Triclinia

Facets of everyday Roman life, from food to travel to petkeeping. "How did the Romans...?" answered here!

Moderator: Aldus Marius

Triclinia

Postby ariadne sergia fausta on Mon Aug 23, 2004 4:42 pm

Salve

I have a question about Roman dining rooms. I believe that a normal triclinium has three couches (lecti), and on each lectus there was room for three people. Roman women were invited to banquets, so I suppose that many couples ate dinner there. How were the places divided. Did husband and wife eat on the same lectus? Or were all the couples mixed?

Ariadne
User avatar
ariadne sergia fausta
I. Auxiliary
I. Auxiliary
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat May 22, 2004 7:49 pm

...Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight Fight Fight!

Postby Aldus Marius on Tue Aug 24, 2004 2:31 am

Salve, Ariadne, et salvete omnes...

Actually, I'm not sure women did recline at table, on a lectus or anywhere else. I'm thinking they sat on chairs or stools, in front of their husbands. It is possible (indeed, likely) that by the Age of the Antonines things might have loosened up somewhat; but before then, only very liberal households would have invited the women to recline, and they would not have done so at all during the Republic.

My two sesterces...
Aldus Marius Peregrinus.
User avatar
Aldus Marius
Curialis
Curialis
 
Posts: 2173
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2002 3:16 am
Location: Within hailing distance

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Aug 24, 2004 3:27 pm

Salvete

Triclinia were used for more than just entertaining at dinner parties. It was a room used by a patron to meet in the morning with his clientelia. A triclinium did serve as a place to entertain, but it was more what we would today think as a study. That is, it was a place where a man might take his correspondences, conduct business, and on occaision it was also used as a place to sleep. It would not be unusual, and may have been more normal for a triclinium to hold only one lectus. But since Ariadne has brought up banquents held in triclinia ...

First though, family meals were held in or near the kitchen with family members seated around a table on benches. These were handled differently from entertaining in a triclinium. Family and servants would first gather at a shrine or hearth, standing to offer prayers. The family would be seated, the father last, after he removed his ring and left it with the Lares. Offerings to the Lares were made between the second and third course of a meal, and while servants would stand around the table to serve, children of the family would walk around the table at this time to receive the offerings in special bowls and platters. The father would be treated like a guest of honor, discussiong matters with the children and performing the religious rites. The mother, as domina of the household, acted as hostess overseeing the servants.

The banquent held in a triclinium was a formal affair. For all that has been said about Romans in the past, these did not usually involve wild entertainments. There simply wasn't much room in a triclinium. As always when Romans gathered, there was a religious element to the banquent, and in many cases such banquents were held because it was a religious affair. Seating arrangements was made according to status. Ericius would know more on the subject, but IIRC the person reclined at the center of the lectus would be the one with the highest status. The guest of honor was placed on the central lectus. Other guests would be placed on the lectus to his right where they would be in the best position to face one another in discussions. The host would then be placed on the lectus to the left of the guest of honor where he would oversee service to the guests. Such a banquent would include an invitation to a God or Goddess to attend. There was a formal exchange between the guest of honor and the host as to which would be given the honor of invoking the God and offering sacrifice, but that was one role of the guest of honor.

The presence of women, well, it does depend on the era, as Marius pointed out, and what phase of an evening's entertainment Wives are generally depicted as sitting at the front, towards the foot of a lectus on which their husband reclines. The Romans were rather puritanical in their attitude towards wives, and so mixing couples was probably not something they did. Wives and other women of status remained for only part of the banquent, for the religious portion and for dinning. During the Republic women were not allowed to drink wine, at least not without their husband's permission, and then only in limited quantity. They also would not be expected to participate in discussions of "men's affairs." And so at some point they would depart the triclinium. Other women might be brought in instead, as part of the entertainment. They may have been reclined, but they were more for serving guests and thus would also sit in the front and towards the foot of the lectus.

