Petronius - Dinner with Trimalchio
The dinner with Trimalchio is Encolpius' account of a visit to Trimalchios house for dinner. It is the closest thing that we have to a full "chapter" of "The Satyricon" but even this episode is not complete - it starts part of the way into the story. The whole of the Satyricon may have been up to 26 books long and this has been deemed by classicists to be book 15 , they know this because other Roman and medieval authors wrote about the size and the extent of the original Satyricon, although often they wrote in very vague terms about it.
The fragments of text that were found were labelled by classicists and archaeologists , hence we start the story of Trimalchio at fragment 26 and finish this episode at fragment 78.
The fragments of "The Satyricon " that survive have 3 main characters, Encolpius, Ascyltus and the boy Giton. They have already been involved in some very dubious activity in the section of "The Satyricon" called "Puteoli" and are expecting trouble. They arrive at Trimalchios house expecting a free dinner - they are freeloaders (possibly clients of the patron Trimalchio?) They arrive and are discussing how to avoid trouble when a slave of the professor of rhetoric, Agamemnon ,another diner at Trimalchios table tells them about their host, Trimalchio. Agamemnon was a professor of rhetoric (teacher) whom Encolpius had met after his lecture , his assistant was Menelaus! They are told by the slave that Trimalchio is elegant and has a clock in his dining room that tells him how long he is going to live ! This was probably a water clock. Clearly, Trimalchio is superstitious and obsessed with death. Encolpius, Ascyltus and Giton decide to stay at the dinner .Possibly Encolpius and Ascyltus are so poor as they can't afford a servant, Giton ,the boy lover of Encolpius has to act as a servant or only Ascyltus and Encolpius are invited to the dinner and Giton goes along disguised as a servant.
They appear to be in the baths or at least the exercise area of the house, making small talk with the guests when they spot Trimalchio. He is bald and wearing a red shirt ,playing ball with some long haired boys. At first, Encolpius is attracted by the boys but then is struck by Trimalchio himself. He is clearly not interested in the guests at all, preferring to play ball with the boys. He wears slippers which shows that he is not dressed for dinner yet. He wears a red shirt and throws a green ball - he is clearly a colourful character in more ways than one! He is so rich he refuses to pick up a ball if it falls to the ground , a fresh ball is thrown by the slaves to the players ! In the normal rules of the Roman ball game of Trigon, three players threw a hard ball to each other , normally the balls caught by the players were counted , not those dropped! He is rich enough to own eunuchs , one of whom carries a silver pissing bottle - even his toilet is expensive!
Menelaus, assistant to Agamemnon, tells them that they will be dining with this man and this is this beginning of the dinner - Trimalchio calls for the silver pissing bottle and wipes his hands on the eunuchs head to start the dinner!
From this fragment we might deduce that Trimalchio likes showing off his wealth, isn't really interested in his guests and is very vulgar! He does command everyone attention though and even , to a certain extent, their admiration.
The guests are now invited to start dinner by going into the tepidarium (the warm room of the baths) to sweat and then enter the frigidarium (the cold room or cold water) to cool down. Surprisingly, this may not be a strange way to start dinner - in Juvenal satire 6 the wife comes home from the baths to dinner . Trimalchio then has himself smothered in perfume by a slave and dresses in a woollen robe. This is another example of Trimalchio showing off his wealth , normally slaves would rub bathers down with olive oil and then they would wear linen towels. The masseurs of Trimalchio drink expensive wine and spill most of it because they are quarrelling. Trimalchio seems to think that they are drinking his health and are pouring libations to him as if he were a god. Normally people drinking in a group would first pour a libation to the household gods - Trimalchio foolishly thinks that he is the household god here , he often likes to think of himself as popular with the servants.
Trimalchio finishes in the baths and puts on scarlet felt and is lifted in a litter to the dinner table at his house. He rides through the streets to his house as if he is a consul or victorious general .When a victorious general or consul won a battle he was allowed to ride into Rome with symbols of his conquests before him such as slaves captured from the conquered province or chests of gold , the conquered King or Queen would always go before him and a slave would ride in the carriage beside the consul whispering into his ear that he was only mortal. Here Trimalchio perverts that custom - he wears scarlet like a victorious general, but in place of the conquered King or Queen rides his latest boyfriend. He is preceded by medals as if he has won a victorious campaign and a musician rides in the carriage beside him and plays music into his ear !
The guests are not provided with a litter and have to walk to Trimalchios house! When they arrive at the house a notice proclaims that any slave leaving the house without permission will receive a hundred lashes - this appears to be a strict house. It is posted on a door frame just like an imperial edict. The hall porter is dressed in uniform of green and red and shells peas into a silver basin but it is not the hall porter that greets the visitors but a talking magpie! Trimalchio has so much money that he is able to kit out his household in uniform and entrusts his slaves with silver kitchen utensils .
In this fragment we learn that Trimalchio likes to pretend that he's something he's not - a victorious general. He also likes to think that he is a strict master and almost like a god to his servants. In reality, of course, he is rude to his guests by making them walk to his house and doesn't seem to mind if his servants aren't doing their job properly!
Encolpius is amazed at the sights of Trimalchios house. On the left as a person enters the house there is a large mural of a dog with a chain around its neck and a sign telling them to beware the dog. Such signs were common in Roman households but the irony here is that there appears to be no real dog! The rest of the wall next to the porters cubby hole is covered in a mural showing the story of how Trimalchio became so rich. He is depicted on the mural as holding the wand of Mercury the bringer of good luck and patron god of business men and being led into Rome by Minerva the goddess of wisdom. This is a picture with two meanings - one is that Wisdom and good luck helped Trimalchio to become rich but often Mercury is the god who leads people to the underworld and this could be another example of Trimalchios obsession with the afterlife. This picture is followed by others showing how Trimalchio became an accountant and then a steward. At the end of the colonnade, Mercury is seen hauling him up to a platform by the chin and here he is depicted with the goddess of fortune and the 3 fates spinning their threads. Again, the final image is double edged, Trimalchio may have been dragged up to the platform of plenty but Mercury drags him by the chin as if he has died and on the platform are the fates - reminding him that all fortune is fleeting, again it shows that Trimalchio is obsessed with death.
The colonnade of Trimalchios house has become a training ground where runners practise with their trainer. In one corner of the colonnade there is a cabinet with the statues of the household gods displayed in silver (in most Roman houses they would be made of clay). In the same cabinet , kept in a golden casket, is Trimalchios first beard. When a Roman boy reached manhood he had his beard shaved off and donned the toga virilis. The point is here that Trimalchio has put his beard in a casket that is made of more precious metal than the household gods. This has also been seen as a criticism of Nero who was said to have dedicated his own beard very publicly to Capitoline Jupiter!
Encolpius enquires of the porter about the pictures in the colonnade of Trimalchios house. He is told that they are pictures of "The Iliad, The Odyssey and a gladiatorial show given by Leanas" Trimalchio pretends to be educated but can't tell the difference between the high brow forms of entertainment - the Homeric poems and the lowbrow forms of entertainment , the gladiatorial shows!
In this fragment we learn that Trimalchio likes to show off his riches in the murals on the walls of his house and in his furniture. Some of these murals are about Trimalchio (thus showing his ego!) and show the guests how he became a self made millionaire. but never far away is the theme of death and his fear of death. He likes to think of himself as on a par with the gods, having his first beard displayed better than the household gods. He also has little education , not knowing the difference between Homer and a gladiator!
Encolpius seems to have no time to look at the murals in the colonnade - note that time seems to pass quickly in Trimalchios house. He may have riches today but soon they will be gone. They reach the dining room and as if to show off Trimalchios riches, a treasurer sits and goes over Trimalchios accounts in the dining room! Attached to the door posts there are rods and axes tapering off to look like the beak of a ship. In ancient Rome, a consul would have attendants that went in front of him carrying rods and axes symbolic of the consuls power of life and death over a citizen of Rome. A victorious general would often be presented with the prow of his ship after a successful naval battle. Here again Trimalchio perverts the customs associated with the consuls and victorious general - the rods and axes are made to look like the beak of a ship! This is inscribed, declaring C. Pompeius Trimalchio to be a priest of the Augustan college. Pompeius is the name of a victorious Roman general in C1 B.C. (Pompey) - Trimalchio may have renamed himself to style himself like Pompey . Membership of the Augustan college was the highest honour that a freedman (ex slave) could gain - it meant that he was one of six priests in the local area in charge of ensuring that the emperor was properly worshipped.
On one of the door posts there is a sign that states that on 30 and 31 December "Our Gaius " is out to dinner. Clearly, it is such a rare occasion for Trimalchio to go out that the servants have to remind themselves , normally Trimalchio is in the house entertaining guests himself because he is so wealthy. The servants are clearly over familiar with him though, referring to him as "Our Gaius"!
On the opposite door post is a representation of the moons phases and the seven heavenly bodies. Trimalchio will later prove to be very interested in horoscopes. Again we see how superstitious he is, the lucky and unlucky days of the month are marked with coloured studs. One of the slaves insists that the guests step over the threshold right foot first . Just as they attempt to step over the threshold , a slave throws himself at their feet begging the guests to get him off a flogging because the stewards clothes had been stolen from him at the baths. Encolpius goes to find the steward to plead with him about to slave and finds him counting money in the office. Encolpius is informed that the slave lost his rich dinner clothes - they were made of the most expensive material in the ancient world, Tyrian purple. The steward decides to let the slave off the flogging since the clothes are now useless to the steward - they were laundered once!
In this fragment we learn more about Trimalchio through his servants. He is an important man about town who likes to think himself as important as a consul or general. However, his servants are over familiar with him , calling him "Our Gaius" . Even his servants are rich and extravagant like him - the steward lets the slave off a flogging because the stolen clothes had been laundered once!
Encolpius is greeted in the dining room by the same slave that he had just saved from a flogging and he is promised the best wine. Trimalchios slave clearly thinks that it is his wine to give away as he chooses! The table is arranged as follows ,:
There is also a separate table upon which sit freedmen.
