Mealtime in the Roman House

AGE, GENDER, AND STATUS DIVISIONS AT MEALTIME IN THE ROMAN HOUSE: a synopsis of the literary evidence [index]

from: Pedar W. Foss, “Kitchens and Dining Rooms at Pompeii: the spatial and social relationship of cooking to eating in the Roman household,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Michigan, 1994, 45-56. The thesis was UMI’s #7 best-seller in 1996. Web Document © 1995, Pedar W. Foss

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Who cooks, serves and eats (and with whom)? ‘You are what, how, when and where you eat’. Everyone must eat, but not everyone cooks, and not everyone serves. The role that each individual plays in their own and others’ nutrition depends on variables which measure their social identity: age….gender….rank and status….(1) The company with whom one eats also depends upon these same factors.


Age strongly determined one’s participation at meals. Mothers (or nurses in households with slaves or freedwomen) commonly breast- fed their infants for six months to two or three years, and then provided premasticated food for a time after their weaning.(2) Infants were then fed plain food like baby’s gruel and bread soup.(3) Salza Prina Ricotti compares the food of older children to that of the poor:

“Naturalmente bambini e poveri, che non si coricavano sui letti tricliniarii per consumare i loro pasti e sedevano attorno ad un tavolo semplice ma abbastanza ampio sul quale potevano poggiare il loro cibo, i loro bicchieri ed i loro piatti di terracotta, potevano permettersi zuppe fumanti, poletine, legumi di vario tipo e sugosi stufatini.”(4)

Posidonius, writing at the turn of the first century B.C., agrees that children of wealthy Romans ate simple foods and drank largely water.(5) Information about the nutrition of children who have been weaned is, however, sparse.

Children seem to have commonly eaten in the same room as their parents.(6) Imperial children are reported reclining on the lectus imus below their father, seated at the ends of the couches, or seated at a separate and more rustic table with other young nobles.(7) Imperial children were of course of the highest rank, and therefore would have been socially acceptable company at imperial dinners. Their status as children however compelled them sometimes to eat together and slightly separate from the adults. The point at which free youths would be allowed to dine formally as an adult at table is not entirely clear, but it was probably marriage for girls, and the assumption of the toga virilis for boys. Both were considered marks of adulthood, and were celebrated by feasts.(8)

Dinners at which morally unacceptable language and behavior were expressed were not considered suitable by some authors for children or young adults to attend.(9) Furthermore, Juvenal warns that bad habits such as gluttony are passed on from parents to children:

[[As soon as he has passed his seventh year, before he has cut all his second teeth, though you put a thousand bearded preceptors on his right hand, and as many on his left, he will always long to fare sumptuously, and not fall below the high standard of his cookery.]](10)

The ‘child’ in this passage is satiric shorthand for persons who are not mature enough to control their own physical desires.(11) So Seneca moralizes about the decline of youths in terms of their dining habits:

[[You need not wonder that diseases are beyond counting: count the cooks!...The halls of the professor and the philosopher are deserted: but what a crowd there is in the cafés! How many young fellows besiege the kitchens of their gluttonous friends! I shall not mention the troops of luckless boys who must put up with other shameful treatment after the banquet is over.]](12)

“Boys” (pueri) here describe children who were attendants at meals; the term puer contains inherent ambiguity in its meanings of “boy” and “slave”. For families in which free children were expected to wait at table as part of their daily chores, the meanings overlapped slightly (Figs. 1.23- 1.25).(13) In the context of meals, puer usually means “slave”; young and handsome slave boys were particularly favored to be the dispensers of wine at dinner, and were sometimes subject to sexual service as a result. (14)


A consistent division in family food preparation according to gender does not appear in the sources. Most authors describe poor, rustic or archaic households, in which simple foodstuffs prepared by matrons exemplify the moral soundness of households according to literary convention.(15) Columella claims that in the past, men worked outdoors and in public, and domestic chores fell to women until they became ‘lazy’ and these duties fell to the housekeeper; part of Columella’s intent is to decry the current laxity in work and morals.(16) From the quasi- historical past of Rome, Plutarch cites a treaty with the Sabines that forbad the new wives of the Romans from grinding grain or baking bread. According to Pliny, however, women at Rome baked their own bread until 174 B.C.(17) Juvenal sketches a picture of a veteran’s pregnant wife in the mid- second century B.C. making porridge (puls) for her children.(18)

