Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
steve53

Roman Table manners in Trajan era

Recommended Posts

I just read that in Rome, during a meal, people would routinely throw the scraps on the floor, instead of stowing them away somewhere on the table or put them in some sort of receptacle.

 

This seems needlessly messy.

 

What was the source for this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe it's something to do with a show of power over a slave? Especially in front of dinner guests?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's more to do with ritual laziness. If you have slaves to clean up as you go, why bother to be tidy yourself? They would simply extend an empty goblet and expect a slave to refill it with wine there and then. These Romans expect service from their slaves and are going to be very put out if they don't receive it without question. The treatment of slaves varies accoring to the relationship they have with the master but table slaves were definitely menials to most owners.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hear that this class of slave wore the master's name branded on the face. Only in late antiquity did the practice of hot iron branding end or so I read in Bertand Lan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's an exaggeration surely? Some slaves were branded, others forced to wear identifying collars, but how could that master ever sell the slave, or for that matter, show what a great guy he was by granting manumission to a slave so branded on the forehead of all places? I really don't believe this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's an exaggeration surely? Some slaves were branded, others forced to wear identifying collars, but how could that master ever sell the slave, or for that matter, show what a great guy he was by granting manumission to a slave so branded on the forehead of all places? I really don't believe this.

I agree. Makes no sense to damage chattel thereby making it unsellable. I'm trying to locate that passage in Lancon. Hoping it includes a footnote.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read it in Angela's "A day in the life of Ancient Rome."

I cannot believe the lady who ran the villa would let her guests throw garbage on the floor. And a good slave was valued, and in the upper echelons they slept in the villa. Why piss them off or intentionally degrade them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

That's an exaggeration surely? Some slaves were branded, others forced to wear identifying collars, but how could that master ever sell the slave, or for that matter, show what a great guy he was by granting manumission to a slave so branded on the forehead of all places? I really don't believe this.

I agree. Makes no sense to damage chattel thereby making it unsellable. I'm trying to locate that passage in Lancon. Hoping it includes a footnote.

 

 

That's an exaggeration surely? Some slaves were branded, others forced to wear identifying collars, but how could that master ever sell the slave, or for that matter, show what a great guy he was by granting manumission to a slave so branded on the forehead of all places? I really don't believe this.

I agree. Makes no sense to damage chattel thereby making it unsellable. I'm trying to locate that passage in Lancon. Hoping it includes a footnote.

Here's from Lan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are opoints to consider: Cruelty to slaves had been notable in Rome's past (it had led to a number of revolts including the Spartacan War) ad reforms had been foisted on the Roman public. Claudius for instance had noticed sick slaves abandoned to their fate and brought in laws to prevent such abuses by their owners, and so on. However, an escaped and subsequently recovered slave was generally treated quite badly. Humanity toward slaves improves over the course of the empire (their lesser numbers improved their value - the lack of conquests had reduced the influx of slaves). That Constantine brought in a law protecting slaves from branding on the forehead is evidence of the humanity, but does not as such indicate indicate common use of this procedure, albeit it was used often enough to cause adverse comment, and I suspect was trend toward harsh treatment that had been highlighted somehow. I will search further on this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It appears I am wrong. Branding on the forehead was a Roman practice, if not one that was universal or encouraged.

 

Runaway slaves and thieves were branded on the forehead with a mark, whence they are said to be notati or inscripti
(Mart. VIII.75.9).

 

When Sicily, after the Carthaginian collapse, had enjoyed sixty years of good fortune in all respects, the Servile War broke out for the following reason. The Sicilians, having shot up in prosperity and acquired great wealth, began to purchase a vast number of slaves, to whose bodies, as they were brought in droves from the slave markets, they at once applied marks and brands.
Diodorus Siculus

 

In like fashion a each of the large landowners bought up whole slave marts to work their lands; . . . to bind some in fetters, to wear out others by the severity of their tasks; and they marked all with their arrogant brands. In consequence, so great a multitude of slaves inundated all Sicily that those who heard tell of the immense number were incredulous.

Diodorus Siculus

 

The Italians who were engaged in agriculture purchased great numbers of slaves, all of whom they marked with brands, but failed to provide them sufficient food, and by oppressive toil wore them out .. . their distress.

Diodorus Siculus

 

This practice appears to have roots very early on in Roman culture. However, it is, not suprisingly, linked to cruel owners. In fact, Diodorus bnames one as Damophilus of Enna, who he describes as an unpleasant uncouth character.

 

Purchasing a large number of slaves, he treated them outrageously, marking with branding irons the bodies of men who in their own countries had been free, but who through capture in war had come to know the fate of a slave. Some of these he put in fetters and thrust into slave pens; others he designated to act as his herdsmen, but neglected to provide them with suitable clothing or food.

Diodorus Siculus

 

The interesting thing is that such branding is mentioned in Roman entertain ment too.

 

Good guys, what scrawny little slaves there were! Their skin was embroidered with purple welts from their many beatings ... All of them, decked out in rags, carried brands on their foreheads, had their heads half-shaved, and wore chains around their ankles ...
The Golden Ass (Apuleius Lucius)

 

Curiously the description is given of these slaves by an observer who wouldn't ordinarily see these things - a man magically transformed into an ass. The public must have been aware that branding on the forehead went on, as it did elsewhere on the body, but that it was not done by everyone. It does suggest a certain domination as much as punishment, but clearly not all slaves were so treated, as we know that owners sometimes had genuine friendships with their slaves - Cicero even mentions that aspect of slavery.

 

Therefore we ought to conclude that Constantine had considered branding on the forehead a vile practice and in the light of increasing humanity toward slavery, decided to ban it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

caldrail,

Thanks so much for sharing this information from Martial and Diodorus. You are a good example why UNRV is an important resource for discussions on all things Roman. Access to and skill in using primary sources, e. g. those you cite above, make the difference between uneducated "here's my two cents" and genuine scholarship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×