The servants that Trimalchio has also show how wealthy he is , he has boys from Alexandria and they pour ice water over his guests hands . Slaves from Alexandria (Egypt) were expensive ,some slaves go around the tables and cut the nails of the guests (another superstition ? ) As Trimalchios slaves work, they sing and Encolpius describes it as being like a musical comedy !
The hors d'oeuvres are served . The first course comes on the back of a Corinthian bronze donkey - white olives and black olives are served in equal amounts in panniers on the side of the bronze donkey. Over the ass stand two pieces of plate with Trimalchios name and the weight of silver inscribed on it. He also has served dormice sprinkled with honey and poppy seed and steaming sausages on a silver gridiron with damsons and pomegranate seeds underneath. As well as deliberately having marked on his plates exactly how much silver they are made out of , thus showing off to his guests, the food also shows us something of Trimalchios character. White olives are matched by black olives on the back of the bronze donkey , almost as if he is balancing forces of good and evil or good and bad luck in his house hold. The dormice and sausages on a grill pan above damson and pomegranate seeds would give the affect of coals and fire under a grill. The food is made up to look as if it something else! Trimalchio looks like a rich noble man but is in fact an ex slave, a freedman.
We learn from this fragment that Trimalchios slaves and food are also an extension of his personality. The slaves remove hang nails from his guests feet so that they won't be left behind and thus bring bad luck into the house. The food looks like one thing but is another!
Trimalchio enters the dining room to the sound of music and sits down on cushions. The guests laugh at him because his bald and closely cropped head sticks out from beneath his scarlet coat . Slaves had a close cropped hairstyle and he wears his hairstyle with pride in the midst of his wealth. He wears a military style red tunic and is muffled up even though it's not winter as if he's afraid of catching cold. His napkin has a broad purple stripe on it and senators often wore broad purple stripes on their tunic. On his hand he wears a gilt ring and a smaller ring on the last joint of the next finger which is gold studded with iron stars. The rich knight classes of Rome (the equites) wore golden rings on their finger (which is where Trimalchio wears his gilt ring ) to show their status. Trimalchio wears a gold ring but it is studded with iron and on the wrong finger - this ring looks like a knights ring from afar but isn't. This is another example of Trimalchio looking as if he belongs to the loaded upper classes but in fact he is from the lowest class of all - he is an ex slave. He wears rich jewellery , a golden armlet and an ivory circlet fastened with a gleaming metal plate. Ivory circlets fastened with metal plates were very popular with gladiators.
He even picks his teeth at the table - with a silver toothpick of course! He is so ill mannered towards his guests that he plays a game at the table. He claims to have been magnanimous towards his guests, gracing them with his presence so that they can start to eat whereas in fact he is rude , continuing his game. He really has no idea of good manners at all but pretends that he does.
Trimalchio has a boy bring in his game for him .The game described here is probably duodecim scripta (twelve lines).This was a game which required a board (tabula) divided into 24 squares and 15 counters and sometimes 3 dice for each player. The players moved their counters in succession according to the throw of the dice. Trimalchio plays a common game but his board is made of terebinth wood, his dice of crystal and for counters he uses gold and silver coins!
While Trimalchio plays his game and ignores his guests, the slaves bring out a live hen and as the orchestra plays a tune, two slaves search in the straw for eggs. It is not normal hens eggs that are found but pea hens eggs - this is another example of food looking like one thing and being another. Trimalchio informs his guests that the eggs may already be trying to hatch , it is a poor host that points out that his food may in fact be undercooked and therefore poison! In fact the eggs turn out to be covered in pastry. Encolpius finds that his egg in fact does have a half formed chicken in it and nearly throws it away until another guest proclaims that this in fact is the point of the dish and eats the figpecker inside (young bird) and Encolpius follows suit . Encolpius here shows his own ignorance of food or possibly even Trimalchios!
Trimalchio finally bores of the game and starts eating with his guests. The guests, however , are forced to wait until Trimalchio has caught up with the courses that they have already eaten before they move onto the next course. It appears that the guests have been drinking mead with their food, not wine (a cheap drink for commoners) and Trimalchio seems to ration it, even giving permission for the guests to have another glass. Once Trimalchio has caught up with his guests ,the hors d'oeuvres are carried off to a crash of music from the orchestra. When a slave drops a side dish and tries to clean it up, Trimalchio has his ears boxed while the other diners are watching. It appears that he had his ears boxed because he tried to clean it up , a cleaner sweeps the silver plate up away with the food and has it all put in the bin!
Ethiopian slaves (the most expensive slave you could buy) pour wine over the guests hands between one course and another . Normally water would be used but this is another example of Trimalchio showing off his wealth. The Ethiopian slaves look like men carrying bags of sand to cover the amphitheatre floor - the feast is even viewed by Trimalchio as a fight between his guests (for greater status?)
Slaves bring in the Falernian wine .It appears to have been made in the year when Opimius was consul i.e. 121B.C. by the time of Trimalchios dinner the wine would have been 180 years old! In fact Falernian wines were best after 20 years and a contemporary of Petronius, Pliny the elder records that he once had Opimian wine and it was undrinkable by then! Either Trimalchio is trying to show off by the vintage of his wine but Petronius' readers would know it was undrinkable, or this shows how absurd Trimalchio is - his wine can't possibly be that old! Trimalchio points out that today’s guests have the best wine and that the guests that came the previous day were of a better class but got the rougher wine. This is rude !
In the middle of the meal, a slave brings in a silver skeleton in during the dinner . The purpose of such skeletons in Roman dining rooms appears to have been to remind the diners that they may eat and drink today but tomorrow they will die. The skeleton appears frequently as a motif in Roman dining rooms but Trimalchio has to go one better and have it made of silver. It also reflects his superstitious nature. As the skeleton is brought in, Trimalchio sings a song to remind the diners that they will not live long so they may as well eat and enjoy themselves now. It is rude and vulgar to sing and especially embarrassing when the host sings at the dining room table!
The next course is not as grand as Encolpius expects but it is novel. Trimalchio has a course made that represent the 12 signs of the Zodiac, again showing his superstitious nature. Over each sign of the zodiac is food that is connected with the subject of the sign of the zodiac.
Ares the ram - chickpeas (the ram is a sign of virility and chickpeas represent the penis in satire)
Taurus the bull - a beefsteak . Beef is from cattle and the bull represents strength.
Gemini (The heavenly twins) - Testicles and kidneys (since they come in pairs!)
Cancer the Crab- a garland (which looks like pincers) but we also learn later (fragment 39 ) that the is Trimalchios sign and by putting a garland over his sign he is honouring it.
Leo the Lion - an African fig since lions were from Africa.
Virgo the Virgin - a young sows udder , symbol of innocence.
Libra the scales - A pair of balance pans with a different dessert in each!
Scorpio - a sea scorpion
Sagittarius the archer - a sea bream with eyespots, you need a good eye to practise archery.
Capricorn- a lobster
Aquarius the water carrier - a goose i.e. water fowl.
Pisces the fish - two mullets (fish!)
In the middle of the dish is a piece of grass and on the grass a honey comb. We are told by Trimalchio himself that this represents mother earth (fragment 39) who is round like a grassy knoll or an egg and has good things inside her like a honey comb.
An Egyptian slave offers them bread from an ornate miniature oven made of silver and while he does so, sings a song from a popular musical , "The Asafoetida man"
Encolpius regards this as "inferior fare" and as they eat Trimalchio has dancers dance around to reveal underneath the dish plump fowls, sows udders and a hare fixed with wings to make him look like the figure of Pegasus from mythology. Figures of Marsyas who ,in mythology , lost a musical contest with Apollo and for challenging the god was flayed alive. Out of these figures of Marsyas comes fish sauce. It is important to note that again this is food dressed up to look like it is something it is not!
Trimalchio calls on his servant "Carver" to Carve the meat. The pun is obvious but the point is that Trimalchio thinks this weak pun is hilarious. He carves in time to the music and is described as being like a charioteer slicing up the victuals (intestines) So far this has been a very noisy feast!
In the argument about what precisely the purpose of the "Dinner with Trimalchio" is about much has been written about the character of Encolpius and his reactions to Trimalchio. There are three main interpretations of "The Dinner with Trimalchio", the first is that Petronius is a moralist and by highlighting the rudeness of Trimalchio he is trying to make a moral point. The second interpretation of the "Dinner with Trimalchio " is that Petronius is trying to make fun of freedmen and their lack of social manners . The third interpretation is that Petronius is simply trying to be funny and that there is no real "point" to the "Dinner with Trimalchio" at all! In fragment 37 we can see how the same fragment may be interpreted in these 3 ways. At the beginning of the passage Encolpius states that he can't face any more food. Why? Has he simply eaten too much?, in which case is Petronius trying to make a moral point about gluttony ? Has he been sickened by the freedman's weak jokes and pretentiousness of the previous passage , as a noble man jealous of Trimalchios wealth?
Encolpius now asks about Trimalchios wife and learns about her from an unnamed guest. He is told that far from being a high born noble woman, Trimalchio has married a woman who was so low born that no one would have eaten bread from her hand. She only appears interested in Trimalchio for his money and he dotes on her . He appears to have renamed her "Fortunata" for good luck! Even his wife hasn't escaped his superstitious nature! Fortunata is rude to her guests - and will show them exactly what she thinks of them if she doesn't like them. We are told that Trimalchio is worth "millions of millions" and it appears to be her that is in charge of it. Even Trimalchios steward (the person in charge of his estates) is worth more silver plate than anyone else. He has so many servants that some of them don't even know him!
Trimalchio clearly own estates all over the world because he has "home grown"(i.e. off his own estates) wool, citrus and pepper - each product would be associated with a different country. He can even get hens milk if the guests ask for it (an absurd joke since hens don't produce milk!) He often experiments to produce better quality wool - using expensive rams from Tarentum and mating them with common sheep. He mixes Athenian (they produced the best sort of honey and the most expensive)bees with his own to produce better honey. He is able to send to India for mushroom spores so vats are his estates. Maybe these examples are meant as a metaphor for the type of intermarriage that was happening between the upper classes and the freedmen in Petronius' day . Of course, by mixing the best animals with more inferior animals you do not produce better products but taint the best products. The point is that Trimalchio has no idea what the "best" is , he simply has so much money he doesn't know what to do with it .
The guest now turns to the other freedmen at the table and the reader is told that all the freedmen present have lots of money , even the lowest at Trimalchios table appears to be worth more than a Roman knight (eques) - he has 800,000 sesterces but to qualify for the Roman knight class you only needed 300,000! The freedman appears to have made money by doing the types of jobs that no one else wanted, or the upper classes weren't prepared to do, here he has made his money "humping wood" The guest claims that the freedman , Diagnose "stole a hobgoblins cap" either a reference to having lots of luck in business or a reference to stealing the business off a more noble citizen! The speaker is quick to point out that the freedman can still feel "a masters slap" . Often slaves bought their freedom and then worked voluntarily for the same master ! Note here that the freedman's name is Diagnose - the name of a Greek philosopher! He appears to be a shop keeper who has made enough money to own his own house.
Encolpius is now told about Priceless, the guest in the freedman's place (see diagram) Once Priceless owned a million sesterces but lost his fortune (to other freedmen!) He appears to have made his fortune as an undertaker and also gave dinners as good as Trimalchios. he is clearly a clever man because when he was going bankrupt and needed to sell off stock to cover his debts he placed an advert in the auction house claiming that the sale was merely an auction of surplus stock so that his remaining creditors would not withdraw their money from his business!
Following the description of the guests at the dinner, Trimalchio now calls ion his guests to enjoy the wine.
Trimalchio now tries to impress his guests by saying that he may have just served a fish dish but he is not content with that - he must also drink like a fish! He quotes from "The Aeneid " by Virgil to show that drinking is his thing - "Is this like the Ulysses you know?"(Aeneid 2) He is quoting to try and impress his guests but in comparing himself to Ulysses makes himself seem more absurd than ever! He claims that quoting Virgil makes him cultured and that for Trimalchio to be cultured is what his long dead master wanted for him!
As befits his superstitious nature he now goes on to describe the type of people born under various star signs -
Ares the ram - People born under this sign are stubborn and hard headed but good business men as well . Scholars and muttonheads(!) are born under this sign!
Taurus the bull- Bull-headed people are born under this sign and those who are self sufficient.
The heavenly twins (Gemini)- Twins are born under this sign, as well as bi sexuals !
Cancer the Crab- (Trimalchios sign) People born under this sign have many legs to stand on (i.e. are multi talented) and property on land and sea. We learn that the reason that Cancer had a garland put over him in fragment 35 is because Trimalchio was honouring his own birth sign.
Leo the lion - People born under this sign are greedy and bossy like a lion.
Virgo the Virgin - people born under this sign are runaways and candidates for the chain gang since the virgin is Astraea who fled the earth after the golden age and became a constellation - she is often associated with a knot in astrology hence the association with the chain gang here.
Libra the scales - Butchers and perfume sellers (who used scales to weigh the spices in perfume) and anyone who weighs things up are born under this sign.
Sagittarius - Cross eyed people (since Sagittarius looks backwards)
Capricorn - People in trouble who sprout horns in their worry!
Aquarius the water carrier- Bartenders and Jug heads!
Pisces- people who spout rubbish in public (associated with fish!)
Encolpius and the guests reaction to this is to applaud him - either because they genuinely think him clever or enjoy him making such a fool of himself by pretending he's clever.
The guests raise their hands and swear that Hipparchus and Aratus couldn't compare with Trimalchio - both are authors of astronomical poems. There could there be a double edged criticism here as a different Hipparchus was also a tyrant of Athens - they have been tyrannised by Trimalchios pretended knowledge of the stars!
Just before the next dish is brought in , the servants put covers (tapestries)on the guests couches that show a hunt . The guests are stunned - either because they don't know what's coming next or because they can't believe Trimalchio has been so rude asking them to drink a lot and then to move off their couches so that they can be covered in tapestries so that he can show off the next course! The silence is broken by hunting dogs (Spartan hounds) being let into the dining room. They dash round the legs of the couches and the table to eat the scraps left by the guests of course! This has all been a prelude to the next course when Trimalchios guests are served a boar that is wearing a freedman's cap (a sign that a slave was now a freedman) The boar is surrounded by Syrian and Theban dates from the middle east and the piglets that appear top be suckling around it are actually made of cake - again an example of the food looking like one thing but being another. Encolpius tells the reader that the cake piglets will be given as gifts for the guests to take home. Carver the carver returns to carve the boar , dressed for the occasion in hunting gear and when he actually cuts into the meat with a hunting knife a flock of real thrushes fly out from the belly! These thrushes fly around the dining room but are in fact caught by fowlers.! Trimalchio then orders his guests to eat the "acorns" that accompany the boar (i.e. the dates!)
The household of Trimalchio has always been noisy with singing servants to remove the guests hand nails and the orchestra accompanying the carving and every new course. In this fragment Petronius takes this to extremes with hunting dogs being brought in and thrushes being caught by fowlers before the guests take the next course, spectacular it may be but it is hardly calculated to aid digestion!
Encolpius now enquires as to why the boar has been brought to the table wearing a freedman's cap. He is told that yesterdays diners couldn't eat it and had to let it go and so now it returns as a freedman. This shows Trimalchios vulgarity - not only serving leftovers to his guest but even drawing it to their attention in such an obvious way! Ironically , Encolpius damns his own stupidity (rather than Trimalchios) for not realising why the boar wore a freedman's cap - he is afraid that he will look as if he had never dined in decent company but of course this is ironic, he is not dining in decent company at all and probably knows it!
As they prepare to eat the boar a boy dances around the table wearing vine leaves and ivy around his head, symbols of Bacchus the god of wine. Normally dancing would take place after a Roman meal but here it is included as part of it. Bacchus is praised as deliverer (i.e. from inhibitions) , reveller and inspirer! He sings a song that was originally written by Trimalchio ,clearly another ploy of Trimalchios to try to show how clever he is! Trimalchio asks Dionysis , the name of the slave boy and another name for Bacchus , to be "Bacchus the liberant" and the freedman's cap is removed by the slave form the boars head. The pun here is on "liberant" ,the god of wine frees men from inhibitions and here the slave "frees" the boar by removing the freedman's cap. Trimalchio claims that it is he who is liberated (i.e. freed from inhibitions and proceeds to kiss the boy in front of the guests. He excuses himself to go to the toilet - possibly another sign of his vulgarity.
Once Trimalchio leaves his guests they are much freer . Dama ,a freedman on a table separate to Trimalchios (his name means "deer") calls for more wine. There have been references to the fact that Trimalchio acts like a tyrant towards his guests before and possibly that they think he is stingy with his food and wine (!) Once Trimalchio leaves them they are free to do what they want and to eat what they want. Dama makes small talk about the weather and boasts that he is drinking the wine neat. Most Roman wines had to be watered down to make them drinkable , Trimalchio is not being stingy by watering down the wine.
Seleucus now continues the conversation , this is possibly another freedman of Trimalchios and foreign since there was once a king of Asia called Seleucus. He is clearly a hypochondriac . He claims that he hates having a bath but can just about bear it when he's had something to drink! He says that he couldn't bathe anyway since this would be a sign of disrespect to Chrysanthus whose funeral he had been at that day. Seleucus clearly has the same preoccupation with death that Trimalchio has - he talks about meeting Chrysanthus in the street recently and how human beings are like bubbles always close to death! Ironically he claims that Chrysanthus had been on a diet for the last 5 days of his life - in which he didn't eat or drink anything! He claims the doctors finished him off but we are left to deduce that it was probably the diet. Seleucus tells the guests about the funeral and claims that he had left several slaves their freedom in his will ( a normal practise) but his widow didn't cry enough for Seleucus' taste in spite of the fact that Chrysanthus had been good to her. He is also misogynistic, telling the guests that all women are vultures and thus implying that the widow of Chrysanthus was only in it for the money!
Phileros (another freedman possibly meaning something like "the lover" or "the kisser"!) stops Seleucus since he is beginning to depress the company or possibly him since his name implies that he is a lover of women and Seleucus has just attacked all women! We are told how Chrysanthus gained his money - by doing the menial jobs that no one else wanted to do and thereafter everything that he touched turned to gold. The company is told that Chrysanthus left 100,000 sesterces behind when he died . Phileros makes a joke - he claims that he's a bit of a cynic while in the company of Diogenes who is name after the cynic philosopher! He tells the guests that Chrysanthus had too much mouth. The company is told that Chrysanthus made his first real money by selling wine , he then gained a patron and was left some money as a legacy. Chrysanthus cut his own brother out of his will because his slaves told him to and left his money to someone that the other guests had never heard of. The irony of all this is that although Chrysanthus appears to be an astute business man he is prepared to listen to business advise off his slaves! We are told that he was still a good looking lecher into old age and didn't leave the "dog alone!" Phileros is making a pun here - he is not implying that he had relations with an animal but that he was a cynic philosopher - the word cynic means "dog like"
Ganymede now starts talking . Again this is another freedman - Ganymede was a boy whom Zeus fell in love with and carried him up to heaven to be his cup bearer. Ganymede seems to be worried about the "corn situation" since he hadn't been able to get hold of any recently .He claims that the food officers of the city are in league with the bakers and are deliberately making sure that there is a shortage of corn in the city in order to keep bread prices high. Ganymede appears to be Asian the place where the corn supply came from in the ancient world. He claims that when he first arrived in Italy there was always good flour . He then tells the story of Safinius who was his mentor . The company is told that Safinias "lived under the arches" (i.e. he was a beggar) who often went to the city council to try to sort out the bread situation. Ganymede may be implying that he had a relationship with Safinius , his name implies that he had homosexual relations with an older man and he claims to have played "morra" in the dark with Safinius - this was a game popular with the Romans , a bit like " rock, paper and scissors" . The point is that "morra" could not be played in the dark!
