Roman Fiction and its Audience: Seriocomic Assertions of Authority


  • Luca Graverini
  • Wytse Keulen


Narrative fiction and fable, as literary genres, shared an ambiguous cultural status in Rome. Roman authors of fabulae, like Phaedrus and Apuleius, as well as Roman intellectuals like Gellius and Fronto, Apuleius’ contemporaries who wrote similar forms of ‘edifying entertainment’, use comparable approaches to persuade their potentially sceptical Roman reader of the centrality of their literary efforts, only apparently advertising them as ‘marginal’, ‘low’, or ‘childish’ (neniae; aniles fabulae; nugae). Adopting comparable forms of mock self-irony, often more or less explicitly connected with the Socratic tradition, these authors invent self-conscious strategies of self-presentation, which allow them to assert Roman authority and identity in a playful way, and to prepare their Roman readers for perceptive and inquiring reading.

Luca Graverini is Assistant professor of Latin literature in the University of Siena at Arezzo. His publications include several papers on the ancient novel and a monograph on Apuleius (Le Metamorfosi di Apuleio. Letteratura e identità, Pisa: Pacini 2007). He is also co-author, together with Wytse Keulen and Alessandro Barchiesi, of  Il romanzo antico. Forme, testi, pro-blemi (Roma: Carocci 2006).

Wytse Keulen is visiting lecturer in Latin literature at Rostock University. His commentary on Apuleius’ Metamorphoses Book I (Groningen Commentaries on Apuleius) appeared in 2007. His most recent publication is a monograph on Aulus Gellius, elucidating the Noctes Atticae in the context of Antonine literary culture and Roman intellectual traditions (Gellius the Satirist: Roman Cultural Authority in Attic Nights, Leiden: Brill 2009).