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MAPPA

MAPPA (χειρόμακτρον, ἐκμαγεῖον) a linen napkin. Among Greeks and Romans alike, before the meal began and after it was over, means were provided for washing the hands of the guests. A slave carried round a basin (malluvium, trulleum, polubrum; in Greek, λέβης, χέρνιψ, χειρόνιπτρον), which he held under the hands to receive the water poured over them from a jug (urceolus, πρόχους); and the slave who poured the water carried also a napkin or towel to wipe the hands dry: κατὰ χειρὸς ὕδωρ, παράπεμπε τὸ χειρόμακτρον (Arist. ap. Athen. 9.410. See Hom. Il. 24.304; Od. 1.136; Plat. Symp. p. 175 A, &c.). But, besides this, as forks are a modern invention of the 14th century, it was necessary that the guests should often wipe their fingers during the meal: for this purpose the Greeks used, not napkins, but pieces of [p. 2.126]bread, called ἀπομαγδαλιαί (Poll. 6.93; Eustath. ad Od. 19.92). Herodotus (4.64) mentions a ghastly practice of the Scythians, who used the scalps of their enemies as ἀπομαγδαλιαί: and Pliny (Plin. Nat. 7.12) says that the Scythian Anthropophagi, besides making drinking cups from the skulls of their slain enemies (compare the story of the Lombard Alboin, Gibbon, vol. 5.339), also used the scalps pro mantelibus (= mappis) ante pectora. From “ante pectora” it may be seen that the napkin was sometimes tucked under the chin, like a bib, according to a fashion still lingering in some countries. The mappa in Horace's time was provided by the host (Hor. Sat. 2.4, 81; Varr. L. L. 9.47); but, as far as we have evidence, it was the custom in Martial's time for the guests to bring their own napkins (see Mart. 12.29); and the same is implied by the fact that persons whose rank entitled them to the latus clavus had it embroidered as a border to the mappa (Mart. 4.46), and also by what we are told of mean-spirited guests carrying off food from the dinner table wrapped in their napkin (Mart. 2.37; Petron. 66). We hear of napkins in the time of Heliogabalus embroidered with gold (Lamprid. Heliog. 27; Alex. Sev. 37, 40). Athenaeus (ix. p. 479) speaks of gaily-coloured napkins worn by women as a head-dress, like a handkerchief. In the circus the signal for starting a race was given by the presiding consul or praetor dropping a white napkin (hence “cretata mappa” ). From this the Megalesian games are called spectacula Megalesiacae mappae (Juv. 11.193): compare Tertullian (Spect. 16), “mappam missam putant, sed est diaboli ab alto praecipitati figura.” (Cf. also Mart. 12.29; Suet. Nero 22.) (Compare above MANTELE; and see Marquardt, Privatleben, p. 313; Becker-Göll, Gallus, 3.389.)

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