Ganymede claims that the food officer is laughing at him ,raking in the money while he goes bankrupt because he can't get any corn to sell. Ganymede claims that people no longer believe in divine intervention and now only worship money . The noble women no longer go on pilgrimages barefoot and so the gods are no longer interested in humans.
This fragment contains themes that are often to be found elsewhere in other satirists. Ganymede the bankrupt who blames other people for his loss is similar to Umbricus in Juvenal Satire 3. The lack of interest by the gods in human affairs has its parallels in Juvenal satire 10 as does the idea that humans no longer worship the gods and therefore the gods aren't interested in them!
Echion appears to be another freedman . The original Echion was a hero from Thebes, who was the father of Pentheus and went on the Calydonian boar hunt. Knowledge of the legend makes his first couple of sentences quite funny "first it's one thing then another as the yokel said when he lost his spotted pig" . Echion is relaxed about the future - he thinks that fortune comes and goes . He reminds the company that some countries think that the pigs walk around Italy with ready roasted backs!
He tells the company that soon a holiday will be upon them and that means the prospect of a gladiatorial show with freedmen as the gladiators (normally it was slaves). He tells the company about the person who runs the gladiatorial show - Titus was a freedman who owns 30 million sesterces. His acts include a woman who fights in a chariot and Glycos steward who was caught having sex with Glycos wife! Echion tells the company that in fact it was Glycos that encouraged the relationship and therefore it is unfair to throw the slave to the bulls. Echion even goes so far as to say that it is Glycos own fault for marrying a daughter of Hermogenes . Hermogenes was a philosopher who taught that there were exceptions to every rule and therefore could prove that it was all right for a slave to sleep with the wife of his master!
Echion now goes on to tell us the reason for the holiday - elections. Mammaea is going to bribe the electorate by giving everyone 2 denarii a piece (Echion intends to spend this on dinner for his family). If Mammaea does this he will take all of Norbanus' votes away from him . Norbanus has also tried to gain votes from the electorate but all he has done is put on a poor gladiatorial show The horse racing was poor because one was a cart horse and the other a corpse. One boy who did have some spirit was in Thracian (light) armour but everyone of the gladiators who performed in Norbanus' games were flogged.
The kind of conversations that Trimalchios guests talk about are timeless - they talk about funerals, politics and sport.
Echion now turns on Agamemnon the professor of rhetoric. He accuses Agamemnon of looking down his nose at their sort of conversations and accuses him of being mad because of all the reading that he does. He invites Agamemnon to his country cottage thus showing off his property , he has residences in the town and country. Echion boasts about his sons achievements to Agamemnon too - he can divide by four ,spends his spare time reading exercise books and enjoys bird watching. Echion does nothing to encourage this behaviour- the boy is left to educate himself in his spare time and Echion even recently killed his goldfinches. Echion has hired a tutor for his son but he has taught him more Greek than Latin (his native language!) and Echion believes that he is lazy. One of the boys teachers is uneducated and keeps coming to the house even on holidays which seems to imply that he is not just interested in educating the boy academically! Echion does see a use for education however, he has bought his son some law books but only because he wants him to be trained in law so that he is ready to set up his own business! The boy is fated to become an auctioneer , barber or barrister - all of these are low brow occupations. Echion tells his son that he can become rich if he becomes a lawyer - and that Phileros the lawyer can stand up to prominent politicians.
Echion here shows that he feels inferior to Agamemnon and that he sees no real use in education unless it can be used for money making purposes - either in business or in politics.
Trimalchio returns from the toilet and washes his hands in perfume , again this is a sign of ostentation. The assembled dinner guests are given an account of his toilet habits upon his return - he claims to have been constipated for days but used pomegranate rind and resin to move his bowels! He gives his guests his blessing if they should want to leave the table and relieve themselves. All this is another example of Trimalchios vulgar behaviour - he tells his guests not to "hold themselves in " , a sign that he believes it O.K to be flatulent at the dinner table! He is even so vulgar as to tell his wife off for laughing at him as she often breaks wind in bed! If the author of "Dinner with Trimalchio" was a courtier of Nero, this could be a criticism of the Emperor prior to Nero , Claudius who was told by his doctors that he must break wind at the dinner table to relieve his bowels! The medical reasons that Trimalchio gives is guests to excuse himself for breaking wind is absurd - he says if it's not let out then it goes straight to the brain and starts flooding your whole body! He even believes that people have died from "holding themselves" in.
Ironically and probably sarcastically Trimalchios guests thank him for pointing this out! They then learn that the dinner isn't over as the orchestra strikes up again to herald the arrival of yet another course - this time live pigs decked out in muzzles and bells - Encolpius expects accompanying acrobats to join them and do some tricks. In ancient Rome there were such things as performing pigs, they can be taught to spell for instance!. The fact the Trimalchio has live pigs and appears to have a Jew at the table (Habinnas is in the place of the honoured guests) led early medieval commentators on "The Dinner with Trimalchio" to believe that Petronius was poking fun of the wealth and ostentation of Jewish freedmen who were numerous at Rome in the time of Nero. The point is that Trimalchio orders the pig to be eaten here - he is certainly not a Jew! He also chooses the oldest pig for his guests to eat ,this would have the toughest meat - he is certainly not a gourmet! Trimalchio is also showing off the capabilities of his cooks and his kitchen - they are able to cook a whole pig . Trimalchio calls on one of his slaves who was left to him in the will of one of his clients, Pansa, to identify himself. The cook identifies himself as coming from division 40 - clearly Trimalchios household salves are arranged in divisions like an army - there were usually 1000 (or 800) to an army division, therefore Trimalchio must have at least 4,000 slaves!
Trimalchio now tells his guests that they can have any wine from his wine cellars and it comes from an estate which he has never visited that joins Tarracina to Tarentum. The point here is that Tarracina and Tarentum are at least 200 miles apart - it's certainly a large estate. He also says that he'd like to join Sicily to his land so that he can cross to Africa without leaving his own land! Trimalchio is certainly ambitious!
Trimalchio now turns to Agamemnon and asks him what he was debating about today (since he is a professor of rhetoric) He claims that he too is educated but taught himself, especially law. He even boasts that he has two libraries, one Greek (the sign of an educated man) and one Latin (the sign of a less well educated man!) Agamemnon tells the assembled company the topic of his debate - a quarrel between a poor man and a rich man , something that was frequently debated at rhetorical schools. Trimalchio interrupts Agamemnon in the middle of answering Trimalchios own question to ask him to define what he believes a rich man is since Trimalchio clearly likes to show off his wealth and is now trying to show off his "education" by asking for a definition of a term! Trimalchio sees no point to a answering about a fictitious case and dismisses Agamemnon's debate without even hearing what it was about even though it was Trimalchio who asked Agamemnon to tell him about it in the first place! The guests pretend that this is Trimalchio being witty and not rude!
Trimalchio now goes to show the extent of his "home grown " education by getting his myths wrong - He asks if Agamemnon remembers the story of the 12 labours of Hercules (which is correct) and the story of Ulysses and how the Cyclops tore out his eye with his thumb (incorrect - Ulysses burned through the eye of the Cyclops with a wooden stake. ) Trimalchio claims to have read about both stories in Homer but Homer did not write about the 12 labours of Hercules! He then boasts of having seen the Sybil at Cumae . The Sybil was the guardian of the underworld who asked Apollo for immortality but forgot to ask for eternal youth -hence her desire to die. The point here is that Trimalchio claims to have seen a fictional character to impress his guests and that fictional character is yet another reflection of Trimalchios obsession with death.
The cook arrives with the pig ,now boiled but looking larger than it did when it was brought in alive. Trimalchio makes a show about being strict with his slaves ,calling for the chef and claiming that the pig hasn't been gutted (i.e. had its guts removed) The chef appears to be unrepentant and claims that he'd simply forgotten to clean it out and Trimalchio claims that he's acting as if he'd done something minor such as left out the pepper and cumin spices. The chef is stripped between two guards and the guests begin pleading to Trimalchio to let him off a flogging - even Encolpius and Agamemnon are taken in by Trimalchios act with his chef. Trimalchio calls on the chef to gut the pig for them there and then and once the cook cuts into it, out pour sausages and blood puddings.
This is another example of Trimalchios vulgarity , telling his slaves off and threatening to flog his slave in front of his guests and making them plead for his release when he knows all along that the whole thing is a charade.
Trimalchio had made a show of being strict with his slaves but they are clearly very familiar with him . They shout "Hooray for Gaius" here ,calling him by his first name and being over familiar. The chef is rewarded with drink, a silver crown and a drinking cup and tray made of Corinthian bronze (not exactly bronze but more a copper/gold and silver alloy ) The guests are treated to Trimalchios explanation of why his are called Corinthian plates. Encolpius expects him to say that they came from Corinth (i.e. the place in Greece) but in fact he explains that they came form a manufacturer called Corinth. Trimalchio treats his guests to an explanation of how Corinthian bronze came about - Hannibal captured Troy and piled all the bronze, gold and silver plates into one place and they were melted into a bronze alloy! He has, of course, got his mythology and history mixed up again. Corinthian bronze was supposed to have been discovered when Mummius set fire to Corinth in 146B.C. , here Trimalchio says it happened when Hannibal (d.184B.C.) set fire to Troy (sacked c.1184 B.C!) Trimalchio says that he doesn't like drinking out of Corinthian bronze but prefers glass since you can't taste glass .He would prefer glass cups to gold cups but claims that glass breaks too easily - he likes to pretend that he has simple tastes!