Not only women cooked meals; men appear as ‘cooks’ in the course of giving professional advice. Cato, Columella, and Varro all provide recipes in their agricultural treatises, and the most famous cook of antiquity was the wealthy M. Gavius Apicius.(19) Male cooks are depicted as professionals, experts in fine cuisine. Other solitary males, such as the mythological Falernus or the hero Manius Curius, cook basic fare for themselves — a mark of their solid, honest and ‘traditional’ character.(20) Women’s professional cooking expertise is considerably more sinister: the arts of poison-making or witchcraft, performed by characters such as Medea, Canidia or Locusta (the imperial poisoner of choice).(21)

Cooperation between the sexes in cooking was another literary ideal; the stories of Baucis and Philemon, and Simylus and Scybale depict country- women and men working harmoniously together in the preparation of a meal.(22) Varro claims that the barbarian Illyrian men and women were equally able to herd flocks, gather wood, keep house, or cook food.(23) In a more urban context, Fortunata is portrayed as an equal to her husband Trimalchio for most of the dinner-party (although she participates only briefly in the meal proper); she is ‘put in her place’ only near its end.(24) All of these passages depict households outside the mainstream of Roman elite society, outside the actual experience of the author or reader. Heroes, mythical couples, rustic folk, foreign barbarians, and nouveau riche freedpersons appear to have domestic gender equity. Nowhere are men and women of the Roman elite shown working together to prepare a meal, because slaves did the job for them.

There were apparently no strict gender divisions among servile cooks in wealthier families. Apuleius depicts slave cooks of both sexes in his novel.(25) The celebrated cook in the Cena Trimalchionis, or the comic cooks of early Roman theater were, however, male.(26) The only traditionally female servile household job that involved food was the management position of vilica, or housekeeper. Cato and Columella both describe similar duties for the bailiff’s wife: keeping adequate stores of food safe in places where they will not go bad, cleaning the kitchen, and putting all the utensils in their proper places.(27) Columella’s housekeeper does not actually have to cook the meals herself; she has only to inspect those who do prepare the family food.(28) The woman’s role at the hearth in poorer families (or even larger families that had slaves to cook) consistently involves managerial duties. The model is Lucretia, who is shown in a central position of authority (in medio aedium), surrounded by her servants; they are all busy with spinning wool even late at night.(29) Women valued this administrative role highly; when Pomponia, the wife of Quintus Cicero, is not given the responsibility of organizing a meal at an estate where they were to spend the night, she complains that she is ‘just a guest’ (Ego ipsa sum…hic hospitia) in her own household.(30) Later, she refuses to eat the meal in her husband’s and brother-in-law’s company. Cicero does not understand her anger because he underestimates the importance of the managerial power that she expects to wield in her house.

Roman women and men commonly dined together (Figs. 1.24- 1.26). Not all dinners included women (several banquets described by the literary sources list only male participants).(31) However, Richardson’s recent suggestion that women regularly dined separately from men (based on the identification of ‘ladies’ dining rooms’ in the houses and villas of Vesuvius) is insupportable.(32) In the early Republican period, women are said to have been seated at dinner, but by the Empire custom dictated that both sexes recline.(33)

To what extent did women participate in the meal? Salza Prina Ricotti has conservatively stated that women were thought to be a distraction at dinner, and that they did not make invitations, receive guests, or conduct conversation during the meal.(34) Juvenal disagrees in the sixth satire, rebuking the erudite woman who belittles rhetors and grammarians in her dinner table remarks.(35) He exaggerates, but no less than to imagine that women took absolutely no part in dinner socializing. Catullus did not consider a dinner good without wine, wit, laughter, and the company of a lovely girl.(36) Judging by the (male) literature, men’s reasons for female company at banquets primarily concerned the opportunity of love, or at least sexual relations.(37) Women of both high and low status were depicted as prizes at the table, taken by powerful figures like emperors sometimes even from their own husbands.(38) Thus the precepts written on the dining room walls of the Casa del Moralista at Pompeii advise guests not to make eyes at other men’s wives.(39) There was a clear connection between food and sex; one course at some dinners was the women themselves.(40) Women were also known to entertain banqueters in the roles of mimes, dancers, singers and musicians.(41) Despite the few and biased sources, there is no doubt that many women enjoyed formal dinners in the company of men. Only the nature and degree of their participation seems to have differed, according to their rank and status.

