) 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;
λέβης, χέρνιψ, χειρόνιπτρον
he held under the hands to receive the water poured over them from a jug
); and the slave who poured the
water carried also a napkin or towel to wipe the hands dry: κατὰ χειρὸς ὕδωρ, παράπεμπε τὸ
(Arist. ap. Athen.
. See Hom. Il. 24.304
; Plat. Symp.
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
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.
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.
); and the same is implied by the fact that persons whose
rank entitled them to the latus clavus
embroidered as a border to the mappa (Mart.
), 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.
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
): compare Tertullian
16), “mappam missam putant, sed est diaboli ab
alto praecipitati figura.” (Cf. also Mart.
; Suet. Nero 22
above MANTELE; and see Marquardt, Privatleben,