Trimalchio tells a fantastic story about a man who made unbreakable glass that didn't break when it fell on the floor and only dented like bronze. The Emperor in question that cut off this mans head because he was afraid that the price of gold would go down in Tiberius, successor to the Emperor Augustus. The earliest examples of glass is found in Egypt in the second millennium B.C. , but glass blowing doesn't appear to have become popular until the second century B.C. Glass vessels became popular after that but was cheap and few people made money out of it because glass broke easily. It was the ambition of every glass manufacturer to make unbreakable glass and the story here about the man who was beheaded by Tiberius because unbreakable glass would send the price of gold down also appears in a contemporary (?) of Petronius' , the writer Pliny. It is typical of Trimalchio to tell a story about someone who could have made a fortune but that fortune was his demise.
Trimalchio now goes on to describe his silver bowls (3 gallon bumpers!)which depict scenes of mythology. Again Trimalchio gets his mythology wrong. He appears to be attempting to describe certain scenes from Greek mythology but gets the characters mixed up. He claims to have cups depicting Cassandra killing her sons when it was Medea who killed her sons in Greek Tragedy. He also claims to have cups depicting Daedalus shutting Niobe in the Trojan horse. Daedalus did not invent the Trojan horse, that was Ulysses who shut himself and his men inside the Trojan horse .Niobe was the mother who boasted to Leto that her sons and daughters were better than Apollo and Artemis - the son and daughter of Leto ,in jealousy and anger Apollo and Artemis shot Niobes children and Niobe is said to weep endlessly for them. It appears to have been common practise in ancient Rome to have cups with scenes from Greek tragedies on them - possibly they were bought as a souvenir after watching the tragedy. It is typical of Trimalchio to try to show off his education but get the characters from mythology and history mixed up. What is just as bad is that he also claims to have cups depicting the fights of Hermeros and Petraites - gladiators in the time of Nero - some archaeological finds attest that such gladiators were very popular and cups with their names on have been found. He seems to think that high and low forms of entertainment (tragedy and gladiatorial shows ) have the same artistic merit. After he describes the scenes on his cups, a slave drops one - probably because he knows more about mythology than his master and he realises how ignorant Trimalchio sounds! Trimalchio orders the slave to hang himself and then tells him not to bother and just not to be such a useless fool. The slave runs around the table in celebration at having his life spared. Trimalchio calls for more wine and the guests humour Trimalchio ,making him believe that they think he is witty and deliberately got the mythology wrong! He then calls on his wife to dance the "cordax" a rude Greek dance . Dance was regarded by the Romans as a low brow form of entertainment and certainly not something that members of polite society did! Worse than the wife dancing, Trimalchio gives an impression of a famous actor in the time of Nero, Syrus, acting was considered a low brow form of entertainment and actors little more than prostitutes. The slaves call out "Madeia , Perimadeia" meaning something like "drunker and even more drunk" as if it's a chorus from a Greek tragedy that Syrus might perform. Fortunata whispers something in Trimalchios ear that Encolpius takes to mean that she realises that what he is doing is vulgar , the reality is probably that she doesn't like being upstaged. Trimalcho appears to be afraid of his wife and stops at her command.
The only thing that really stops Trimalchio dancing is his accountant who announces events that have recently happened on Trimalchios estates on 26th July. One slave called Mithridates (named after the King of Pontus that the general Pompey the Great conquered) has been crucified for insulting the guardian spirit of Gaius (i.e. Trimalchio) Trimalchio seems to believe that he should be worshipped on his estates because the slave insults his guardian spirit but it is possible that the only reason the slave was killed is that he had the same name as one of Pompeys the Greats conquests - Trimalchio likes to portray himself as a victorious general and his full name is Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatianus. The accountant also boasts that the deposits on that single day were 10 million sesterces ! He also mentions that a fire has broken out at Trimalchios estates at Pompeii . Trimalchio doesn't appear to know that he had estates at Pompeii and rejects the land on the ground that it hadn't yet appeared on his books after six months - he is so rich he can refuse to own land! The accountant then reads out the wills of people living on his estates as if they were official edicts (laws) some game keepers have left Trimalchio nothing in their will. The point here is that the usual gossip of the estates of Trimalchio are read as if they are official edicts!
The acrobats arrive , a common sight at the circus but hardly the sort of thing to have at a dinner party! Trimalchio seems to think the antics of the acrobats are artistic and boasts that he once hired some comic actors for a dinner party and they performed Attellan farces - comedy portraying stereotypes and the seedier side of Roman life. The conductors of these farces is told to keep his songs in Latin (rather than translate them into "high brow" Greek) and such songs were often bawdy.
One of the acrobats falls on Trimalchios couch .It has often been thought that here Petronius is deliberately parodying Horaces satire 2.8 here when the awning falls on the guests. The guests are worried in case the acrobat is dead but Trimalchio uses the occasion to pretend that he has hurt his arm. Note that Doctors quickly race to the scene - they appear to be on the household staff! a drunken Fortunata bemoans her own loss and Encolpius is left wondering whether this might be staged for the benefit of the guests . The scene is comic - Trimalchio calling for a doctor to bandage a bruised arm and beating a servant for using white wool not expensive purple to bandage it and the hurt acrobat ignored and trying to beg for mercy while everyone fusses over Trimalchio. The whole episode is topped when Trimalchio doesn't beat the slave boy for falling on him but grants him his freedom so that Trimalchio could say that he was injured by a freedman not a slave!
The conversation that follows is in keeping with earlier conversations around the table - they all reflect on how uncertain life is and Trimalchio composes a poem about the uncertainty of life and how human beings should drink and be happy since they don't know what will happen next! In the Latin the poem that Trimalchio composes does not scan. the conversation turns to poetry and who is the best of poets - Trimalchio chooses Mopsus of Thrace , an unknown poet and since most of the best gladiators came from Thrace , Trimalchio is probably saying that the best poet is a gladiator. In the presence of Agamemnon professor of rhetoric Trimalchio tries to compare two famous Romans to see how they compare (a common exercise in Roman schools) Cicero was a famous orator (speech maker) in C1 B.C. and Publius a mime artist ! Ironically Trimalchio claims that Publius was the better man and proceeds to prove this with a poem that he attributes to Publius - as befits a mime artist, the subject of the poem is crude but in the Latin it does contain a lot of alliteration. The point is that Cicero makes high brow political speeches and led a morally upright life. Trimalchio claims that Publius who composed rude verses and led an immoral life is the better man!
Trimalchio now goes on to compare the job of doctor and banker with the same twisted logic as before. Doctors have hard lives because they need to know about the way peoples bodies work but Trimalchio declares that he hates them because they put him on a diet of duck (which he is clearly not sticking to!) A banker has a hard life he declares because it's difficult to tell counterfeit coins! Trimalchio then goes on to compare cattle and sheep (the arguments gets gradually more absurd!) He says its due to cattle pulling ploughs that we have bread to eat and due to sheep and wool that we have clothes to wear. He declares that he believes bees are heavenly creatures (a Pythagorean theory) but they can sting - there is bitter with sweet.
Presents are brought to the guests and they are required to solve the riddle of what the food is from the description given. this seems to have been a popular game with the Emperor Augustus:
Rich mans prison - silver jug
Pillow- a piece of neck
Old mans wit and a sower stick - dry biscuits and an apple on a stick.
Lick and spit - whip and knife
Flies and fly trap - raisins and Attic honey
Dinner clothes and a city suit - meat slice and a notebook.
Head and foot - Hare and slipper
Lights and letter - a lamprey and peas.
The guests laugh at Trimalchios weak jokes , they are humouring him.
Ascyltus, the companion of Encolpius, laughs at all this. He is laughing at Trimalchios attempts to pretend that he is sophisticated but is told not to by one of Trimalchios freedman friends (probably Hermeros who sits beside Agamemnon and Encolpius.) Hermeros realises what he is laughing at and asks him why he is laughing as he must think himself superior to Trimalchio. He even threatens to beat Ascyltus up for being so superior. He claims that Ascyltus is not superior - his father didn't pay cash for him (i.e. set him free from slavery and make him a Roman citizen) Hermeros claims to be the son of a king ,therefore a mere Roman knight should not laugh at him. This may not be such an extravagant claim for Hermeros to make since often minor kingdoms were often invaded by the Romans and royalty sold into slavery by them. Hermeros even claims that he sold himself into slavery so that he could buy his freedom and become a Roman citizen ,thus avoiding taxation! This is again not such an absurd claim , provinces of the Empire whose subjects were not Roman citizens often had to pay large tributes to Rome (to protect them from invasion by others) These countries often had to raise large amounts of money to pay Rome for her protection and thus the citizens of that country were subject to large amount of taxes. If a slave to a Roman citizen from one of these subject (client) kingdoms worked hard enough in his masters employment they were often granted roman citizenship or at least made enough money to buy it. If a subject of a client kingdom became a Roman citizen they could avoid paying taxes in their own kingdom , although it does seem rather an elaborate procedure to avoid paying taxes! Hermeros' claims to be superior to Ascyltus lie in the fact that he appears to think that he is superior in rank (a prince not a knight) and cleverer than him - he found a way to avoid paying taxes! He also thinks himself morally superior to Ascyltus since he's never been taken to court (he's probably too devious!)This theme, the great Roman families being ousted out by those that they regard as inferior to them is common in Roman satire. Hermeros also claims to be richer than Ascyltus , he has 20 bellies to feed (his household which might contain slaves as well as family) and has also bought his wife’s freedom so that she is no longer a slave to anyone (i.e. " no one will wipe his fingers on her hair") He has paid 4000 sesterces for his own freedom and like Trimalchio is a member of the Augustan college of priests in his own home town ( in charge of making sure that the emperor is worshipped properly) Hermeros accuses Ascyltus of not looking at his own faults only the faults of others , he is too young to criticise . Hermeros had been a slave for 40 years since he was a boy and has been living in the colony of Puteoli ever since and made his own fortune rather than had it given to him like Ascyltus. A colony was a place where Roman citizens lived (as opposed to non citizens) , being born in a colony gave a person the right to citizenship but people could also live there if they had bought their citizenship. Puetoli is a colony in Naples. Colonies of Roman citizens in Italy and especially abroad were important to ensure that Rome had defences and loyal citizens in her provinces.
