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Originally a board or plank, and then a table, which the ancients had in all varieties and shapes. The simplest table

Three-legged Table. (Pompeii.)

was one with three legs and a round top (cilliba), used in wineshops. The Greek table was originally four-legged, as the name τράπεζα implies. Tables were made of white marble (Hor. Sat. i. 6, 16) and of wood, and in the houses of the rich at Rome were very costly, being regarded as heirlooms. The most valued woods were the maple (acerna) and the citrus, whose roots and tubers were used, displaying when cut a great variety of markings and curling veins. These were called tigrinae or pantherinae from their spots, and also pavoninae (Mart.xiv. 85) as suggesting the “eyes” in a peacock's tail. Enormous sums were paid for fine tables. Pliny (Pliny H. N. xiii. 91-99) speaks of Cicero as paying 500,000 sesterces ($20,000) for one, and Pollio as giving 1,000,000 sesterces ($40,000). A table with a single leg was called monopodium; orbis denotes any round table. The feet were often of ivory, beautifully carved; and the tables themselves were often overlaid with plates of gold, silver, or bronze (Petron. 73; Mart.iii. 31), and were inlaid with jewels.

The table was a little lower than the couches surrounding it. Among the Greeks and later Romans it was covered by a cloth (mantele), and was cleaned by sponges or woollen cloths.


Mensa prima (πρῶτη τράπεζα), the first course at dinner. In early times, the whole table was

Marble Table. (Overbeck.)

carried away at the end of each course, whence the expressions mensam ponere, auferre, tollere, removere.


Mensa secunda (δεύτερα τράπεζα), the last course of a meal, i. e. the dessert. See Cena.


Mensa Delphĭca, an ornamental table as a part of the furniture of a house. See Abacus.


Mensa sacra, a table used as an altar (Verg. Aen. ii. 764).


Mensa argentaria, a broker's counter.


Mensa Publĭca, a bank (In Pison. 36).


See Catasta.


A square flat gravestone laid over a grave and with a hole in the centre for sacrificial oils, etc. (De Leg. ii. 26).

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 2.764
    • Horace, Satires, 1.6
    • Petronius, Satyricon, 73
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.85
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.31
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