Triclinium Roman dining tables

A re-created Triclinium at Fishbourne Roman Garden

A re-created Triclinium at Fishbourne Roman Garden

How did they do it? Romans ate on ‘three couches’ (a triclinium) with a table separating them (see Wiki on triclinium). There is a garden re-creation of a triclinium at Fishbourne Roman Garden and one can find some photos on the web of students eating this way. When I first came across the idea, I assumed the couches were only for orgies, so that you could eat yourself sick and misbehave at will. But no, a triclinium seems to have been the normal way for wealthy people to eat. I tried arranging the sofa to eat in this way. It was not good for my digestion,  drinking was  difficult and I did not explore my earlier ideas. The only advantage I discovered was that if one was eating sloppy food without a knife or fork then it was easy to get one’s mouth vertically above the plate, as one still does for spaghetti. I remain puzzled, but here are some German students with a foodless triclinium and here is a painting of a Roman banquet.

11 thoughts on “Triclinium Roman dining tables

  1. Christine

    The how deep is the central space pictured?

    Patrick Faas writing in ‘Around the Roman table’ believes the practice of vomiting (due to gluttony) in Ancient Rome is overstated. Although Seneca is said to have complained ‘They eat to vomit and vomit to eat’ this behaviour seems to have been restricted to ill-mannered emperors such as Claudius and Vitellius. (p66)

    In fact [Athenian] guests had been known to complain of the petit cuisine like nature of their dining experience (p72);

    “Such a presentation is supposed to offer variation, but it doesn’t fill your belly. I end up smearing my lips instead of filling them.”

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    I guess the clinums are about 600mm high on the outside and 700mm on the inside, so the ‘pit’ is about 700mm below the level of the rim.
    One has to admire Seneca’s phraseology but it does seem improbable, unless the vomiting was akin to tea tasters spitting out what they had tasted, in which case it would have been a deliberate and sensible way of avoiding obesity.

  3. Christine

    It looks like the next generation grand prix cars are here! In the States [ ]

    And in Turkey [ ]

    In Canada [ ]

    And of course in the UK [ ]

    To name but a few….


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