Rank and status

Rank was socio-political standing, given initially by birthright. In the Imperial Roman world, rank ranged from the emperor, to senators, to equestrians, to free citizens, freedpersons, and finally down to slaves. Promotion in rank was possible through emancipation, election to office, or acclamation as emperor. Rank was largely a matter of ascribed prestige. Status on the other hand was a measure of power, based on achievement or influence with others of higher rank.(42) Social standing was a complex combination of these factors combined with wealth.

Wallace-Hadrill has remarked: “Roman domestic architecture is obsessionally concerned with distinctions of social rank.”(43) The social relations played out between people at an elite dinner always involved aspects of rank or status. A standard satirical character is the social parasite who angles for dinner invitations in the hope of gaining a standing invitation and thereby eventual access to a patron. (44) One parasite, Charopinus, is depicted as potentially violent, even murderous, when he is denied invitation:

[[As many times as I dine at home, if I have not invited you, Charopinus, straightway the hostilities become immense, and you would run me through the middle with a drawn sword if you perceive that my hearth has been heated up without you. Will I not even once be allowed to play a trick? Nothing is as insatiable, Charopinus, as this your gluttony. Now quit watching over my kitchen, I pray, and let my cook at last give you words (instead of a meal!)]](45)

The Charopinus character underlines the importance of dining-out to one’s social reputation and worth. Charopinus the client is forced to eat his patron’s poem instead of his food. Issues of patronage were at work in every invitation to dinner from a social superior to a social inferior:

“In Roman satire some people invite important guests to dinner seeking social advancement (Nasidienus in Hor. S. 2.8). Others eat well or entertain those lower in the social hierarchy to assert or confirm their own superiority (Virro in Juv. 5) or attend dinners in the hope of social advancement (Trebius in Juv. 5).”(46)

There was considerable tension for all parties involved in the staging of a banquet. Prospective invitees risked being uninvited. Potential hosts risked both rejection of their invitations, and the chance that their social occasion might be a failure.(47) Refusal to dine on the part of a guest was a sign of that guest’s advancement in society, and of the host’s reduced clout. Martial complains of one Dento, who has four times refused his dinner invitation:

[[So it is: you have been captured by a richer dinner, and a bigger kitchen has carried off the dog! Presently -- and that soon -- when you are known and discarded, and the wealthy eating- house (popina) is sick of you, to the bones of the old dinner you will return.]](48)

Calling the house where Dento now dines a popina is a particularly malicious insult; it implies that Dento has no real status whatsoever. Gowers characterizes dining in Horace’s first book of Satires as a social weapon: “…the fashionable science of gastronomy has taken over the lives of the òlite and become a sinister instrument of power and exclusion.”(49) Dinners and dinner invitations were an exclusive currency; they regulated status and measured social obligations. These obligations did not cease with the end of the dinner-party; the hospes as guest was obliged by reciprocity to play the hospes as host, and return the favor of a meal. Dinners were a kind of gift-exchange.(50)

The host’s personal stake in a dinner depended partly on the quality of his guests; the guest’s stake hinged upon the host and company with whom the meal was shared. The host attempted above all to construct a dining atmosphere that complimented his socio-economic world:

“This [private] kind of meal was more of a licensed reorganization, the host’s choice of his own world, and this cherished right was summed up in a well-known Pompeian graffito: ‘The man with whom I do not dine is a barbarian to me’ (at quem non ceno, barbarus ille mihi est).”(51)

The order of reclining at table encapsulated this world-building (Fig. 1.27). The guests’ positions carried such inherent connotations of social differentiation that not even a meal of amici was necessarily free of social gamesmanship. The guest of honor (locus consularis) traditionally had the choice location at table, with proximity and primary access to the host. All other guests were placed at the discretion of the host, usually according to their rank and status from the lectus summus on down. Members of the host’s familia, such as his wife or freedpersons, would lie on his couch (lectus imus) in the places of lowest status (if they were present at the meal).(52) Slaves were not normally allowed to recline at dinner or eat during dinner because they were busy cooking and serving the meal, and were not of adequate rank to join the company regardless.(53)

