Andrew Dalby

Empire of Pleasures Extra

Additions (and a few corrections) to the published text of Andrew Dalby's Empire of Pleasures. Use these links to find out more about the author, to see some selections from the text -- and to buy a copy.

The succession of empires

[page 8] The Roman Empire was a successor to earlier empires and destined to be the last and greatest of them all. By the second century BC Rome's empire was already foreseen. The future was evident to statesmen such as the Greek historian Polybius, who had plenty of time for observation during his seventeen years as a hostage in Rome. It was also clear to the less rationalistic author of the so-called Sibylline Oracles, Greek verses written in a Jewish milieu ...

Note what Athenaios 545b-546a has to say about the succession of empires.

When was Rome infected by love of luxury?

[page 11] Roman authors offer contradictory answers to a question that was of great interest to them: when was Rome infected by love of luxury? The first century BC historian Sallust dates the event to Rome's overseas victories a hundred years before, notably the final defeat and destruction of Carthage in 146 ...

See also Polybios 31.25 on this question.

What Rome did for the provinces

[page 13] Ammianus's praise of the doyenne of Empire is given with scarcely any irony. Whatever went on in Rome, it had remained true, almost until Ammianus's time, that the provinces prospered and were embellished under Rome's authority and in her honour. In 156, towards the end of the Empire's most peaceful period, Aristides had drawn a collective portrait of its urban landscape ...

What's more, food plants and other local products had been enabled to spread around the Medietrranean, as observed by Pliny, Natural History 14.2.

Imperial travel: Life at sea

[page 16] Life at sea had its discomforts; and there were taboos. There must be no trimming of nails, no cutting of hair.

And no sex: see Achilles Tatius, Leukippe and Kleitophon 5.15-16.

Inns and 'restaurants'

[page 18] In remoter districts well-placed farms did serve additionally as inns ... A rosy view of the welcome available to the tired traveller and his mount comes from a playful poem traditionally attributed to Vergil and named from its first word Copa, 'bar-girl'. The reader is to imagine a wayside inn and farm, with its own cheese and wine, its own fresh and conserved fruit ...

Restaurants or pleasure palaces in Graeco-Roman Egypt: see Strabo 17.1.16-17.

Change in the Italian countryside

[page 22] The Italian countryside was neither uniform nor unchanging. In classical times wealthy Romans multiplied their country estates and demonstrated their power over the landscape ...

Plane trees were once rare in Italy (Theophrastos, Study of Plants 4.5.6) but myrtle and bay were always abundant in Latium (ib. 5.8.3, cf. Pliny, Natural History 15.119).

Small towns of Latium

[page 31] ... the 'crumbling loam of rich Anagnia, productive in grain' ...

Note the description of Anagnia by Marcus Aurelius (Fronto, Letters vo. 1 p. 174 Haines)

The aromatic herbs of Circeii

[page 41] ... the old hill town Circeii. It was supposed to be named after Circe, daughter of the Sun, the witch of Homer's Odyssey. On these hills her magical herbs had been picked; here Nereids and nymphs worked in her palace, sorting herbs and flowers into baskets under her direction. If Circeii did not fit their metre, poets felt free to call the place Circe instead ...

The link of Kirke to Circeii was already known as a local Italian belief to Theophrastos in Athens in the late 4th century BC; aromatic bay and myrtle grew there abundantly (Theophrastos, Study of Plants 5.8.3, cf. Pliny, Natural History 15.119). Elsewhere (9.15.1) Theophrastos quotes a line of Aischylos, 'the Etruscan race, a medicine-making people'.

Amyclaean mackerel and Fundan wine

[page 46] The traveller followed the shore of the Bay of Amunclae, named after a deserted city (often the spelling is Amyclae, with an attractively classical echo of the name of a town near Sparta; the epithet tacitae Amyclae 'quiet Amyclae' truly belongs to its namesake). Its place was taken by Fundi, scarcely noisier, its only economic role having been to ship the local wine of the Ager Caecubum.

I should have mentioned the mackerel of Amyclae, and the modest fame of Fundan wine (four literary references and four inscriptions: details now in my Food in the Ancient World from A to Z).

The prawns of the river Liris

[page 47] ... the clear waters of shady Liris ... meandered through the realm of the goddess Marica, silva Maricae 'the wood of Marica', palus Maricae 'the marsh of Marica' ... and just here was the market town of Minturnae.

I now see that the squillae of the Liris mouth (Martial 13.83) must be the very karides of Minturnae so beloved of Apicius (Epitome of Athenaios, 7a).