What was really going on at Roman banquets? In this lively new book, veteran Romanist Matthew Roller looks at a little-explored feature of Roman culture: dining posture. In ancient Rome, where dining was an indicator of social position as well as an extended social occasion, dining posture offered a telling window into the day-to-day lives of the city's inhabitants.
This book investigates the meaning and importance of the three principal dining postures--reclining, sitting, and standing--in the period 200 B.C.-200 A.D. It explores the social values and distinctions associated with each of the postures and with the diners who assumed them. Roller shows that dining posture was entangled with a variety of pressing social issues, such as gender roles and relations, sexual values, rites of passage, and distinctions among the slave, freed, and freeborn conditions.
Timely in light of the recent upsurge of interest in Roman dining, this book is equally concerned with the history of the body and of bodily practices in social contexts. Roller gathers evidence for these practices and their associated values not only from elite literary texts, but also from subelite visual representations--specifically, funerary monuments from the city of Rome and wall paintings of dining scenes from Pompeii.
Engagingly written, Dining Posture in Ancient Rome will appeal not only to the classics scholar, but also to anyone interested in how life was lived in the Eternal City.
Matthew B. Roller is Professor of Classics at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Constructing Autocracy: Aristocrats and Emperors in Julio-Claudian Rome (Princeton).
"Roller can justifiably claim to have pulled the cloth from under an old and inadequate model of ancient dining, and in the process drawn important conclusions about the wider issue of the self-definition of elites and non-elites in Rome. . . . [T]his stands out as a devoted, sophisticated and ambitious study of a central aspect of ancient culture."--Emily Gowers, Times Literary Supplement
"Roller's book not only achieves its goal of disproving the communis opinio regarding dining posture but also shows that a detailed study of such a topic has much to teach us about the Roman world."--Carolyn Shank, Gastronomica
"Dining Postures addresses a fascinating aspect of Roman social life which has never been given this amount of direct attention before. Its conclusions raise interesting questions and will open further debate; it is a provocative addition to the ever-growing bibliography on body language and social manners."--Mary Harlow, Journal of Roman Studies
"A scholarly and significant book on an important aspect of Roman conviviality, written with clarity and elegance."--Oswyn Murray, University of Oxford
"Matthew Roller is refreshingly challenging in his unwillingness to accept the communis opinio of scholarship while candid about the speculative character of many of his own conclusions. The book engages consistently and persuasively with past and current work on Roman dining and the topic is timely and sure to be of interest."--Anthony Corbeill, University of Kansas
Table of Contents
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Matthew B. Roller: