Eumolpus in Petronius' Satyricon is notoriously a character constructed by borrowing materials from the tradition of Roman satire (it could be described as a kind of contamination between two horatian types: the ragged diatribic preacher and the poeta vesanus). Nevertheless, the satirical function of this character in Petronius' narrative seems highly questionable. This paper challenges the label of "poetaster" currently put on Eumolpus, but shows the shortcomings too of the evaluation of Eumolpus'poems as intended to characterize a mediocre poet.

Eumolpus' poetry and the poetry in the Satyricon ought to be envisaged as basically the same problem. Eumolpus, poeta and fabulator, represents emblematically the prosimetric form of Petronian text: a character, then, with important metaliterary implications. The Satyricon assigns to poetry a role that could be defined of "ubiquitous marginality": more than the menippean tradition (with its parodic requirements) it's rather the school which supplies the cultural context for such a literary operation.

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