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Posted on April 19th, 2012, by

The ancient Rome and the Roman civilization had reached unparalleled level of development and, at the ancient epoch, this was the most advanced civilization in the world. At the same time, Romans, as many other people, paid a lot of attention to the process of consuming food and the organization of feasts and dinners was a remarkable characteristic of a truly noble Roman. In fact, the Roman aristocracy was practically obliged to organize dinners and feasts regularly because in such a way they could manifest their high social status and noble origin. At the same time, the organization of such feasts was very expensive and needed considerable preparations from the part of aristocrats as well as slaves and other people who worked in their houses. In fact, the organization of a dinner or feast in the house of a Roman aristocrat was an important, almost socially significant event. At any rate, it was a great honor for a Roman to be invited to dine at the house of aristocratic paterfamilias. This is why aristocrats should not only prepare and organize the dinner itself but they should also prepare their houses to produce a positive impression on guests.

Speaking about the organization of dinners and feasts and paterfamilias of ancient Rome, it should be said that the owner of the house should invite guests to participate in the dinner. Normally, the number of people that could take part in the dinner in ancient Rome varied from three to nine and, as a rule, aristocrats invited only the most respectable Romans, who often belong to the same social class. However, in the course of time, Roman morals became less strict and the range of guests enlarged giving access to table of aristocracy to the most successful, rich and influential Romans.

The preparation of the house for the dinner started from the gates since, as soon as guests entered the house of Roman paterfamilias they should feel that they are in a house of the most aristocratic and noble Romans. Often, houses of Roman aristocracy had sculptures depicting ancestors of the owner of the house. Moreover, often Roman aristocrats tended to associate themselves with the most renowned families as well as Roman emperors, whom they could enlist as their ancestors.

In fact, the major goal of the aristocrat organizing a feast or dinner was to surprise and amaze his guests. They should remember the dinner and the surprise and amazement were quite useful to make the dinner memorable. In this respect, it should be said that the Roman aristocracy tended to showing off. A roman noble man is boasting his richness he wants to show other people how rich he is and what a high social status he has. This is why a noble Roman aristocrat should provide his guests with delicious dishes such as fat fig-peckers surrounded by peppered egg yolk within eggs made of rich pastry. Furthermore, he should demonstrate his high social status. Therefore often Roman aristocrats introduced new rules that were unusual for ordinary Romans, who comprise the plebs. For instance, at dinner table the owner of the house should have the place of honor which is reserved for him and to show his power and richness they could label all things belonging to him with their own name.

At the same time, the decoration of the house and the preparation of exotic, unusual dishes was only a part of the feast or dinner. In fact, the fest implied entertainment. This is why Romans invited to the feast of a nobleman should get all the dishes they want, drink as much wine as they can and enjoy the entertainment suggested by the host. In this respect, music was an essential component of any feast or even ordinary dinner in the house of a Roman aristocrat. However, as guests arrived they should be truly impressed with the richness and power of the owner of house.

At the right time the guests arrive, endeavoring to show neither undue eagerness by being too early nor rudeness by being too late. Each brings his own footman to take off his shoes and to stand behind him, in case he may be needed, though not to wait at table, for this service belongs to the slaves of the house. After they have been received by the host, the “name-caller” leads them to their places, according to such order of precedence as the host chooses to pre-arrange. The regular number of guests for the three couches will be nine–the number of the Muses–or three to each couch. To squeeze in more was regarded as bad form. If the crescent couch and the large round table are to be used the number may be either six or seven. The position of the owner of the house himself as host will be regularly that marked H on the plan, while the position of honor–occupied by a consul if one be present–will be that marked C.

Each guest throws himself as easily as possible into a reclining attitude, resting his left elbow on the cushion provided for the purpose. He has brought his own napkin, marked with a purple stripe if he is a senator, and this he tucks, in a manner still sufficiently familiar on the continent of Europe, into upper part of his attire. Bread is cut and ready, but there are no knives and forks, although there is a spoon of dessert size and also one with a smaller bowl and a point at the other end of the handle for the purpose of picking out the luscious snail or the succulent shell-fish. The dainty use of fingers well inured to heat was necessarily a point of Roman domestic training.

Remarkably, a truly noble Roman has never appeared to guests before they gather in the dinner room, which was a special room where Romans had their dinners and feasts. As guests took their places at the table, men were lying on cushions while women were sitting, the owner of the house appeared. Some Roman aristocrats were carried in by slaves, but such a tradition was not widely spread in Roman paterfamilias, instead, they should appear as the owners of the hose and hosts calm and noble, welcoming guests but maintaining the reasonable distance to show that they belonged to the upper-class of Roman society. However, it does not necessarily mean that there was a huge gap between guests and hosts. The latter showed their noble origin but they also attempted to show that they are true Romans and take care of Romans and respect Roman rules.

Thus, the feast in a Roman paterfamilias was an important event, which was an essential part of the life of ancient Rome.

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