How To Earn A Dinner Invitation: Some Roman Advice (Hint: Lie)

Martial 9.35

“You will always earn a dinner with these skills, Philomusus:
Fabricate many tales, but relay them as if they are true.
You know what Pacorus is considering in his Arsacian abode;
You count the number of Rhenish and Sarmatian men,
You reveal the words consigned to paper by the Dacian chef,
And you see the victor’s crown before it arrives.
You know how many times Pharian rain dampens dark Syene
And the number of ships departing from Lybian shores
For whose head Julian olives are harvested,
And for whom the heavenly father has promised his wreaths.
Forget your skill! You will dine with me today
Under one rule: Philomusus, tell me nothing of the news.”

Artibus his semper cenam, Philomuse, mereris,
plurima dum fingis, sed quasi vera refers.
scis quid in Arsacia Pacorus deliberet aula,
Rhenanam numeras Sarmaticamque manum,
verba ducis Daci chartis mandata resignas, 5
victricem laurum quam venit ante vides,
scis quotiens Phario madeat Iove fusca Syene,
scis quota de Libyco litore puppis eat,
cuius Iuleae capiti nascantur olivae,
destinet aetherius cui sua serta pater. 10
Tolle tuas artes; hodie cenabis apud me
hac lege, ut narres nil, Philomuse, novi.

Image result for Ancient Roman Feasting

Some Deipnosophistic Advice on What To Bring to Dinner

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 1.4.34-1.5.5

“For this reason, someone may say Antiphanes’ famous lines of him appropriately: “You are always near the Muses and their words, whenever any work of wisdom is consulted.” Or, to use the Theban lyric poet:

He glories in
The finest type of song
The kind men play often
At a friendly table.

By inviting these men to dinner, [Athenaeus] says, he made Rome feel like their homeland. For who longs for things at home when he knows a man who throws his house open to friends? It’s like the comic Apollodorus says:

Whenever you enter the house of a friend,
You can see, Nicophon, your friend’s love
As soon as you pass through the doors.
First, the doorkeeper is happy and the dog
Wags its tale as it comes up; a servant immediately
Offers you a chair, even if no one says
Anything.

It would be right if the rest of rich people were like this. And someone might say to those who don’t act this way: “Why are you so cheap? Your shelters are full of wine—it befits you to have a fine feast for the elders!” [paraphrase of Il. 9.70-1]. Alexander the Great was this magnanimous!

… διόπερ ἐκεῖνα τῶν ᾿Αντιφάνους ἐρεῖ τις εἰς αὐτόν (II 124 K)·
ἀεὶ δὲ πρὸς Μούσαισι καὶ λόγοις πάρει,
ὅπου σοφίας ἔργον ἐξετάζεται. —

ἀγλαίζεται δὲ καὶ
μουσικᾶς ἐν ἀώτῳ·
οἷα παίζομεν φίλαν
ἄνδρες ἀμφὶ θαμὰ τράπεζαν,

κατὰ τὸν Θηβαῖον μελοποιόν (Pind. O I 14). καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς ἑστιάσεις δὲ παρακαλῶν πατρίδα, φησί, τὴν ῾Ρώμην πᾶσιν ἀποφαίνει. τίς γὰρ τὰ οἴκοι ποθεῖ τούτῳ
ξυνὼν ἀναπεπταμένην ἔχοντι τοῖς φίλοις τὴν οἰκίαν; κατὰ γὰρ τὸν κωμῳδιοποιὸν ᾿Απολλόδωρον (IV 455 M)·

εἰς οἰκίαν ὅταν τις εἰσίῃ φίλου,
ἔστιν θεωρεῖν, Νικοφῶν, τὴν τοῦ φίλου
εὔνοιαν εὐθὺς εἰσιόντα τὰς θύρας.
ὁ θυρωρὸς ἱλαρὸς πρῶτόν ἐστιν, ἡ κύων
ἔσηνε καὶ προσῆλθ’, ὑπαντήσας δέ τις
δίφρον εὐθέως ἔθηκε, κἂν μηδεὶς λέγῃ
μηδέν.
τοιούτους ἔδει καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς εἶναι πλείους ὡς τοῖς γε μὴ τοῦτο ποιοῦσιν ἐρεῖ τις ‘τί μικρολόγος εἶ;’ —‘πλεῖαί τοι οἴνου κλισίαι· δαίνυ δαῖτα γέρουσι θάλειαν· ἔοικέ τοι (I 70. 71. H 475).’ τοιοῦτος ἦν τῇ μεγαλοψυχίᾳ ὁ μέγας ᾿Αλέξανδρος.