“Whether the host should arrange the placing of his guests or leave it to the guests themselves” is the subject of a dialogue in Plutarch’s Quaestiones Conviviales.(54) Participants debate how to arrange the guests at table so as to obtain the most pleasant and satisfactory dining experience without offending anyone’s social pride. Plutarch’s father is in favor of dinners as strictly ordered as an army, while his brother Timon argues that dinners should not be contests for social pre-eminence (and thereby shows himself to be naively idealistic).(55) Plutarch himself pleads for order. But in cases where rivals attended the same dinner, he argues that the place of honor should harmlessly be afforded to relatives with special personal connection to the host. The guest Lamprias finally declares that the individual character of each diner must be carefully considered, and guests should be placed next to others of opposite demeanor, so that each might learn from the other. None of these procedures is proclaimed preferable in the end. The point of the dialogue is to show diverse possibilities, and to discuss the difficulties in pleasing all the participants when their couch positions inherently carry so much social weight. The end goal of all is to foster a relaxed atmosphere of conviviality and friendship; ironically they cannot agree on how to go about it.(56) Hosts of formal dinners in nineteenth century England faced strikingly similar problems:

“The host and hostess circulated discreetly to make sure that the appropriate gentlemen were paired off with ladies of appropriate status and then arranged in order of precedence for purposes of the formal promenade in to dinner. This, since it often involved very tricky questions of status and rank, was probably in many cases the hostess’s most nerve-racking moment during the whole evening, and, if she were uncertain, she would be well advised to consult Debrett’s or Burke’s [published guides to peerages] at this point to get her ranks straight.”(57)

Knowledge of proper social ordering at banquets was a necessary and powerful tool to run a successful affair, and if properly wielded, could advance or solidify the status of the host himself.

Slaves cooked and served the free family and guests of wealthy households. Slaves have been called “the human props essential to the support of upper-class Roman convivial comforts”.(58) Consider Seneca’s comment: “Look at our kitchens, and the cooks, who bustle about over so many fires; is it, think you, for a single belly that all this bustle and preparation of food takes place?”(59) The larger and more elaborate a dinner affair, the more and more specialized slaves were needed. Household slaves had their own social hierarchy, and this hierarchy was expressed nowhere as clearly as in a formal dinner.(60) Vocatores and nomenclatores worked on invitations and overall management; store-masters (cellarii) made sure that groceries had been purchased. Kitchen slaves (focarii and focariae) and specialized cooks proceeded to transform dirty, raw food into clean, cooked food, which they then served in the dining room. Their cooking might be compared in jest to poison in the Pseudolus, but the danger of poisoning in the imperial household was ever-present, requiring a special food-tasting slave for the emperor.(61) Cicero ridicules L. Calpurnius Piso for (among other things) not having a full-service dinner staff:

[[The servants who wait are filthy and some of them decrepit; one man doubles the parts of cook and steward. He does not keep a baker or a properly stocked larder, and sends out for his bread and his wine (from the barrel).]](62)

Slaves provided ‘dinner-theater’ entertainment for the guests while they served: singing, playing musical instruments, reciting verse, dancing, acrobatics, and playing farce.(63) Serving boys or girls dispensed the wine and offered sexually attractive appearances.(64) While slaves were accepted as part of the banquet’s course and (sometimes) admired for their entertainment, they were simultaneously segregated from the real camaraderie of the meal. In a sense, they were performing puppets, subject to derision, degradation, abuse and punishment.(65)

The hard work of slaves in the smooth operation of the meal was not often noticed, and their proximity to the bathed and relaxed guests was not always appreciated. Trimalchio says as much at the start of his cena:

[[We complimented our host on his arrangements. 'Mars loves a fair field,' said he [Trimalchio], ‘and so I gave orders that every one should have a separate table. In that way these filthy slaves will not make us so hot by crowding past us.’]](66)

Slaves were filthy because they had to ‘slave’ over a burning stove in ill- lit kitchens filled with smoke, blood and food remains, sweat to keep the meal in proper synchronization, and periodically clear the table of dirty dishes and clean the floor of trash.(67) Horace gives a graphic sermon on the virtues of hosting a clean dinner through the mouth of the philosopher Catius:

[[It really makes you sick to see a slave with greasy paws, from licking at some food he thieved, pick up a cup, or to find a coating of old filth inside an antique bowl. Plain brooms, place mats, sawdust -- just how expensive are these simple things? Not to have them is a great disgrace. Do you scrape mosaic floors with a muddy palm whisk and throw dirty wraps on couches covered with fine cloth? You forget that since neatness is both cheap and easy, you're more justly blamed for lacking that one quality than any fancy item found only on the tables of the rich.]](68)

Slaves were socially as well as physically dirty. Except for the Saturnalia, they tended not to dine in a well-decorated room with nice furnishings and service of their own; they are pictured instead snacking in the kitchen.(69) Some slaves were allowed only the leftovers of the leftovers of the meal, taking what the guests left behind after filling their own napkins. Slaves on some country estates are shown receiving rations from the bailiff and eating them around a fire.(70)

Slaves, the original ‘nobodies’ and lacking social identity, were not allowed to eat what, how or when they liked. That picture is given by their masters; how true is it? Were slaves scavengers, eating off the plates as they cleaned them, fighting for scraps? Or did slaves have their own place and time for rations during which they could enjoy the social interaction of their peers? Did slaves of differing status within a household eat differently?

