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caldrail

Dying For A Meal

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I'm searching for a reference to a Roman gentleman, probably during the early principate, who committed suicide after spending all his money on dinner parties to impress his friends. I know it exists - I've seen it - but so far I can't locate the source. Could anyone help?

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Your not talking about the dinner scene from the Satyricon, are you? He wasn't literally dead yet, just fixated on it.

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If it isn't the Satyricon, my google searches mostly point to key words being found in Seutonius, and I don't recall reading that.

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The diner in qiuestion was Apicius, a known gourmet, who collated a cookbook by the name of De Re Coquinaria in the 1st century ad. He was supposed to have spent more than a 100 million sestercii on his palette and when he realised he had only 10 million left, he ended his life. I understand this account comes from Pliny - I can't confirm that yet.

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Do you suppose that our dictator who granted an audience to the ambassadors of the Samnites, while he roasted the commonest food before the fire himself with that very hand with which he had so often smitten the enemy, and with which he had placed his laurel wreath upon the lap of Capitolian Jove, enjoyed life less than the Apicius who lived in our own days, whose habits tainted the entire century, who set himself up as a professor of gastronomy in that very city from which philosophers once were banished as corrupters of youth? It is worthwhile to know his end. After he had spent a hundred millions of sesterces on his kitchen, and had wasted on each single banquet a sum equal to so many presents from the reigning emperors, and the vast revenue which he drew from the Capitol being overburdened with debt, he then for the first time was forced to examine his accounts: he calculated that he would have ten millions left of his fortune, and, as though he would live a life of mere starvation on ten millions, put an end to his life by poison. How great must the luxury of that man have been, to whom ten millions signified want? Can you think after this that the amount of money necessary to make a fortune depends upon its actual extent rather than on the mind of the owner? Here was a man who shuddered at the thought of a fortune of ten million sesterces, and escaped by poison from a prospect which other men pray for. Yet, for a mind so diseased, that last draught of his was the most wholesome: he was really eating and drinking poisons when he was not only enjoying, but boasting of his enormous banquets, when he was flaunting his vices, when he was causing his country to follow his example, when he was inviting youths to imitate him, albeit youth is quick to learn evil, without being provided with a model to copy. This is what befalls those who do not use their wealth according to reason, which has fixed limits, but according to vicious fashion, whose caprices are boundless and immeasurable. Nothing is sufficient for covetous desire, but Nature can be satisfied even with scant measure.

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I wonder if this event ever made it into the Satyricon....

 

He usually (from my research so far, incomplete) based it on Platonic Dialogues, but made it in contemporary settings.

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No, but it did make to to Dio...

 

He was most enthusiastically aided and abetted in all his undertakings by Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the son of Strabo, and formerly a favourite of Marcus Gabius Apicius — that Apicius who so far surpassed all mankind in prodigality that, when he wished one day to know how much he had already spent and how much he still had left, and learned that ten millions still remained to him, became grief-stricken, feeling that he was destined to die of hunger, and took his own life.
Roman History Book 57 (Cassius Dio)
 

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I just realized I forgot to post the book I got that from.... I just found his Wikipedia page, and it listed over a half dozen writers who quoted him.

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There have been a couple of TV programmes recreating De Re Coquinaria.  One was 'The Supersizers Eat Ancient Rome' (now available on youtube in 3 parts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swhEbBDwM0I)

 

The other was (predictably) Heston Blumenthal  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xty2fh_heston-s-feast-s01e04-roman-feast_webcam.

 

If you're talking about Roman Bon Viveurs, I'm more of a Luculus man myself.

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I saw a video about a legion in Austria, the roman army rations of vinegar, grains, bacon pieces, and grease were warmed up and slapped in a bowel.

 

I think they were trying for a hamburger and just didn't know how to do it yet. Most of the ingredients present, but.... just not quite the same outcome.

Edited by Onasander

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Strangely enough, Asterix books often seem well researched (though I am working from a old, old memory of them).  There's a scene in Asterix the Legionary where Asterix asks the cook what he's serving to them, and he lists the ingredients "all boiled up together to save time".   Cheese was in there, but other than that, it wasn't disimilar to the list you just said.

 

Anyone care to track it down?  I gave my Asterix books to OfClayton Nephew 1 of 3 when he was a young boy (I'm sure he has a name, but I find it easier to number them, much like the Borg in Star Trek).

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Yes, the Romans ate burgers, Roman style. They had street vendors like we do as well. Personally I quite like globi (bread with poppy seeds and honey - really nice)

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Poppyseed? Romans had opium? That would of worked better than bread and circuses if your just looking to distract the disenfranchised masses.

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They did have it, and it is indeed used (IIRC) in Rome the series.  not sure how much of it the disenfranchised masses would have managed to get into their bloodstreams, but hey, Soma worked well enough in Brave New World.

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