Fellini’s Satyricon: Bacchanalias and Sexual Politics in Imperial Rome and Modern Italy

  • José Maurício Saldanha-Álvarez


Federico Fellini’s movie Satyricon (1969) demystified the historical film genre, with its oneiric poetics, showing sexualized intimacies in ancient Rome, mediated by contemporary perplexities. Paul Veyne viewed the imperial political system as a communicative process in which private individuals threatened by power in the field of politics and sexuality require a ruler who is lord over his own passions. For Michel Foucault, sex in ancient Rome sought pleasure controlled by aphrodisiac; if love was intended for marriage, stable relations, and procreation, sex was pleasure exercised by man as a performative function. With Satyricon, Fellini employed a political strategy to criticize the violence of the state against Italian Christian democracy.


  1. Aldouby, Hava. Federico Fellini: Painting in Film. Toronto: Toronto University Press. 2013.Google Scholar
  2. Bondanella, Peter. The Films of Federico Fellini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, Pierre. Le pouvoir symbolique. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. 2001.Google Scholar
  4. Cardullo, Bert. European Directors and their Films. Essays on Cinema. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. 2012.Google Scholar
  5. Catullus Poesie. Translated by Salvatore Quasimodo. Milan: Oscar Mondadori Editore. 2010.Google Scholar
  6. Dickson, Sheila K., and Hallett Judith. A Roman Women Reader: Selections from the Second Century BCE through Second Century CE. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. 2014.Google Scholar
  7. Foucault, Michel. The Use of Pleasure. Volume 2 of Theory of Sexuality. New York: Vintage. 1990.Google Scholar
  8. Hadas, Moses. History of Rome. From its Origins to 529 A. D. As Told by the Roman Historians. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books. 1956.Google Scholar
  9. Hallett, Judith P., and Marilyn B. Skinner. Roman Sexualities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1997.Google Scholar
  10. Houston, Penelope, and Gillett John. “The Theory and Practice of Blockbusting.” Sight and Sound. Vol. 32. 1963. 68–74.Google Scholar
  11. Lucretius, Da Natureza. Os Pensadores, São Paulo. Edtora Abril. 1973.Google Scholar
  12. Minuz, Andrea. Viaggio al termine dell‘Italia. Fellini politico. Roma: Rubbettino. 2012.Google Scholar
  13. Moatti, Claudia La Raison de Rome. Naissance de l ‘esprit critique à la fin de la Renaissance. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. 1997.Google Scholar
  14. Nussbaum, Martha C., and Craig A Williams Roman Homosexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010.Google Scholar
  15. Onfray, Michel Théorie du Corps Amoureux: pour une erotique solaire. Paris: Librairie Générale Francaise. 2001.Google Scholar
  16. Scolari, Giovanni. L’Italia di Fellini. Roma: Sabinae. 2008.Google Scholar
  17. Sullivan, J.P. “The Social Ambience of Petronius, Satyricon and Fellini Satyricon.” In Classical Myth and Culture in the Cinema. Ed. Martin M. Winkler. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2001.Google Scholar
  18. Syme, Ronald. The Roman Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1956.Google Scholar
  19. Veyne, Paul. “Vie de Trimalcion. ”Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations. 16e année. Vol. 2. 1961. 213–247.Google Scholar
  20. Veyne, Paul. L’individu atteinte au coer par la puissance publique, Sur L’Individu. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. 1987.Google Scholar
  21. Vout, Caroline. Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2007.Google Scholar
  22. Walters, Jonathan. “Invading the Roman Body: Manliness and Impenetrability in Roman Thought.” In Roman Sexualities. Ed. Judith P. Hallett and Marilyn B. Skinner. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. 1997.Google Scholar
  23. Wyke, Maria. “Projecting Ancient Rome. ” In The Historical Film. History and Memory and Media. Ed. Marcia Landy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 2001.Google Scholar
  24. Williams, Craig A. Roman Homosexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010.Google Scholar
  25. Winke, Maria. Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema and History. New York: Routledge. 1997.Google Scholar


  1. Indagine sotto um citadini al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Investigation of a citizen above suspiction). Director: Elio Petri. Performers: Gian Maria Volonté, Florinda Bolkan, Gianni Santuccio, and Orazio Orlando. Euro International Films. 1970.Google Scholar
  2. Prova d’Orquestra. Director: Federico Fellini, Performers: Balduin Bass, Clara Colosimo, and Elizabeth Labi. 1978.Google Scholar
  3. The Robe. Director: Henry Koster, Performers: Jay Robinson, Jean Simmons, and Victor Mature, Richard Burton. Fox Movies. 1953.Google Scholar
  4. Satyricon. Director: Federico Fellini. Performers: Martin Potter, Hiram Keller, Max Born, Salvo Randone, Magali Noel, Capucine, and Donyale Luna. Produzione Europee Associati. 1969.Google Scholar
  5. Touch of Evil. Director: Orson Welles. Performers: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Akim Tamiroff, and Marlene Dietrich, Universal Studios. 1958.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Maurício Saldanha-Álvarez
    • 1
  1. 1.Universidade Federal FluminenseNiteróiBrazil

Personalised recommendations