Petronius’s Satyricon, long recognized as a commentary on rhetorical education, particularly declamation, forms a broad critique of (rhetorical) educational practices in the first century rooted in imitation—declamation, Greek Atticism, imperial rhetoric—and the types of citizens produced by such practices. Problematically, Petronius’s critique, which seeks to redefine class based on a certain cultivated taste or judgment as opposed to material wealth, assumes an elite perspective and falls into the long dismissed “decline narrative” of Roman rhetoric once prevalent in the history of rhetoric. This article seeks to move beyond “Trimalchio vision,” a term used by art historian Lauren Hackworth Peterson to classify derogatory attitudes toward freedmen, to suggest that rhetorical education in the first century reached its intended audience, producing upwardly socially mobile administrators and city patrons in the empire. In other words, rhetorical education was reaching a mass audience in first-century Rome.

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