Thursday, April 07, 2011


Self-Sufficiency in Food

Guillermo Galán Vioque, Martial, Book VII: A Commentary, tr. J.J. Zoltowski (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 220 (introduction to epigram 7.31 — the subject is one that interests me, and I want to record the references here for my future use):
Martial makes fun of the habit of rich people boasting about the products they obtain from their estates. It must have been a widespread practice, in view of how persistently Martial satirizes the situation; cf. 3.47, 3.58, 10.94, 13.12 (cf. also 13.107). Cf. Ov. Ars 2.265-266: rure suburbano poteris dicere missa, / illa vel in Sacra sint licet empta via, Tac. Ann. 4.59, Plin. Epist. 4.30.3, Plin. Nat. 12.5.9-10, Varro Rust. 1.59.2.

The desire to demonstrate an abundance of agricultural products stems from the common ambition in antiquity to be self-sufficient regarding food; cf. E. Fraenkel, Aeschylus. Agamemnon (Oxford 1974) (= 1950) 435 ad A. A. 961. Cf. Plaut. Bacch. 648: ut domo sumeret neu foris quaereret, Petron. 38.1 (with Smith 83): nec est quod putes illum quicquam emere, omnia domi nascuntur. Wealthy Romans also took great pride in presenting products from their own country properties at banquets; cf. Hor. Sat. 2.2.118-122: ac mihi seu longum post tempus venerat hospes, / seu operum vacuo gratus conviva per imbrem / vicinus, bene erat non piscibus urbe petitis, / sed pullo atque haedo; tum pensilis uva secundas / et nux ornabat mensas cum duplice ficu. On this subject, see J.M. Frayn, Subsistence Farming in Roman Italy (London 1979).

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