Image result for Papyrus Ancient Roman Dinner Invitation

Make A Seating Plan for Your Holiday Feast, Unless Simonides is Coming…

Ancient memory techniques go back to oratorical training in theory, but in practice probably much further back in human history. Philostratus records the reputation of Dionysius of Miletus and his “memory-men”. But one of the most easily abused and likely misunderstood method from the ancient world is the “memory palace” (or “method of loci“), made famous by Cicero, but credited to the lyric poet Simonides.

Cicero De Oratore 2.352–355

“But, so I may return to the matter”, he said, “I am not as smart as Themistocles was as to prefer the art of forgetting to the art of memory. And So I am thankful to that Simonides of Ceos who, as they say, first produced an art of memory. For they say that when Simonides was dining at the home of a wealthy aristocrate named Scopas in Thessaly and had performed that song which he wrote in his honor—in which there were many segments composed for Castor and Pollux elaborated in the way of poets. Then Scopas told him cruelly that he would pay him half as much as he had promised he would give for the song; if it seemed right to him, he could ask Tyndareus’ sons for the other half since he had praised them equally.

A little while later, as they tell the tale, it was announced that Simonides should go outside—there were two young men at the door who had been calling him insistently. He rose, exited, and so no one. Meanwhile, in the same space of time, the ceiling under which Scopas was having his feast collapsed: the man was crushed by the ruins a d died with his relatives. When people wanted to bury them they could not recognize who was where because they were crushed. Simonides is said to have shown the place in which each man died from his memory for their individual burials.

From this experience, Simonides is said to have learned that it is order most of all that brings light to memory. And thus those who wish to practice this aspect of the skill must select specific places and shape in their mind the matters they wish to hold in their memory and locate these facts in those places. It will so turn out that the order of the places will safeguard the order of the matters, the reflections of the facts will remind of the facts themselves, and we may use the places like wax and the ideas like letters written upon it.”

Sed, ut ad rem redeam, non sum tanto ego, inquit, ingenio quanto Themistocles fuit, ut oblivionis artem quam memoriae malim; gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse.  Dicunt enim cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei quod pactus esset pro illo carmine daturum: reliquum a suis Tyndaridis quos aeque laudasset peteret si ei videretur. Paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret: iuvenes stare ad ianuam duos quosdam qui eum magnopere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem; hoc interim spatio conclave illud ubi epularetur Scopas concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interiisse; quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset demonstrator uniuscuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime qui memoriae lumen afferret. Itaque eis qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent locos esse capiendos et ea quae memoria tenere vellent effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda: sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret, atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.

thanks to S. Raudnitz for reminding me of this passage too!

 

Image result for ancient greek memory palace medieval giulio camillo
This stuff is still popular: The Memory Theater of Guilio Camillo

Dinners: Invitations and Guest-Lists for the Feasts

Matro  of Pitane

“Dinners, Muse, tell me of dinners much-nourishing and so very / many”

δεῖπνα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροφα καὶ μάλα / πολλά

 

P. Oxy. 1485.

“The Exegete would love for you to dine today, the ninth day, at the temple of Demeter at the seventh hour”

Ἐρωτᾷ σαι διπν[ῆ-]σαι ὁ ἐξηγητὴ[ς] ἐν τῷ Δημητρίῳ σήμερον ἥτις ἐσ-τὶν θ ἀπὸ ὥρ(ας) ζ.

