The Satyricon of Petronius is the only directly realistic novel that has come down to us from the ancient world. Its value as a picture of everyday life under the early Roman Empire is thus unique. But the work itself is far from being merely a dry record of facts. It communicates with masterly force and humour, satire and lyricism, the very feeling of what ancient life was like in all its hurly-burly, its clash of emotions and its problems of making a living. More, in the long account of Trimalchio's dinner it achieves what is perhaps the most sustained piece of humorous character draughtsmanship in all literature. Dickensian is the term that springs to mind, but Shakespearean comes closer to the method and fullness of the picture.