There must have been considerable variation in domestic arrangements, depending upon the mind and resources of their master, the size of the house and the size of the staff. Customs and attitudes changed continually over time, and from place to place. Households and their houses fluctuated in size, in the makeup of their families, and in their fortunes. Literary sources offer anecdotal evidence from the point of view of Roman elites, evidence that does not often cut across rank, status, age and gender. Fortunately, the archaeological evidence at Pompeii in the first century A.D. represents a broad band of the socio-economic spectrum. A systematic exploration of cooking and eating arrangements, from the one-room shop to urban mansions, follows. I will show that the archaeological evidence confirms and complements the picture of a hierarchical society outlined above. I begin with definitions and typologies for cooking and dining areas in chapter two.


(1) The “sexus, aetas ordo omnis” of Wallace-Hadrill’s axes of differentiation within the Roman house; he claims that gender and age distinctions were irrelevant in the shaping of social space (Wallace- Hadrill 1988, 52). Berry 1994 agrees, stating that there is no lasting and immutable correlation between spatial activities and gender, a conclusion supported by the results of this investigation (see chapter four).

(2) Bradley 1986, 219. See also Bradley 1991; Garnsey 1991a, 56-64; Neraudau 1984, 77-78, 281-287, referring to Sor. Gyn. 2.17-46.

(3) See Juv. 14.166-172. Pers. 3.17-18 uses the figure of a wealthy and spoiled child who asks to have his food cut up into very small pieces.

(4) Salza Prina Ricotti 1983, 10, following others such as Mau 1908, 264 and Carcopino 1960, 265.

(5) As stated in Athen. 6.275A (Friedlander II, 146-147). But see Juv. 14.10-14 below, n. 10.

(6) Caligula, in grief at Drusilla’s death, reportedly forbid anyone on pain of death from eating with their parents, wife, or children during the period of public mourning, which assumes that communal family meals were the normal state of affairs (Suet. Cal. 24).

(7) Reclining on the lowest couch: Suet. Aug. 64 (echoed by Plu. Moralia 619D); sitting at the ends of the couches: Suet. Cl. 32; sitting at a separate table: Tac. Ann. 13.16.

(8) Dixon 1992, 101-102. Feast for the assumption of the toga virilis: Plin. Ep. 10.16; Cic. Att. 9.6. The wedding feast (cena nuptialis): Catul. 62.3; D.C. 48.44.

(9) Var. Men. Ag. 6 advises maidens to avoid the banquet lest they learn too much of the speech of love (Salza Prina Ricotti 1983, 23).

(10) Juv. 14.10-14: Cum septimus annus transierit puerum, nondum omni dente renato, barbatos licet admoveas mille inde magistros, hinc totidem, cupiet lauto cenare paratu semper et a magna non degenerare culina (Loeb text and translation).

(11) Gowers 1993, 24: “…the sorts of people depicted relishing food in Roman literature are children, slaves, parasites, cooks, gluttons, and gourmets; in other words, uncontrolled people who cannot be identified with the author or his accomplice the reader.” In pp. 181-182, Gowers opposes “raw”, or “uncooked” youth (who cannot get enough) to the “overcooked” elderly (who have had far too much).

(12) Sen. Ep. 95.23: Innumerabiles esse morbos non mirabis: cocos numera…In rhetorum ac philosophorum scholis solitudo est: at quam celebres culinae sunt, quanta circa nepotum focos iuventus premit! Transeo puerorum infelicium greges quos post transacta convivia aliae cubiculi contumeliae expectant (Loeb text and translation).