Hermeros is the archetypal self made man who , through deviousness, became a Roman citizen. He clearly still feels inferior to the well born native Roman citizens and berates Ascyltus for laughing at those who weren't born a Roman citizen.
Giton, the boyfriend of Encolpius who has been acting as a slave for Ascyltus and Encolpius since fragment 26 now laughs at the abuse thrown at Ascyltus. Hermeros , who is now in full flow, turns his attentions to Giton, whom he believes to be a slave. He asks if it's December and the Saturnalia has come yet (when slaves were allowed to laugh at their masters) It is dramatic irony that he should ask Giton if he paid his liberation tax (i.e. bought his freedom) since Giton is only acting as a slave and is in fact free. He claims that it is a poor master who can't control his slave and he would beat him if it weren't for Trimalchio. His anger is such that he asks Ascyltus and Giton to step outside so that he can beat them and tells Giton that he won't laugh at him behind his "golden beard" (i.e. when he's a man) Hermeros may not be a s well educated as Giton and Ascyltus but he can "do percentages in metal, weights and money" i.e. he can run his own business. He even puts a bet on the outcome of his own fight with Giton but the fight is not to be physical but mental, he sets a riddle for Giton -
"Something we all have , Long I come, broad I come ,what am I?"
The answer is probably a penis - something that because he is a boy, Pitons has not yet fully developed - this is designed as an insult . Giton does not have time to answer the riddle before Hermeros assumes that he can't get it and is "running around like the mouse in the piss pot"! He tells Giton not to think himself better than people who are clearly his betters and laugh at them - Giton status symbol may be a stolen wooden ring (i.e Hermeros thinks Giton is so poor that he can't afford to buy a proper one!) but Hermeros owns an iron one and believes this status symbol allows him to have credit in town. Hermeros is being absurd here - gold rings were worn by people with status (knights ) not iron! Hermeros blames teachers for turning out impolite students and claims it was different in his own day!
Trimalchio tells Hermeros to stop insulting Giton since it's slaves like Giton that often rise to the top . he is reminding Hermeros that he was once just like him and that he ought to remember his own origins! Trimalchio then calls on the actors to begin the recitations from Homer. Trimalchio appears to translate into Latin while the reciters say their lines in Greek - he is pretending to be educated but his interpretation of the scene they have just acted proves that he is not!
His interpretation is absurd - He claims that in the piece by Homer, Diomede and Ganymede were the two brothers - in reality of course, it was Agamemnon and Menelaus. Diomede is another Homeric warrior character and Ganymede doesn't appear in Homer at all! He claims that the sister of Diomede and Ganymede was Helen when Helen is the sister of Castor and Pollux and the wife of Menelaus (who was brother of Agamemnon.) He claims Agamemnon carried Helen off from Diomede and Ganymede when it was Paris who carried her off to Troy and Agamemnon who went to avenge her death! He claims that Agamemnon offered a hind to the gods in Helens place when in fact Agamemnons daughter was turned into a golden hind by Artemis when Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to Artemis in order to gain a wind to sail the Achaean army to Troy in order to capture Helen who had been abducted by Paris. Trimalchio claims Homer is telling them about how the Trojans and Tarentines fought (in reality, Trojans and Argives!) . Trimalchio claims Agamemnon won (true!) and married his daughter Iphigenia off to Achilles whereas in reality Agamemnon had lured Iphigenia to the altar to be sacrificed by promising her marriage to Achilles! Trimalchio claims that the whole episode that Trimalchio claims drove Ajax insane whereas the fight with Ulysses over who owned the armour of Achilles eventually drove Ajax mad because he lost the right to it. Each one of these scenes - Iphigenias sacrifice, Ajaxs madness and the abduction of Helen , were scenes in Greek Tragedy - Trimalchio has seen them but clearly not understood them!
The actors shout ,possibly because of Trimalchios interpretation, but just as likely to herald the arrival of one of the actors dressed as Ajax who comes rushing in with a sword to carve the meat - in the tragedy "Ajax" by Sophocles Ajax goes mad and kills beasts thinking that they are the Argive warriors he believes to be his friends.
The ceiling rumbles , worrying Encolpius who expects another acrobat to come tumbling down on him. Out of the ceiling falls a hoop attached to it are jars of toilet cream and gold crowns. This is perhaps akin to the ceiling which Nero had installed at the new palace which showered his guests with rose petals. The cakes are the brought - a large pastry Priapus (phallic god of fertility) is the centre piece. Some classicists have interpreted the whole of the "Satyricon" in terms of a spoof on the "Odyssey" where Encolpius is pursued by Priapus not Poseidon - Trimalchios feast can be likened to the court of the Phaecians in the Odyssey. The pastry Priapus has appropriate symbols in his lap ,apples, symbols of temptation and grapes, symbols of the loss of inhibitions when wine is drunk. The cakes and fruit are covered here in safron which is still today to most expensive flavouring , Trimalchios cooks have covered the food in it as a symbol of his wealth. Saffron is a fairly bitter spice and it is used here on cakes - Trimalchio clearly cares more about showing off his wealth than about his guests enjoyment. The guests think that the fish must have some religious significance since it is smothered in saffron - Christianity has been suggested and some people believe "Dinner with Trimalchio" can be read as an anti Christian piece of writing. The evidence suggests that the Romans did not differentiate between Romans and Jews but if "Dinner with Trimalchio" is an anti Christian piece Trimalchio is a very bad Christian since he seems to join in the salute to the Emperor and even has the household gods (Lares) brought into the dining room. The Lares have been appropriately named by Trimalchio the merchant - Cobbler, Luck and Lucre (financial gain ). Trimalchio also has a golden image of himself brought in with the Lares for everyone to kiss in worship! Note that Encolpius passes apples to Giton as he serves them - slaves could not eat while serving so Encolpius is trying to ensure that he has something (it is also possibly a bribe for sexual favours!)
At Trimalchios request Niceros tells the tale of the werewolf. He is afraid that the teachers present may laugh at his simple tale but tells it anyway! There was a tradition of so called "Milesian " tales in Roman literature often relating a time when a human being is turned into an animal, the best known of these tales in Roman literature is "The Golden Ass " of Apulius which is the only surviving complete Roman novel. Note the mock heroic tone to the start of the tale "When thus he spake". Niceros' tale begins in the tradition of "The Golden Ass" where the character in the story falls in love with the inn keepers wife , she is clearly a prostitute here since he gives her money and "she never let me down!". Niceros claims that other guests knew Melissa intimately too ! When Melissa (the wife of the innkeeper dies Niceros tries to court her.
Niceros, the slave uses the opportunity that his masters absence to Capua brought to walk to the inn past the fifth milestone to court Melissa - all roads had milestones according to their distance from Rome. They leave at cock crow, at the beginning of the night, most often associated with ghosts and ghouls .He is afraid of walking on his own since it meant walking past the grave yards. graveyards always existed outside the walls of a Roman colony since there was a belief that the souls of the dead could become restless (See Horace Satire 2.8). It is probably not just for this reason that Niceros asks the soldier to walk with him since graveyards were also the places that robbers and highwaymen often hid. The soldier makes for the gravestones and strips off and ,while Niceros watches he turns into a wolf and pisses a ring around his clothes (to protect them. ) Niceros discovers that the clothes have been turned to stone and , like Aeneas, draws his sword in protection against the shadows of the night and rushes to Melissas house. Melissa tells him on his arrival that a servant had speared a wolf . Niceros spends the night with Melissa and returns back to the spot where he had left the soldiers clothes to find them covered in blood. On returning home he finds the soldier friend wounded in the neck.
The whole story is similar to "The Golden Ass" where the protagonist Lucius is transformed into an ass by the inn keepers daughter who is really a witch.
Trimalchio is gullible - he believes his friend wholeheartedly and tells a story that dates back from when he was a boy ("In long hair") When the masters pet slave died the witches wanted to get him and started howling. a Cappadocian (expensive and foreign) slave rushed out into the yard to try to protect the body against the witches and even succeeds in stabbing one through the middle, wrapping the stabbing hand up well in case witches blood should fall on him and curse him. When the Cappadocian slave returns he looked as if he had been whipped (a common punishment for slaves) as the evil hand had been put on him The young slave boys body in the meantime had been turned to straw - the witches were thought to have stolen the baby and put a straw one in its place. The Cappadocian slave dies of fright . Trimalchio asserts to his guests that this story and the others prove that you should believe in witches.
The "Golden Ass" also tells a story about witches . In this story a corpse accuses a student of allowing the witches to rob his corpse . The student has the same name as the corpse that the witches have come to rob , Thelyphron and thus when the witches call the name of the corpse the student responds. The witches mutilate the students face and replace his nose and ears with wax ones.
The guests kiss the table and ask that the midnight hags (i.e. the wives) stay at home until the dinner is finished! To Encolpius the lights in Trimalchios dining room seem different - clearly he has drunk too much wine at this point! Trimalchio now turns to the freedman Plocamus and asks him to entertain the company. Plocamus is said to have a fine voice for recitation . Plocamus claims that his acting days were over when he got gout (why does this affect the voice though?) and absurdly claims that he nearly got consumption through singing when a youth! He even compares himself to Apelles, a tragic actor in the time of Caligula (two Emperors before Nero ). Plocamus claims that an obscene whistle is Greek (pretending obscenity is education) Trimalchio joins him, whistling a trumpet fanfare to announce the arrival of his boyfriend Croesus. Croesus is the name of a king who touched everything and it changed to gold. Croesus is found playing with a puppy , a game in which he puts half a loaf down the puppy’s neck and he keeps vomiting it back. Trimalchio is now reminded to send for his guard dog Scylax - the name means "puppy" but the joke is that the "puppy" is a huge hound. Even Scylax the dog is given an epithet that is like a gods "protector of the house and household" Scylax goes to attack Croesus' small puppy - Trimalchio is rude enough to allow and even encourage a dog fight while the guests are having dinner. Trimalchio even allows Croesus to ride on his back and insult him - he is over indulgent to Croesus . Trimalchio also encourages the slaves to be served a bowl of wine that presumably they must all drink from as if they are a dog!
