Paolo Monella, 'Non humana viscera sed centies sestertium comesse' (Petr. Sat. 141, 7): Philomela and the cannibal heredipetae in the Crotonian section of Petronius' Satyricon

Short Version
In the Crotonian section of the Satyricon, strong narrative and symbolic ties connect the hunger for heritage of the heredipetae and the motif of cannibalism. In such connection, the distorted allusion to Philomela's myth might play a significant role.

Long Version
The connection between the themes of money and death is widespread in Petronius' Satyricon, and is definitely not limited to the Cena Trimalchionis, where it has been widely examined. The aim of my paper is to consider the peculiar form that the motif takes in the Crotonian section of Petronius' Satyricon, and its connections with the mythical memory of the Procne and Philomela story. The theme of corpses dismemberment appears at the end of the episode of the shipwreck, the one immediately preceding the Crotonian section, through Encolpius' reflections on the sepultura practice and the destiny of human bodies after our death (Petronius, Satyricon 115, 6-19); the same theme closes the introductory speech of the farmer on the city of Croton (Sat.116, 9: Adibitis, inquit, oppidum tanquam in pestilentia campos, in quibus nihil aliud est nisi cadavera quae lacerantur aut corvi qui lacerant). The connection between 'eating' heritages and eating human bodies is made explicit in the final paragraphs of the extant text of the novel (Sat. 140 and 141), not only through Eumolpus' testament dispositions, but also through a net of symbols identifying man (or, more precisely, his objectified body) with his patrimony, including the bait metaphor in Sat. 140, 15, and the suggestion to the aspiring cannibal heredipeta in Sat. 141, 7: Operi modo oculos, et finge te non humana viscera, sed centies sestertium comesse. In this net of narrative and symbolic elements, a significant role is played by the allusion to the mythological figure of Philomela through the character of the greedy matrona who offers her children to the sexual desire of Eumolpus. In paragraph 140 of the Satyricon, the language used to describe the woman and her acts seems to allude to the mythical background of the Procne and Philomela legend (especially to the narrative in the sixth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses), but paradoxically, in the petronian novel, it is the flesh of the sexually greedy Eumolpus which should eventually be eaten – together with his (imaginary) substances – by Philomela's children and the other Crotonian heredipetae.

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