Tra fonti erudite e lettori ordinari: una traduzione seicentesca del Satyricon


  • Corinna Onelli



The paper presents a 17th-century translation of the Satyricon into Italian transmitted in manuscript. The translation is anonymous and presumably was intended for the illegal market of clandestine manuscripts. Material evidence shows that the translation actually circulated across time and among popular readers. The comparison between the Italian translation and 16th – and 17th editions of Petronius has revealed that the translator started his work on the obsolete text of the excerpta brevia (that is, the Satyricon as published before1575) and then shifted to the the excerpta longiora tradition, likely using the Satyricon edition published in 1601 (reprinted in 1608). Such a mixture of source texts proves the translator’s total lack of philological accuracy. In addition, he made several translation errors. However, surprisingly enough, the Italian translation underpins an excellent work of textual criticism on Petronius’ text. The suggested explanation is that the translator or a later reviser emendated the translation following a highly specialised commentary. Some translation errors, in fact, can be explained only as critical indications that have been completely misunderstood. The papers concludes putting in relation the success of the Satyricon among 17th-century popular readers with its reception as a subversive parody of the Greek novel and its traditional values.

I have a PhD in Italian Studies (2006) from the Università RomaTre of Rome. Currently, I am a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the EHESS in Paris. My recent research interests are focused on the Early Modern Period; more specifically, on the translation and receptions of Classics and the circulation of heterodox texts. I am working at the research project Popular readers and clandestine literature: the case of an early modern translation of Petronius’ Satyricon into Italian (17th C.) funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, and, more broadly, I am exploring the 17th-c. success of the Satyricon and its reception as a novel and as a satire.

Affiliation: Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre des Recherches Historiques of the EHESS in Paris (research group: Grihl – Groupe de Recherches Interdisciplinaires sur l’Histoire du Littéraire ).

Relevant publications:

  • ‘La retorica dell’esperimento: per una rilettura delle Esperienze intorno alla generazione degl’insetti di Francesco Redi (1668)’, Italian Studies (2017), 72, 1, 41-56.
  • Bartolomeo Beverini (1629-1686) e una versione inedita della Metafisica di Aristotele’, in L. Bianchi, J. Kraye and S. Gilson (eds), Vernacular Aristotelianism in Italy from the Fourteenth to Seventeenth Century, London, The Warburg Institute, 2016, 183-208.
  • ‘Freedom and censorship: Petronius’ Satyricon in seventeenth-century Italy’, Classical Receptions Journal (2014), 6. 1, 104-130.
  • Con oscurità mutando in nomi: Napoli epicurea nei Successi di Eumolpione (1678)’, California Italian Studies (2012), 3. 1,
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