(13) According to Varro (Non. 156); Dixon 1992, 117 & n.95; Wiedemann 1989, 154; Frohlich 1991, 222-229. In the majority of sculpted or painted scenes of banquet from the Roman world that include children, they seem to be slaves. See the tomb of Iulia Velva from York, Dixon 1992, Pl.15; painted panels of triclinium scenes from the Casa del Triclinio (V.2.4) at Pompeii. One panel depicts a (perhaps free-born, as identified by the angustus clavus along his tunic) boy serving the adults in the company of slave-boys (Figs. 1.23); two others show only slave-boys (Figs. 1.24-1.25). See also the painted panel depicting two male diners, a young woman and a child from room (d) of VI.14.29 at Pompeii, Collezioni 1989, 170-171, #341; sarcophagus showing children playing with a dog underneath the funerary banquet couch of the deceased, Salza Prina Ricotti 1983, Fig. 106; funerary relief of C. G. Materno from Cologne, Dosi & Schnell 1986a, 113; a painted panel showing women and men at banquet being served wine by a boy, Frohlich 1991, Taf. 21.2.

(14) D’Arms 1991, 173, with refs.

(15) For example, Ov. Med. 16-17 and Hor. Epod. 2. 39-48 describe Sabine matrons of old preparing the cooking fire, among other chores; Ov. Fast. 4.697-698 describes the varied household tasks of an archiac country home; Mart. 12.18 travels to the countryside (and hence back to an idyllic, rustic time) to witness his bailiff’s wife putting pots on the fire. See also Hudson 1989, 70-77.

(16) Col. 12.praef. Columella in this passage is stressing what he thought women were not suited to do (i.e. work outdoors and engaging in public business). Maurin 1983 agrees, claiming that female work traditionally included the baking of bread, the preparation of meals, and the maintenance of the house. Berry 1994 has emphasized the administrative role of the woman of the house, particularly over the slaves who actually operated the household.

(17) Plu. Moralia 284F, Plin. Nat. 18.107. Hor. S. 1.4.36-38 pictures old women or slave-boys making trips to get bread from the bakery or water from a fountain. Purcell 1994, 664 describes this point as a change between high status baking bread at home, and baking as a low-status trade.

(18) Juv. 14.166-172.

(19) See Salza Prina Ricotti 1983 and Gozzini Giacosa 1992 for the recipies of Cato, Columella & Varro, and Flower & Rosenbaum 1958 for Apicius.

(20) Falernus: Sil. 7.174-185; Manius Curius: Plin. Nat. 19.87; Juv. 11.77-89; Sen. Dial. 12.10.8.

(21) The literary reversal of the honest and honorable wife is the witch, who cooks up poisons instead of nourishing meals (Gowers 1993, 92, 287-291, 299-310). See Hor. Epod. 3 for Canidia and Tac. Ann. 12.66, 13.15 for Locusta.

(22) Baucis and Philemon: Ov. Met. 8.620-720; Simylus and Scybale: App. Verg. Moretum.

(23) Var. R. 2.10.7.

(24) Fortunata as equal or superior to Trimalchio: Petr. 37, 52, 67; Fortunata ‘put in her place’ by Trimalchio: Petr. 74-75.

(25) The female cook, who makes love to the hero and then turns him into an ass: Apul. Met. 2.7; the male cook, who nearly kills the hero while he is an ass (Apul. Met. 7.20). Ulp. dig. 33.7.12 and Pompon. dig. 33.7.15 speak of focariae (kitchen-maids or female cooks) in the context of their inclusion in the instrumentum domesticum of inheritances.

(26) Petr. 49-50; for Roman comic cooks, see Giannini 1960, 192-203 & Gowers 1993, 76-107.

(27) Cato, Agr.143; Col. 12.1-3.

(28) Col. 12.3.8: eos qui cibum familiae conficiunt, invisere (Loeb text).

(29) Liv. 1.57; Ov. Fast. 2.742-747.

(30) Cic. Att. 5.1.3-4 (Gardner & Wiedemann 1991, 55-56); see also Gardner 1986, 70-71.

(31) All-male banquets: Hor. Sat. 2.8; Mart. 10.48; Plu. Quaestiones Conviviales.

(32) Richardson 1983, Richardson 1988a, 389-399. Wallace-Hadrill 1988, 93 & n.147 and Ling 1991a, 251-252, refute Richardson’s argument, providing a number of literary references that support mixed dining. Similar efforts (Maiuri 1954b) to identify whole separate female areas of the Roman house (gynaecea) which included their own dining rooms have also failed (Wallace- Hadrill 1988, 50-52). It was Greek custom, however, for men and women to dine separately (Cic. Ver. 2.66; Vitr. 6.7.4; Nep. praef. 6-7).

