Convivae

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Lepidissimus liber est M. Varronis ex Satiris Menippeis, qui inscribitur Nescis Quid Vesper Serus Vehat, in quo disserit de apto convivarum numero deque ipsius convivii habitu cultuque. dicit autem, convivarum numerum incipere oportere a Gratiarum numero et progredi ad Musarum, [id est proficisci a tribus et consistere in novem], ut, cum paucissimi convivae sunt, non pauciores sint quam tres, cum plurimi, non plures quam novem (fr. 333). “Nam multos,” inquit, “esse non convenit, quod turba plerumque est turbulenta et Romae quidem stat, sedet Athenis, nusquam autem cubat (fr. 334). ipsum deinde convivium constat,” inquit, “ex rebus quattuor et tum denique omnibus suis numeris absolutum est, si belli homunculi collecti sunt, si electus locus, si tempus lectum, si apparatus non neglectus (fr. 335). nec loquaces autem,” inquit, “convivas nec mutos legere oportet, quia eloquentia in foro et apud subsellia, silentium vero non in convivio, sed in cubiculo esse debet (fr. 336).”
(Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 13.11.1-3)

That is a very charming book of Marcus Varro’s, one of his Menippean Satires, entitled You know not what the Late Evening may Bring, in which he descants upon the proper number of guests at a dinner, and about the order and arrangement of the entertainment itself. Now he says that the number of the guests ought to begin with that of the Graces and end with that of the Muses; [that is, it should begin with three and stop at nine], so that when the guests are fewest, they should not be less than three, when they are most numerous, not more than nine. “For it is disagreeable to have a great number, since a crowd is generally disorderly, and at Rome it stands, at Athens it sits, but nowhere does it recline. Now, the banquet itself,” he continues, “has four features, and then only is it complete in all its parts: if a nice little group has been got together, if the place is well chosen, the time fit, and due preparation not neglected. Moreover, one should not,” he says, “invite either too talkative or too silent guests, since eloquence is appropriate to the Forum and the courts, but silence to the bed-chamber and not to a dinner.” (tr. John C. Rolfe)

Depalmaverat

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L. Veratius fuit egregie homo improbus atque immani vecordia. is pro delectamento habebat, os hominis liberi manus suae palma verberare. eum servus sequebatur ferens crumenam plenam assium; ut quemque depalmaverat, numerari statim secundum Duodecim Tabulas quinque et viginti asses iubebat.
(Aulus Gellius, Noct. Att. 20.1.13)

One Lucius Veratius was an exceedingly wicked man and of cruel brutality. He used to amuse himself by striking free men in the face with his open hand. A slave followed him with a purse full of asses; as often as he had buffeted anyone, he ordered twenty-five asses to be counted out at once, according to the provision of the Twelve Tables. (tr. John C. Rolfe)

Puerperii

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Aristoteles philosophus memoriae tradidit, mulierem in Aegypto uno partu quinque pueros enixam, eumque esse finem dixit multiiugae hominum partionis neque plures umquam simul genitos compertum, hunc autem esse numerum ait rarissimum. sed et divo Augusto imperante qui temporum eius historiam scripserunt ancillam Caesaris Augusti in agro Laurente peperisse quinque pueros dicunt eosque pauculos dies vixisse; matrem quoque eorum, non multo postquam peperit, mortuam monumentumque ei factum iussu Augusti in via Laurentina, inque eo scriptum esse numerum puerperii eius, de quo diximus.
(Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 10.2)

The philosopher Aristotle has recorded that a woman in Egypt bore five children at one birth; this, he said, was the limit of human multiple parturition; more children than that had never been known to be born at one time, and even that number was very rare. But in the reign of the deified Augustus the historians of the time say that a maid servant of Caesar Augustus in the region of Laurentum brought forth five children, and that they lived for a few days; that their mother died not long after she had been delivered, whereupon a monument was erected to her by order of Augustus on the via Laurentina, and on it was inscribed the number of her children, as I have given it. (tr. John C. Rolfe)

Deradit

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Est et alia in monumentis rerum Graecarum profunda quaedam et inopinabilis latebra barbarico astu excogitata. Histiaeus nomine fuit, loco natus in terra Asia non ignobili. Asiam tunc tenebat imperio rex Darius. is Histiaeus, cum in Persis apud Darium esset, Aristagorae cuipiam res quasdam occultas nuntiare furtivo scripto volebat. comminiscitur opertum hoc litterarum admirandum. servo suo diu oculos aegros habenti capillum ex capite omni tamquam medendi gratia deradit caputque eius leve in litterarum formas compungit. his litteris quae voluerat perscripsit, hominem postea quoad capillus adolesceret domo continuit. ubi id factum est, ire ad Aristagoran iubet et “cum ad eum,” inquit, “veneris, mandasse me dicito ut caput tuum, sicut nuper egomet feci, deradat.” servus, ut imperatum erat, ad Aristagoran venit mandatumque domini adfert. atque ille id non esse frustra ratus, quod erat mandatum, fecit. ita litterae perlatae sunt.
(Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 17.18-27)

There is also in the records of Grecian history another profound and difficult method of concealment, devised by a barbarian’s cunning. He was called Histiaeus and was born in the land of Asia in no mean station. At that time king Darius held sway in Asia. This Histiaeus, being in Persia with Darius, wished to send a confidential message to a certain Aristagoras in a secret manner. He devised this remarkable method of concealing a letter. He shaved all the hair from the head of a slave of his who had long suffered from weak eyes, as if for the purpose of treatment. Then he tattooed the forms of the letters on his smooth head. When in this way he had written what he wisehd, he kept the man at home for a time, until his hair grew out. When this happened, he ordered him to go to Aristagoras, adding: “When you come to him, say that I told him to shave your head, as I did a little while ago.” The slave, as he was bidden, came to Aristagoras and delivered his master’s order. Aristagoras, thinking that the command must have some reason, did as he was directed. And thus the letter reached its destination. (tr. John C. Rolfe)