river in flood), in order tocharacterize Horace’s own predecessor (Lucilius). Likewise Petronius establishes a generic context (Roman satire), then borrows the image used by one practitioner of it to describe an older one (Horace calling Lucilius a muddy river). Agamemnon is simply made to look like a fool, but Petronius creates a careful set of generic affiliations by using this window-reference to evoke a whole history of polemical relationships enacted among poets of satiric genres.
This network of allusions to passages of poetical polemics becomes especially important when we follow Rimell’s catalogue of river images through the extant Satyrica. I argue that when Horatian intertext, river imagery, and poetics converge a second time at Sat. 118, we are meant to think back to Agamemnon’s poem at Sat. 5. Here I demonstrate how an understanding of the intertextual moment at Sat. 5 allows the reader to see Eumolpus’ citation at 118 of Horace as a model for historical epic not merely as a patent error, butas a cue to seek out further Horatian intertexts. Guided by Eumolpus’ own use of river-language and his inappropriate reference to Horace, the reader is led,I argue, to poems like Odes 4.2, where rivers combine with recusatio to send us back even to Pindar, and Epistles 2.1, where epic is in fact summarized as, among other things, “talking about rivers.”
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