Malus Vinum

All the guests are settled for dinner. Following Trimalchio’s entrance came a neat trick. Now, we move on to a fouler treat.

The old man halted his game and asked for his appetizers. All the guests were invited to a second glass of mead. With the change of the music, singing slaves came and swept up our dishes. One boy picked up an entree dish that had fallen. Trimalchio ordered that the boy be boxed on the ear and made to drop the platter again. Then another man swept up the silver platter with the garbage and tossed it out. Personally, the display was a bit much. Next, two long-haired Ethiopians dispersed wine, not for drinking, of course, but for washing our hands.

Several guests complimented Trimalchio on the spacious seating arrangement. “Mars amat aequum,” (Mars likes an equal playing field) he said. The master did not want us to get too hot from the sweaty slaves leaning between us. Just then, glass jars were brought in with labels reading “FALERNVUM OPIMIANVM ANNORVM CENTVM” (Falernian in the Consulship of Opimius, 100 years). As the guests looked at the labels, the master said “Eheu, ergo diutius vivit vinum quam homuncio. Quare tangomenas faciamus” (Alas, therefore wine lives longer than poor little man. For this reason, let us make to whet the lungs with wine).

I turned to gauge Traianus’ reaction: His face sported a pleasant look, but I knew my uncle’s eyes well; he was not excited. The reason for his displeasure was the same for my discomfort. Falernian wine is best after 1 year.

Trimalchio’s love of all things vintage had us drinking vinegar

Trimalchio announced, “Vita vinum est” (life is wine / wine is life), and we drank. The other guests were better actors than I, for some small cringe escaped me, which another regular diner took note of, and scowled in my direction.

Hardly given a chance to savor the vinegar, a slave brought in a silver skeleton. He threw it on the tables a couple of times, so that we might see its several poses. The master gave some exclamation about “miserabile mortale” (poor mortals), yet he had lost my regard, if not my attention.



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