A few weeks ago we played around with a twitter hastag #deadclassics, unintentionally anticipating the holiday season by a few weeks. This year we have been stringing together thematically linked posts, recently a flurry of animal noises and werewolves. Why should we stop now when we can keep indulging? (A thematic comment if any can be to anticipate the banquets to come). So, from now through the holidays we will be posting often–though not exclusively–about ancient banquets, parties, and feasts. And drinking, of course. You know, just in case you need any more holiday stress.

Here’ the beginning of Plutarch’s The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men to make you reconsider your guest-list for thanksgiving.

Moralia 146: Dinner of the Seven Wise Men

“Nikarkhos, I guess that as time passes by it will impose a great darkness over events and total obscurity if even false accounts of what has just happened have belief. For, there was not a dinner of only seven men as you have heard, but there were more than twice as many—among whom I was present, since I was Periander’s friend thanks to my profession and a guest-friend of Thales who stayed at my home after Periander told him to. Whoever it was who informed you of the events did not recall the speeches correctly—it is likely he was not one of the guests. But since I have a lot of free time and old age is too uncertain a thing to justify putting off the tale, I will tell you the entire story from the beginning which you are so eager to hear.”

Ἦ που προϊὼν ὁ χρόνος, ὦ Νίκαρχε, πολὺ σκότος ἐπάξει τοῖς πράγμασι καὶ πᾶσαν ἀσάφειαν, εἰ νῦν ἐπὶ προσφάτοις οὕτω καὶ νεαροῖς λόγοι ψευδεῖς συντεθέντες ἔχουσι πίστιν. οὔτε γὰρ μόνων, ὡς ὑμεῖς ἀκηκόατε, τῶν ἑπτὰ γέγονε τὸ συμπόσιον, ἀλλὰ πλειόνων ἢ δὶς τοσούτων (ἐν οἷς καὶ αὐτὸς ἤμην, συνήθης μὲν ὢν Περιάνδρῳ διὰ τὴν τέχνην, ξένος δὲ Θάλεω· παρ᾿ ἐμοὶ γὰρ κατέλυσεν ὁ ἀνὴρ Περιάνδρου κελεύσαντος), οὔτε τοὺς λόγους ὀρθῶς ἀπεμνημόνευσεν ὅστις ἦν ὑμῖν ὁ διηγούμενος· ἦν δ᾿ ὡς ἔοικεν οὐδεὶς τῶν παραγεγονότων. ἀλλ᾿ ἐπεὶ σχολή τε πάρεστι πολλὴ καὶ τὸ γῆρας οὐκ ἀξιόπιστον ἐγγυήσασθαι τὴν ἀναβολὴν τοῦ λόγου, προθυμουμένοις ὑμῖν ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς ἅπαντα διηγήσομαι.

Image result for Ancient Greek feasting

Martial, Epigram 9.35: You Know the Secret to a Free Meal, Now Forget It

“You will always earn a dinner with these skills, Philomusus:
Fabricate many tales, but relay them as if they are true.
You know what Pacorus is considering in his Arsacian abode;
You count the number of Rhenish and Sarmatian men,
You reveal the words consigned to paper by the Dacian chef,
And you see the victor’s crown before it arrives.
You know how many times Pharian rain dampens dark Syene
And the number of ships departing from Lybian shores
For whose head Julian olives are harvested,
And for whom the heavenly father has promised his wreaths.
Forget your skill! You will dine with me today
Under one rule: Philomusus, tell me nothing of the news.”

Artibus his semper cenam, Philomuse, mereris,
plurima dum fingis, sed quasi vera refers.
scis quid in Arsacia Pacorus deliberet aula,
Rhenanam numeras Sarmaticamque manum,
verba ducis Daci chartis mandata resignas, 5
victricem laurum quam venit ante vides,
scis quotiens Phario madeat Iove fusca Syene,
scis quota de Libyco litore puppis eat,
cuius Iuleae capiti nascantur olivae,
destinet aetherius cui sua serta pater. 10
Tolle tuas artes; hodie cenabis apud me
hac lege, ut narres nil, Philomuse, novi.