Part II Petronius and Others

A Lengthy Sentence: Judging the Prolixity of the Novels


  • Ken Dowden


Starting from an attempt to detect the nature of a Greek original of Petronius’ Satyricon, the chapter rests on computer programs and macros which convert and parse the text of the novelists in terms of the length in words of their sentences and display the results as graphs comparing one author with another. There is, surprisingly, sufficient linguistic convergence between Greek and Latin to allow authors in both languages to be compared. If, tentatively, we posit a relatively even progression towards longer sen­tences, with some adjustment for stylistic predilection for sententious brev­ity, then a rough tool for helping decisions on the dating of the authors re­sults.Chariton could well be around 90, Achilles cannot be after 150. Internally, conclusions also result for the structure of Apuleius’ novel.

Ken Dowden is Professor of Classics, and Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, at the University of Birmingham. He writes on Greek mythology (Uses of Greek Mythology, Routledge, 1992), religion (European Paganism, Routledge, 2000; Zeus, Routledge, 2006), on historians (especially fictional ones) for the Brill New Jacoby, and on various aspects of the Latin and Greek novels, especially Apuleius and Heliodoros, particularly on their message and statistical issues.





Part II Petronius and Others