Petronius lived during the reign of the notorious emperor Nero, a writer in a decadent empire, and in Frederic Raphael he finds a translator who brings his words vividly alive. Petronius' Rome is not the noble civilisation of classical ideals; his Romans are lascivious, amoral and stylish, inhabiting a louche world of ostentatious, nouveau riche extravagance and flirtation with the seductive menace of the Roman underclass. In Raphael's hands, the "Satyrica" becomes a modern novel, Petronius a contemporary. Freed of the weight of classical decorum, the "Satyrica" is racily subversive, scandalously entertaining. This work, writes Raphael, has always been excluded from the curriculum: it offers no improving pieties. Petronius' - and Raphael's - ancient Rome is recognisably the city of Pasolini and Fellini as much as of Virgil.