Satyricon, By Petronius

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The Independent Culture

Whatever happens on New Year's Eve, no wild party will ever match the first and greatest debauched blow-out in Western fiction: Trimalchio's nouveau-riche banquet.

The scabrous centrepiece of Petronious Arbiter's novel – which survives only in fragments – invites us in to share the boozy, bawdy and irreverent underside of Nero's Rome, with a wicked wit that the passage of almost two millennia has done nothing to dilute.

Andrew Brown's terrific new translation captures Petronius's comedy of sex and class – and his relentless parody of Roman imperial pomp and pretence – with all the mischievous swagger that the tale demands. The perfect present for pagans.