The savouries following a big meal are brought - normally this would be something small like thrushes but Trimalchio has over done it and serves capon (castrated cock) and goose eggs in pastry hoods which he insists are eaten.
A lictor knocks on the door - normally only consuls and pro consuls had lictors or bodyguards, it is typical of Trimalchio to try to pretend he's like a consul. The drunken guest is Habinnas (The drunken guest is also a theme in Horace Satire 2.8. ) Habinnas is wearing white when he enters - a festive colour. Encolpius tries to be polite , even though he's drunk and get to his feet to welcome the guest. Agamemnon tells him that the guest is Habinnas , a monumental mason ,in other words he makes gravestones. Like Trimalchio and Hermeros he is a member of the Augustan college of priests who are responsible for the upkeep of the cult of the Emperor in an area. Habinnas is already drunk when he arrives and has to be supported by his wife - it was common practise to go to several dinner parties on one day but bad form to turn up drunk to one! Habinnas sits next to Trimalchio in the praetors seat of honour - see diagram . Since a praetor was deputy to a consul this again is a reference to the fact that Trimalchio sees himself as equal to a consul. Trimalchio asks him how the previous dinner went and calls for even more wine - he sees Habinnas' late entrance as amusing rather than rude! Habinnas tells him that the dinner he had gone to was a ninth day dinner - 9 days after a persons death a feast was often held to celebrate the life of the dead. The point here is that the dinner is for a slave of Scissas whom she had freed on his death bed and given elaborate arrangements after his death thus pointing at an unusually intimate relationship with her slave. If a slave was freed they had to pay a "liberation tax" which was 5% of what he was worth - here the slave was worth 50,000 sesterces and Scissa appears to have paid the tax for him. Habinnas' only complaint about this dinner is that he had to pour half of his wine over the dead body as a libation!
In this fragment Habinnas lists the things that he ate for dinner , a dinner that appears much less lavish than Trimalchios . The point is that he thinks he knows what manners are - he critisises the guests for taking 3 handfuls of pickled cumin seeds but boats about having taken a napkin of food away for his slave and even talks about his toilet habits claiming that he eats brown bread because it helps the system to be more regular! The only unusual thing about the dinner that he went to is that they ate bear which makes his wife almost throw up but he claims tastes like wild boar. He is probably giving Trimalchio more ideas for another dinner party.
Habinnas now asks Trimalchio why Fortunata is not at the table and he is told that it is because she cares so much for her household and guests – she won’t eat or drink anything until she’s fed the slaves and put the silver away (this may, of course, indicate that she does not trust her guests too!) Habinnas pretends that he’s going to leave if the lady of the house doesn’t show herself! Clearly Trimalchio and Habinnas are very intimate friends- he calls Trimalchio by his first name (Gaius) and can pretend to be rude in his presence with no recriminations . Note that the servants have a ritual prepared to summon Fortunata, they even call her by her first name .Trimalchio appears to be fond of ritual , other examples of ritual include the pomp and ceremony with which the food arrives and the fact that the guests have to make sure that they cross the doorway with the correct foot earlier in the satire. Trimalchios fondness for ritual is an extension of his superstitious nature.
Fortunatas entrance is comical –she arrives dressed with her skirt tucked up under a yellow sash and her cerise petticoat showing. Like Trimalchio, Fortuana is an ex slave and it should be no surprise to the reader that he has married a vulgar wife who has already shown her fondness for the theatre – Trimalchio earlier declared to his guests that no one dances the vulgar cordax dance better than Fortunata, here she appears dressed as a dancer! Fortunata and Habinnas’ wife, Scintilla share a couch together and Scintilla admires Fortuanatas bracelet. Fortunata wears a gold hairnet and a bracelet which Trimalchio comically refers to as her chains! Trimalchio boasts that he too has a bracelet made from “one tenth per cent to Mercury” ,this refers to the fact that Trimalchio is a trader and pays one tenth of one percent of his earnings a month to the patron god of traders , Mercury. Trimalchio must have dedicated his bracelet to Mercury but really kept it for himself! The gold bracelet weighs ten pounds – if this is one tenth of one percent of his wages for a month, clearly Trimalchio makes a lot of money . He is vulgar enough to boast about the money he makes per month – he has the bracelet weighed just to prove his wealth! Scintilla, Habinnas’ wife also likes to boast – she shows her gold earrings to Fortunata .Habinnas is embarrassed that she should be boasting about such small earrings compared to Trimalchios wealth and refers to them as a “glass bean”, while complaining about his wife’s expensive tastes ! The women kiss one another and boast about their merits arguing about who is the best housewife and who has the worst husband! Habinnas creeps around the table and dislodges Fortunata, leaving her tumbling from the couch. Roman women usually sat at the table and men reclined so Habinnas has tipped Fortunata backwards playfully because he grabbed her legs which were dangling from the couch.
Trimalchio slaves are programmed to help him show off his wealth, here they don’t remove the dirty plates and bring on the next course but take the tables away entirely when Trimalchio calls for dessert. The slaves also cover the floor as if it’s a gladiatorial arena – scattering sawdust (but Trimalchio doesn’t just use sawdust but mingled in with are expensive spices , mica, saffron and vermilion!) Trimalchio again makes a weak pun – the tables have deserted for dessert! Trimalchios slave takes around hot water while singing like a nightingale which prompts Habinnas to show off his slaves abilities , his slave sings an extract from “The Aeneid”. It is appropriate that the slave should quote a line from Aeneid 5, the funeral games of Anchises since Habinnas is an undertaker and Trimalchio is obsessed with death. The slave doesn’t know good poetry from bad poetry , mixing “The Aeneid” with Atellan verses (usually rude!). – this annoys Encolpius as his favourite poet is desecrated! Habinnas boasts that his slave was trained by peddlers on the street! The slave appears to do everything for him , he is a cobbler, cook and confectioner – the slave appears to be Jewish since Habinnas lists his two faults as circumcision and snoring! He is also cross eyed – Habinnas claims Venus is too but he means the dice game where “Venus” is a double six . The comparison to Venus also implies that Habinnas is attracted to his slave.
Scintilla appears to be jealous of the slave , claiming that he is a pimp .Perhaps there is a deliberate comparison between Habinnas’ love for his slave boy and Scintillas jealousy and Zeus’ love for Ganymede and Heras jealousy. Trimalchio claims the boy is a “Cappadocian” , this does not mean that he thinks that he comes from Cappadocia but that like a Cappadocian slave he is not to be trusted! Habinnas tells Scintilla not to be jealous since like the Jewish slave boy he too used to sleep with the mistress. He is implying here that Scintilla and the boy are having relations. The slave boy then produces an earthenware lamp from his pocket and he and Habbinas spend the next half hour doing “trumpet duos” using the lamp as an instrument ! The boy even does an impression of a musical – “The Life of the Muleteer” and Habinnas kisses him repeatedly - he does not hide his love for the slave boy In front of his wife! Massa, the slave boy is promised boots (“Caligula “– a pun on the Emperor Caligulas name?)
The next course that arrives for the guests is another case of food pretending to be one thing but in fact being another, there are pastry thrushes and quinces that look like sea urchins .Encolpius is quick to recognise that the goose that arrives at the table is in fact made from something else, possibly wax or mud , food that would normally appear at the Saturnalia when slaves and fools rule for the day. This food makes Encolpius feel sick as he looks at it, not because he’s had enough to eat but because of the vulgarity of Trimalchio , as he brings on food that is not real.
Trimalchio boasts that the food is made out of pork (for dessert!) He boasts about the qualities of his cook who can make food that is one thing look like another but the food that he boasts about sound disgusting – fish made from sows belly and pigeon made from lard! Trimalchio has given the cook a new name , Daedalus after the inventor. As a present for his inventiveness, Trimalchio has bought him some Styrian carving knives from Rome. The chef is then told to bring the knives to show the guests and they are allowed to test the sharpness of the knives on their chins!
Two slaves appear before Trimalchio at the dinner table for judgement , they appear to have been having a quarrel at the well (although this is a common place for quarrelling this might also be a satire on Horaces quarrelling slaves in Satire 1.5.) They take no notice of Trimalchio as he announces his sentence , breaking their jugs with a stick. The guests are staggered by the fact that the slaves are ignoring Trimalchio then realise that this too is a show as oysters and scallops come pouring out of the broken jugs!
Boys now arrive with perfumed cream in a silver bowl and rub it on Trimalchios guests feet – this was a practise introduced into Neros court by the courtier and later Emperor Otho. Encolpius seems to find this practise embarrassing , he blushes , indicating Petronius’ own distaste for the practise at Neros court or Encolpius’ embarrassment at becoming so sexually aroused in company! The boys also wrap the legs and ankles of the guests in wreaths of flowers . Encolpius might also be embarrassed because the whole scene is set out as if it is a funeral , the boys appear to be embalming the (living) bodies of the guests and then wrapping them in wreaths!
Fortunata now wants to dance , possibly indicating how drunk she now is since it is vulgar to dance in public! Trimalchio turns to another slave , Philagyrus ,even though he is a fan of the “greens” (a chariot racing team!) he may now join Trimalchios table. Encolpius is angered because a slave has been given more attention than him, the chef too had been given a more important place at the dinner table! Philagyrus imitates an actor , Ephesus and even bets with Trimalchio about the greens chances at the next races. It is no surprise to learn that Philagyrus’ name means “lover of the ring or circuit” (i.e. racing circuit!)
