Old Roman term (lat. "Rex bibendi" or "Rex convivii") for a function during a drinking session (Commisatio) which follows certain rules; see Satyricon.
The Roman poet Gajus Petronius Arbiter (14-66) wrote this 20-volume novel, only fragments of which survive. It depicts a witty, realistic and sometimes grotesque picture of social conditions in first-century Rome. The main character and narrator is an educated, multi-talented young man named Encolpius, who travels all over lower Italy. Between many erotic-amorous adventures with people of both sexes and many roguish pranks, he is also taken to the coastal town of Puteoli (today's Pozzuoli in Campania) on his journey. Here, with his companion Giton, his friend Ascyltos and the rhetor Agamemnon, he attends a remarkable banquet hosted by the nouveau riche and illiterate multi-billionaire Trimalchio (a wine merchant)
This episode, which has become famous as "Cena Trimalchionis", forms the main part of the fragments. It is also an excellent source for the typical food, drink and table manners of the upper classes of early imperial Rome. The cena was the main meal of the day among the higher classes and took place in the late afternoon (beginning at 3 to 4 p.m.), usually after a visit to the baths. The passages on the banquet in question, with explanatory background information, relating specifically to the drinking culture of the time, were taken from a work by Christopher Daniel for the University of Erlangen, who kindly gave his permission for their use.
Water and wine played an important role as beverages in the everyday life of the Romans. Drinking pure water was not common at a cena (especially in wealthy circles), but was an indispensable part of every meal to dilute the wine. Wine was drunk with almost every meal (rarely with breakfast), but especially with the main meal. Light wine was already enjoyed with the hors d'oeuvres (gustatio), preferably the very popular honey wine mulsum. Wine was considered a staple food. Consumption was correspondingly high, with a daily quantity of 0.8 to 1 litre per male and 0.5 litre per female inhabitant of Rome in imperial times. Slaves were also entitled to this, although they certainly had to be content with simple quality. As a rule, this was a marc wine known as iora
At the "Cena Trimalchionis" the host gives instructions to mix a mighty pot (a large vessel) and also distribute full cups to the slaves. For the guests, however, a...