(33) V. Max. 2.1.2, Isid. Orig. 20.11.9.

(34) Salza Prina Ricotti 1983, 23: “…non era lei che faceva gli inviti, non era lei riceveva gli ospiti, non era lei che conduceva la conversazione: se assisteva era soltanto comme appendice.”

(35) Juv. 6.434-456: “The grammarians make way before her; the rhetoricians give in; the whole crowd is silenced: no lawyer, no auctioneer will get a word in, no, nor any other woman; so torrential is her speech that you would think that all the pots and bells were being clashed together.”; cedunt grammatici, vincuntur rhetores, omnis turba tacet, nec causidicus nec praeco loquetur, altera nec mulier; verborum tanta cadit vis, tot pariter pelves ac tintinnabula dicas pulsari (Loeb text and translation).

(36) Catul. 13; see Gowers 1993, 229-244 for a detailed analysis of this poem.

(37) For love affairs in the context of convivia, see Yardley 1991.

(38) Suet. Aug. 69, Cal. 36.

(39) CIL IV.7698; see above, p. 23.

(40) Mart. 9.2, 5.78; Historia Augusta, Gallieni Duo, 17.7; see Gowers 1993, 252-255, 258-259. Cooks as well as servers could be connected to sex. In Apul. Met. 2.7, the female cook-slave refers to her sexual being as a brazier (foculus). See DuBois 1988, 110-129 for Greek literary depictions of women as ‘ovens’. See also Mart. 4.66.

(41) Cic. Fam. 9.26; Plin. Ep. 1.15. See also Gardner 1986, 245-246.

(42) Definitions for rank and status follow Finley 1985, 45-61. Emperors had high rank and high status, freedpersons of the imperial court low rank but high status, and common slaves both low rank and status. The structure of social ordering was essentially pyramidal, with the few of highest status supported by an ever increasing number of ever lower status individuals. See Alfoldy 1985, 146, Fig. 1 for a diagram of this social pyramid.

(43) Wallace-Hadrill 1988, 52.

(44) The banquet-hunter Selius is actually depicted as a man ‘fishing’ for food and social opportunity (Mart. 2.27; see also 2.14; 7.20 [above, p. 23]). The usage of patronus, cliens, and amicus follows the definitions of Saller 1982, 8-15.

(45) Mart. 5.50: Ceno domi quotiens, nisi te, Charopine, vocavi, protinus ingentes sunt inimicitiae, meque potes stricto medium transfigure ferro, si nostrum sine te scis caluisse focum. Nec semel ergo mihi furtum fecisse licebit? Inprobus nihil est hac, Charopine, gula. Desine iam nostram, precor, observare culinam, atque aliquando meus det tibi verba cocus (OCT text, author’s translation).

(46) Hudson 1989, 83. D’Arms 1990, 311 further stresses the importance at banquets of the ties of clientela, “which linked together and integrated the disparate elements of the Roman social fabric”. See Gowers 1993, 220- 279 for an analysis of the symbolism of food in invitation poems.

(47) A failed banquet as that described in Hor. S. 2.8, where the host is mocked and the guests flee.

(48) Mart. 5.44.7-11: Sic est, captus es unctiore mensa et maior rapuit canem culina. Iam te, sed cito, cognitum et relictum cum fastidierit popina dives, antiquae venies ad ossa cenae (Loeb text and translation). See also Juv. 11 and Plin. Ep. 1.15.

(49) Gowers 1993, 131.

(50) D’Arms 1984, 331-334; see Gowers 1993, 8 and 225, where invitation poems are considered payment for the dinner itself. Mart. 5.50 (see above, p. 51) is an anti-invitation poem that offers the prospective guest lines of verse in lieu of courses of a meal.

(51) Gowers 1993, 26. This exclusive world is in contrast to the freedman’s dinner in the Satyricon, as Gowers 1993, 46 notes: “The grotesquely hybrid dishes of Petronius’ Cena Trimalchionis… remind us that the book itself is a bogus pastiche, as well as the society it depicts.”

(52) Plu. Moralia 619B-619F is our primary source on the proper arrangement of guests at dinner.

(53) Petr. 70 provides the amusing picture of slaves crowding on to the guests’ couches towards the end of the meal, and the exaggeration of the passage underlines the fact that such a breach of standard social boundaries was not normal behavior. Pl. Capt. 471 in fact describes slaves as “low bench-sitters” (unisubselli), which suggests that slaves sometimes sat on separate furniture for their meals.

