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Romans ate while reclining

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A painting by Roberto Bompiani showing a Roman feast
A painting by Roberto Bompiani showing a Roman feast

Roman patricians ate in reclining positions, settling on sofas. The sofas encircled the main table on three sides, with food and drink delivered by slaves to individual guests. The name of the Roman dining room – triclinium – comes from three beds (Greek: treis kline).

Placing specific people on individual sofas was related to their social status or the host’s desire to distinguish them. According to the old custom – the invited guest – could be accompanied by two uninvited, called “shadows” (umbrae).

It is said that Roman women originally ate sitting down. Then this custom – at least in rich houses – went out of fashion and women began to eat reclining too.

  • Bardel Michał, Wielkie żarcie w oczach Petroniusza, czyli o rzymskich zbytkach w dziedzinie jedzenia i picia, "Misięcznik ZNAK", październik 2007
  • Winniczuk Lidia, Ludzie, zwyczaje i obyczaje starożytnej Grecji i Rzymu, PWN, Warszawa 1983

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