(Previously – Satyricon 17 – Scene XI: Encolpius Confined and Pinned)

18aIn the novel, Encolpius’ sea voyage was meant to evoke Odysseus’ travels.  In Homer’s tale, Odysseus angered the sea god Poseidon and was repeatedly shipwrecked in his attempt to reach home.  Encolpius had angered the fertility god Priapus and embarked on a voyage of his own to placate the divine power.

In Fellini’s film, once Lichas has claimed him by defeated him in a wrestling bout, he marries Encolpius.  However, Lichas interestingly inverts his conqueror’s role and becomes the wife in the arrangement.  This mirrors the relationship between Encolpius and Giton in the film, where Giton the younger partner is routinely feminized.  Therefore, the next “partner” of Encolpius takes on a feminine appearance as well.  Fellini may have made Lichas act this way to continue his fascination with “weird sexuality”, or may have been showing another construct that is accepted in the world of the film (and antiquity) but would be considered strange for most of the modern audience.

18bEncolpius, like us, at first does not seem to know what is happening, but it soon becomes clear. The wedding ceremony takes place on the deck of the ship. Note the contrast of the bright sky with the previous shadowy scenes below decks.  The three friends are freed and reunited. Ascyltus, like so much else, finds the entire proceedings hilarious (tossing grain at him in imitation of throwing rice at the bride) . Lichas, who before was only shown as a threatening monster figure, is completely docile and passive in his wedding dress (another contrast). He does not respond to a kiss from Tryphaena, but beams with a wide smile awaiting the ceremony.

18cFellini is probably drawing upon a few stories of Roman emperors who married men, including Elagabalus and Nero.[1] He was also probably influenced by a section early in Petronius’ novel where Encolpius and Giton are sexually tortured by priestesses of the god Priapus (a gender reversal) and then Giton is mock-married to a very young virgin (sections 16-26).

Amid the soft musical tones, the soothing sea sounds, and the beautiful costumes, a calf is slaughtered.  Animal sacrifice was a common part of ancient ritual, but here it shows Felllini’s tendency to temper beauty with the grotesque.  No actual calf was hurt (but it was given an injection so it would lay still and feign death).[2]

18dTryphaena finally speaks! She pronounces the wedding vows, something that a real Roman woman would not have been able to do. Her words about rejecting others partly evoke the complaints of Scintilla and Fortunata about their husbands during the Dinner of Trimalchio in the novel (section 67).

18e“Ubi Tu Gaius, Ego Gaia” – Gaius and Gaia in Latin could be used as generic “everyman” names, and in the Roman wedding service, this Latin phrase was invoked by the bride. It meant, “as you are Gaius, I am Gaia,” signifying their new union. The man was supposed to respond, “Ubi tu Gaia, ego Gaius,” but in the film, the shell-shocked Encolpius does not speak.

18f“Feliciter!” – As the couple depart the ceremony, the crowd throws grain as an offering and shout “Feliciter!,” a simple Latin interjection that at the same time meant “Congratulations!”, “Be fruitful!”, and “Be happy!”

(Up Next: Satyricon 19 – Scene XIII: Encolpius The Husband)


[1] See Suetonius’ Life of Nero section 29 and Tacitus’ Annales section 15.37.
[2] Hughes, Eileen (1971), On the Set of Fellini-Satyricon (Morrow), p. 194-5.