Trimalchio now promises his slaves their freedom in his will. His favourite slaves have an even better future he promises, Philagyrus will be given a farm and his lover will be given her freedom too. Cario (an Egyptian slave?)will be given a block of flats and Trimalchio will even pay his 5% manumission tax (i.e. pay for his freedom ) ,he will also be left a bed. Trimalchio names Fortunata as his heir – normally rich men would leaves fortunes to their offspring or their patron but Trimalchio has no offspring and does not need a patron so he can leave his fortune to his wife! He has told everyone this because he desires acceptance by his slaves in this life as well as when he is dead! The scene following this is comical ,Trimalchio has his will brought in and read . He asks Habinnnas , the monumental mason, whether he is keeping his monument (gravestone ) safe. His monument will be a statue of himself (!) and he asks that a picture of his pup, scent bottles and contests of his favourite gladiator Petriates are depicted on his grave! Only really important ruling men had statues of themselves made. His grave will be very large – 100 feet facing the road and 200 back into the field! He wants the phrase
“This monument does not go to the heir “
written on his tombstone so that the heir to his fortune can’t melt it down . This might be a satire on Horace 1.8 where the gravestone is also abnormally large and also has the same phrase written on it. He also asks in his will that one of his freedmen (ex slave) look after his tomb and makes sure that nobody shits on it. People urinating on statues appears to have been a common problem (see Juvenal Satire 6) – he can’t bear the thought that people will show him disrespect when he is dead! He also asks that his monument portray him next to sailing ships (since he is a trader) but wearing his robes of office (like a magistrate – he is a member of the Augustan college of priests)He also asks to be portrayed wearing 5 gold rings even though only knights were allowed to wear 5 rings – he likes to think that he is 5 times richer than a knight! He also wants to be portrayed pouring out a bagful of money for the people , either he wants to be thought of as generous or as a successful politician since they often bribed the populace of Rome. He provided 2 denarii a head for each citizen when he was voted magistrate (member of the Augustan college) so that the ordinary people could have dinner on him – the point is that his monument will show that he is proud of bribing them! He also hopes that a large banqueting hall will be portrayed on the monument to show everyone enjoying themselves. Fortunata is also to have a monument , holding a dove and a dog , leading Trimalchios favourite boy by the hand and wine jars! It is unusual for women to have burial monuments but certainly not unheard of. The monument is also to have a clock (sundial) which is a feature of many Roman monuments and graves since it reminds the person looking at the clock that their mortal time is also running out! Trimalchios clock will remind the passer by of his name so that he is never forgotten.
Trimalchios inscription is also comical. His full name , Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatanus also shows how pretentious he is. Gaius is a popular name in the family of the Caesars , Pompeius is the name of a Roman general, Maecenas was the name of the Emperor Augustus’ “spin doctor” . Each name is designed to show how important he is . He wishes to be remembered for being elected to the Augustan college (priests who looked after the worship of the Emperor) but likes to boast that he was elected in his absence , showing his popularity and false humility. He likes people to think that he could have been on every board in Rome but he refused but ,in fact, being a member of the Augustan college was as far as a freedman could go. His gravestone will also boast about his piety and the amount he left as his estate (30,000,000 – an impossible amount!) His gravestone will also boast of his lack of education –
“He never heard a philosopher”!
The whole household now descends into tears. Trimalchio tries to lighten the mood and invites everyone to jump into a bath (after such a large meal it would probably kill them!) Habinnas is happy to follow Trimalchio back to the baths but Encolpius is worried about the health hazard . Ascyltus suggests that they slip away into the crowd on the way to the baths . Giton leads Ascyltus and Encolpius into the portico where the hound scares Ascyltus and he ends up falling in the fishpond, Encolpius falls in while trying to help him. Giton feeds the dog scraps that he had saved from dinner and this pacifies the dog just long enough for the hall porter to come out to save them. The hall porter explains that they cannot get out of the front door since they came in that way and Trimalchio is too superstitious to let guests enter and leave the same way!
This whole scene may be a parody on Heracles’ journey to hell . Ascyltus falls in a pond and Heracles has to be carried over the Styx. Giton pacifies the dog as Heracles pacifies Cerberus.
They ask the porter the way to the bath house, realising that they cannot slip out an entrance that is different to the other guests. They are forced to go to the baths where Giton holds their clothes. Trimalchio claims that this is his own private bath house (thus parading his riches again since most baths were public and begins to sing. The songs that Trimalchio sings are by Menecrates , a harp player in the time of Nero.
The guests play unusual games , trying to pick up rings with their hands tied behind their backs or touching the tips of their toes – exercise after a meal would make Encolpius and Ascyltus sick so they are forced into a hot bath with Trimalchio. The hot bath clears their drunken head and they then learn that there is even more food available . Trimalchio claims that this is another feast in honour of a slave who has just become a man (i.e. had his first shave)
As Trimalchio is speaking a cock crows ,an evil omen which upsets Trimalchio and he orders wine to be poured out under the table (to appease the evil spirits) and even poured into the lamps. He also changes his ring from one hand to another for good luck. He tells everyone that this is a bad omen and proclaims that there will be a fire or something equally bad (does this date “Dinner with Trimalchio” to after 64A.D. and the fire at Rome? ) He offers to tip the person who catches the crow . The crow is duly brought and cooked for him! Trimalchio then dismisses the slaves telling them to go to dinner and asking them to send fresh ones in their place (probably for good luck too) The slaves call him by his first name as they file past him ,wishing him good morning and good night!
The new slaves arrive along with a new favourite boy for Trimalchio. Fortunata is jealous of the new boy and abuses Trimalchio who attacks her in turn with a glass.
Trimalchio tells her not to forget her days as a flute girl and accuses her of not spitting for good luck! He calls her a “Cassandra in clogs” (Cassandra here stands for a kill joy)and swears that he will teach her some manners! He even reminds her that she has not produced an heir for him and that she has held back his career. His ultimate punishment is to instruct Habinnas to remove her image from his tomb so that she won’t squabble with him when he’s dead.
Trimalchio is a man of passion, it is clear from other passages that he adores Fortunata but he likes to be master in his own house and is capable of violence to assert his authority. It is very vulgar to quarrel in public as Trimalchio does here though.
Habinnas and Scintilla calm him down eventually . Scintilla appeals to his own guardian spirit (i.e. he thinks of himself as a god) and asks him to calm down. Trimalchio claims that he did nothing wrong in kissing the boy, he didn’t kiss him because of his good looks but because he could say his 10 times table! He boasts about the boys abilities – he can read a book at sight , bought his own gladiatorial armour (Thracian kit) , an easy chair and two cups ! What Trimalchio admires in the boy is not his looks but his ingenuity. Fickle to the last, Trimalchio tells Fortunata not to anger him again and tells his guests to enjoy themselves . He certainly has a high opinion of himself as he claims that “I was once like you are but being the right sort I got to where I am” This could be a reference to the idea that Trimalchio thinks himself divine but is more likely to be a reference to the fact that he is a patron and all the other guests (including Encolpius?) are clients.
Trimalchio attributes his success to his brain (here his “headpiece”) and luck. He claims that he came from Asia (i.e. he is foreign) with a little money and became the darling of his master, pretending that he was older than he was by growing whiskers and oiling his lips to make him look prettier. He also claims that his mistress grew to love him to and that “she did alright by me” (i.e. he had sex with her)
Trimalchio became the boss in his masters house and when his master died he was named in the will along with the Emperor (a common practise in wills)Trimalchio made his way to Rome and made a senators fortune (i.e. enough to become a senator – 1 million sesterces) Once Trimalchio made his first million he made a fortune selling wine to the Romans but the ship was wrecked but another load was sent , this time comprising bacon, beans perfume and slaves which made his fortune ! Even Fortunata sold her jewellery to finance his ventures but the gamble paid off and thus Trimalchio became so rich he could retire and advance loans to freedmen (that is why most of the guests are present) Trimalchio claims that his business success was just as much due to the intervention of an astrologer as anything else. The Emperor Tiberius was said to have relied on astrologers.
Trimalchio remind Habinnas about the time that the astrologer told him that he had 30 years, 4 months and 3 days left to live. Trimalchio says that the astrologer has recently predicted that he will soon come in for a legacy in someone’s will (not a difficult prediction since most clients left their patrons something in their will !) He reveals that his ambition is to join his estates to Apulia in lower Italy . It appears that he owns most of Egypt, Sicily and now lower Italy! Trimalchios house is ,not surprisingly , under the protection of Mercury the patron god of merchants and has 4 dining rooms (one for each season!) , 20 bedrooms , 2 colonnades and box rooms for the slaves (at least 4000 of them according to fragment 47!) When the famous fish sauce manufacturer Scaurus came to stay with Trimalchio he didn’t want to stay anywhere else.
Trimalchio now finishes the mock funeral by ordering Stichus to bring out his shroud ,cosmetic cream to embalm his body and a sample from the jar of wine that his bones would be washed in after death (most people would have their bones washed in water!) The funeral really began by having the guests bodies washed in fragment 70. The will of Trimalchio is then read out, we learn about his monument and finally his shroud is revealed.
Trimalchio is to be buried in a shroud and a purple striped toga (usually worn by the consul!) The guests are asked to examine these garments carefully . Stichus is ordered to bury him in style and get the whole town to pay for his rest! Stichus opens nard (an embalming fluid) and rubs some on Trimalchios guests . Trimalchio then orders the guests to drink more wine as if the guest have been invited to his wake. The orchestra is ordered into the room and they play laments for him as he invites each friend to say something nice about him as if he were dead. One slave blows a trumpet too loud and this alerts the local fire brigade who break down Trimalchios door, leaving Encolpius and Ascyltus with an opportunity to escape.
The literary precedents for this fragment are to be found in both Seneca , Nero' s tutor and Horaces Satires. In Seneca’s letters (Letter 12) he tells the story of the stoic philosopher and provincial Pacuvius who celebrated his own funeral daily! In Horace Satire 2.8 the guests of Nasidienus leave in a hurry without waiting for the host to dismiss them.