Carmen 12 –


Like many a famous man since, Asinius Pollio (q.v. glossary) seems to have had.a
black sheep brother. The importance attached to table napkins in Roman literature
(not only by Catullus) becomes more understandable when we remember that
until forks were introduced, about the time of the Renaissance, everyone, Romans
included, ate with their fingers. Thus napkins served not only as handkerchiefs and
sweat rags (sud aria, 14), but also, to a far greater extent than today, to remove grease
and similar remnants from a diner's hands between courses. This does not entirely
explain why they should have been a favorite target (cf., e. g., 25) of light-fingered
guests. For the correlation of social mores and literary elegance in this clever putdown
see Krostenko (2001, 241-46, 2)1-)2).

1   nulli = nemini



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