Ante Cenam

Following the afternoon at the baths, my uncle Traianus brought me into the house of Trimalchio for dinner.

In the entryway was an impressive picture of a dog. Above it was inscribed “CAVE CANEM” (beware of dog). Behind us entered the group of friends. One of them slipped when he caught sight of the picture. Instead of helping him up, his friends just laughed.

The rest of the wall contained Trimalchio’s life. He was there, holding Mercury’s staff, being led by Athena. Trimalchio, while not classically educated, knows how to keep accounts. At the end of the wall, Mercury takes Trimalchio by the chin and leads him to his throne, with Fortune by his side. There was a silver box said to contain Trimalchio’s first beard. I doubted this, considering his past as a slave, and carried on to the triclinium (dining room). The man who fell earlier conversed with a porter.

We passed a steward collecting sums owed to the master. I was relieved when my uncle passed him by with no regard. Rods and axes adorned the door post of the dinning room, and there was the beak of a ship, inscribed, “C. POMPEIO TRIMALCHIONI SEVIRO AVGVSTALI CINNAMVS DISPENSATOR” (to Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio, Priest of Augustus, from Cinnamus the Steward). I must admit this impressed me. Below it hung a lamp and two calendars. One of which marked the days the master was out to dinner.

At the threshold to the dining room, a slave shouted “dextro pede!” (right foot first). My uncle, caught between the commands from his mind and from the slave, stumbled. Fortunately, I caught him before his head passed below my elbow. With the boy watching us intently, we stepped into the dining room with our right feet.

Before us lay a massive dining room, with many tables and couches, and a place saved for Trimalchio near the middle, of course. “Traiano!“a man said. My uncle walked over to the man and embraced him. It was Balbus Fabius, whom my uncle called ‘Marcus,’ an orator I met in my youth. We joined him at his table.

As I reclined, I watched that peculiar trio enter. Before they had planted a single foot in the room, a naked slave threw himself down before them. As we were not far from the door, I heard the slave beg the group to spare him from a flogging. Apparently, the boy had lost a steward’s clothing at the baths. The men talked to a steward, and when that conversation concluded, walked away with the slave in tow.

Now, amicis, I must seek something for this headache. I will return shortly to tell of the true treats of Trimalchio’s triclinium


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