(54) Plu. Moralia 615C-619A (Loeb translation of the title of the dialogue).

(55) Timon does not seem to realize that paying strict attention to rank and person in the order of a dinner-party (as Augustus did, Suet. Aug. 74) contributed to the social stability of the state by reminding all the participants that they should know their place and be content with it (D’Arms 1990, 308). For if (as Plin. Ep. 9.5.3 notes) ‘the distinctions of orders and dignity become confused, nothing is more unequal than the resulting equality.’ (paraphrasing D’Arms’ 1990, 312 translation). See also D’Arms 1984, 344-348.

(56) See D’Arms 1990 for the difficulty in reconstructing a canonical attitude to issues of equality, freedom and pleasure at a Roman dinner.

(57) Pool 1993, 73. The stress of hosting is revealed by Cicero in Att. 13.52 when he concludes, after hosting Caesar and his retinue at dinner: “But my guest was not the kind of person to whom one says ‘Do come again when you are next in the neighborhood.’ Once is enough.” (Shackleton Bailey translation).

(58) D’Arms 1991, 171.

(59) Sen. Ep. 114.26: Aspice culinas nostras et concursantis inter tot ignes cocos: unum videri putas ventrem cui tanto tumultu comparatur cibus? (Loeb text and translation).

(60) See Wallace-Hadrill 1988, 78-79;D’Arms 1991, 172-174; Marquardt I, 171- 172 for discussions of the specialty positions of household slaves in general and at banquet-slaves in particular.

(61) Gowers 1993, 102-103 discusses the ambiguity of venenum (poison, potion) in Pl. Ps. 870. The taster for Claudius, the eunuch Halotus, was implicated in the poisoning death of the emperor (Tac. Ann. 12.66; Suet. Cl. 44).

(62) Cic. Pis. 67: servi sordidati ministrant, non nulli etiam senes; idem coquus, idem atriensis; pistor domi nullus, nulla cella; panis et vinum a propola atque de cupa (Loeb text, Balsdon 1974, 53 translation).

(63) Jones 1991 speaks of private dinner entertainment in the context of the larger theater of urban social relationships.

(64) Mart. 10.66 laments the fact that a kitchen-slave who also blends and serves wine has his handsome appearance marred by smoke and grease from the stove.

(65) D’Arms 1991, 174-176.

(66) Petr. 34: Laudatus propter elegantias dominus “Aequum” inquit “Mars amat. Itaque iussi suam cuique mensam assignari. Obiter et putidissimi servi minorem nobis aestum frequentia sua facient.” (Loeb text and translation). See above, the filthy servants of L. Calpurnius Piso, n. 62.

(67) Plin. Nat. 36.184 describes the famous “unswept hall” (asaroton oecon) mosaic of Hellenistic origin that depicts the sort of food remains (fish skeletons, shells, bones, nutshells, pits etc…) that get tossed on the floor of the dining room during the meal (see chapter two, p. 90, n. 167 for the text). Vitr. 7.4.4 describes the wine tossed and spit by guests onto the floor (see chapter two, p. 103, n. 229 for the text). See also Quint. Inst. 8.3.66 and Col. 2.14.7, 12.3.8 for descriptions of dining room dirt and instructions for cleaning up a kitchen.

(68) Hor. S. 2.4.78-87 (from Gowers 1993, 147-149): ‘Magna movet stomacho fastidia, seu puer unctis tractavit calicem manibus dum furta ligurrit; sive gravis veteri craterae limus adhaesit. Vilibus in scopis, in mappis, in scobe quantus consistit sumptus? Neglectis flagitium ingens. Ten lapides varios lutulenta radere palma et Tyrias dare circum illuta toralia vestis, oblitum quanto curam sumptumque minorem haec habeant, tanto reprehendi iustius illis quae nisi divitibus nequeant contingere mensis?’ (OCT text, Fuchs 1977 translation).

(69) Pl. Pers. 633 speaks of the treats to be found in a kitchen (ubi rerum omnium bonarum copiast saepissume) and the cooks in Pl. Cas. 775- 779 scheme to get the master out of the house so they can have the meal to themselves.

(70) Mart. 12.18; Col. 11.1.19 (see above, p. 30-31, n. 126).


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Web Document Date of birth: 5/2/95, revised 11/19/97 (image)

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