The above of course is for a formal dinner where men of status would be present. Women would entertain as well, and I am not sure we know what arrangements were made in that case. They could have had males present as part of their entertainment, seated in a subordinate position. I have seen a painting where roles were reversed. It is not very clear whether the painting was meant as a joke, or if it actually depicted a scene of a lady of status being entertained, uhm, well a little more than just entertained. From what Ovid relates, men courting a woman of wealth and higher status would have been placed in a subordinant position. Status, rather than gender, determined what role a person played in any given situation, and that would have been true at banquents as well. If a male guest of some status was tolerated at a women's banquent, he was likely of lower status. He would sit rather than recline, at the rear of the lectus and seated in the opposite direction, for the sake of propriety, so that he would have to turn to face the others. For example a woman of high status might bring along a poet to entertain the ladies by reciting his poetry while standing. He would also be fed and thus included in the seating arrangements, but treated almost like a pet. More normal, when matrons with their daughters would visit one another, they would sit on the lecti. If a number were present, two would sit side by side on a lectus as in sellisternia. Probably daughters sat next to their mothers and in a subordinate position. In less formal affairs, between friends, women probably did recline, and drank wine, and discussed "women's affairs" in the same way as men, but we don't hear about it, and I can't recall seeing any depictions of women gathered for a social banquent.


Valete optime
M Horatius Piscinus

Sapere aude!
User avatar
Horatius Piscinus
Curialis
Curialis
 
Posts: 1194
Joined: Sun Sep 15, 2002 7:39 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Dec 03, 2004 7:08 pm

Salve Duelli

You can get an idea at Villa Iulia http://www.villaivlilla.com/cubicula.htm from a picture of a cubiculum with a lectus at the far end. It will keep you awake thinking what it must have been like to sleep on one of those benches in such a confining room.

Vale
M Horatius Piscinus

Sapere aude!
User avatar
Horatius Piscinus
Curialis
Curialis
 
Posts: 1194
Joined: Sun Sep 15, 2002 7:39 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sat Feb 26, 2005 3:47 pm

Salve Piscine,

That was indeed a very interesting link. It also had an explanation to the triclinium.

There was a sketch how the lecti were arranged. And it said that you lay on your left side to recline. So if everybody did that when lying on the lectus imus you had the feet of those reclining on the lectus medius in your face. And wasn't it so that you have to take off your sandals when reclining. Now imagine that some had smelly feet. I guess, I would've lost appetite if someone sticks his feet into my face during dinner. (Good that I'm a woman and would've to sit on a chair. Maybe that was a reason why women sat on chairs because they're more sensitive to such things :wink: :lol: )
Cleopatra Aelia
alias Medusa Gladiatrix
User avatar
Cleopatra Aelia
Curialis
Curialis
 
Posts: 353
Joined: Wed Jan 05, 2005 12:57 pm
Location: Hamburg, Germania

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun Feb 27, 2005 5:38 am

Salva sis Cleopatra

I thought it was a nice arrangement. Those in repose lay obliquely across the lecti. No one's feet in another's face. Rather they were arranged face to face, and could even get close to one another, face to face, by leaning forward. Wives would sit at the foot of the lecti and to the front. The guest of honor would then be facing the other guests on the left couch, with his wife sitting on his couch, but in between the men as they spoke. The wives of the other guests would likewise be at the foot of the lecti, and facing directly across the table from the guest of honor. All well disposed for discussion.

The host's lectus had a good position to oversee everything, and thus be able to order the service. The room was narrow and small. The host was placed with his head at the open end of the room. So he could turn outward and direct the servants without disturbing the discussion. That was the host's role, to provide for his guests, while the guests provided the entertainment through their discussion. The host's wife was likely the one sitting next to the guest of honor, but still on her husband's lectus. She would thus be across from all the other women.

When the wives retired, other women would enter to serve and entertain. They would sit behind the reclining men, well placed to serve the men without interferring with their discussion, and well placed for the men to grab what they liked as these other women would be leaning over the men whenever they reached over for the tables. Later of course, it became fashion for a wife to remain throughout the dinner, reclining beside and in front of her husband, spooning. That too makes a nice arrangement for dining with friends and for casual discussion. So it depended on the nature of the dinner party, as to where women would sit, or recline. But it was all laid out, I think, in a rather efficient manner.

BTW the floors were strewn with herbs and the guests wore wreaths to hide some of the odors. Plates and drinking cups were perfumed, and the room itself decked with flowers. Catallus and Martial mention some with unsavory odors, but they were noted as the exception.

Vale optime
M Horatius Piscinus

Sapere aude!
User avatar
Horatius Piscinus
Curialis
Curialis
 
Posts: 1194
Joined: Sun Sep 15, 2002 7:39 am
Location: Ohio, USA


Return to Collegium Vitae Quotidianae

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron