A separate kind of obscene narrative referred to cults and other mystical processions and worship. With a rather deleterious humor lacking due respect and reverence towards the most solemn rites of Cybele (the “Great Mother”) was IOLAOS. The unknown author had his hero (Iolaos) and a male prostitute — a Cinaedus — masquerading as Galli, the castrated initiates of Cybele, in order to escape some danger. In the preserved fragment, a speech was addressed to Iolaus in appropriately salacious Sotadaean meter (Sotades was a III B.C.E. comedy writer well-known for his notoriously scurrilous and licentious verse, which was named after him), although the obscene verses were written as prose. The romance represented a tradition of the Greek comic novel flirting with burlesque drama, on which Petronius probably drew for his SATYRICON.

Iolaos had persuaded an unnamed friend to be initiated in the mystery rites of the goddess Cybele, under the guidance of Neikon so that he could instruct him in the religious technicalities that would allow him to masquerade as one of the eunuch Galli and thereby gain access to his girlfriend, avoiding suspicion. As it can be conjectured from the surviving plot, Iolaos managed to imimitate successfully the dress-code, as well as the manners and the behaviour of the galli, without rousing suspicion, succeding in seducing the young woman. The author also scorned the girl’s desperate father who had not exhibited the insight to understand Iolaos’s ruse, having him lamenting on his daughter’s unfulfilled passion for a castrated young man, and threatening to commit suicide.

IOLAOS is undoubtedly a remarkable composition mixing together conventionally incompatible subjects and items, such as mystical and vulgar, noble and obscene, drama and comedy, verse and prose. But it must be noticed that beyond its eccentricity and indecency, the author actually denounced through ridicule, shock, obscenity and burlesque situations, an invasion of the cults of the East in the Graeco-Roman world, warning about the risks of degeneration and decay.

After IOLAOS another gem of ancient literature was published, the SATYRICON by Petronius, an author who is thought to be Gaius Petronius, the distinguished arbiter elegantiae (censor of elegance) during Nero’s rule, though the manuscript tradition identifies the author as a certain Titus Petronius, but Titus Petronius Niger was Petronius’s original name. Loosely similar to IOLAOS, the text also employed a mixture of prose and verse (prosimetrum), serious and comic elements, as well as erotic and decadent passages, or scenes close to burlesque drama.

The plot evolved around Encolpius, the narrator of the events, Giton, a handsome sixteen-year-old boy, being his lover and pretending servant and Asciltus, a former gladiator and Encolpius’s friend, rival for the ownership of Giton. The three of them travelled together with Encolpius having a hard time in keeping his young lover faithful to him as he was constantly being enticed away by others.

From there on their the narrative was focused on their ridiculous misadventures and misfortunes, including their sexual torture and rape by the sexually frustrated Quartilla, a devotee of Priapus, a minor rustic fertility Greek god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia, marked by his oversized, permanent erection, which gave rise to the medical term priapism. Quartilla condemned their attempts to pry into the cult’s secrets and overpowered them with her maids. The grotesque orgy flirted with burlesque drama scenes, and though grossly absurd it offered glimpses of social reality, condemning foolish convictions and the hypocrite severity propounded by those who distanced themselves from the real world regarding it as being nothing more than stupid and false.

Trimalchio’s dinner where the heroes were invited, is considered an emblematic form of Menippean satire, since the author exhibited his delight in exposing the vulgarity and pretentiousness of the illiterate and ostentatious millionaires of his age, offering on the other hand his insightful depiction of everyday life in his era. The scene with Encolpius and the old poet Eumolpus at the art gallery, where they debated about the decay of art and the inferiority of the painters and authors of the age to the old masters, ending up with a dinner where the two of them fall into rivalry over Giton and provoke a fight with the other residents of the building, is also characteristic of Menippean satire.

Encolpius’s flogging by the beautiful Circe for his incompetence, the shipwreck that left him in mischief, the attempt by the Priapus’s priestess and sorceress Oinothea and some other women to torture him with anal penetration using a leather dildo, avenging the killing of a sacred goose, or the scenes with the notorious legacy-hunters at Croton where old Eumolpus’s will is read to them, and they learn they can inherit only if they consume his body, alluding to cannibalism, are some that reveal the author amusing mainly himself with distorting the ordinary experiences of contemporary life.

Petronius imitated successfully colloquial language and sketched a series of caricatures without deforming everyday life; as a result he offered entertainment without moralization, despite his heavy criticism for the obscenity of his text. He was widely read in the first centuries of the Common Era, though the real value of his novel would be mainly esteemed after the Renaissance.