in the imperial times, was a table-cloth,
but originally, as its etymology shows, was a towel or napkin used by
priests at sacrifices (Serv. ad Aen.
; Ovid. Fast.
4.933) and by guests
at a banquet. It is natural that the antique use of the word should be found
in accounts of sacrifices, and in Virgil (Georg.
1.701), where we find the woollen mantele, with soft
and even nap (tonsis mantelia villis
), used to
wipe the hands when water was poured over them before the feast [see MAPPA
]: so Isidore,
19, 26, 6, says, “Mantelia nunc pro operiendis
mensis sunt, quae, ut nomen ipsum indicat, olim tergendis manibus
praebebantur.” For the newer fashion of using a table-cloth
), see Martial, 12.29
. After Hadrian's time it was the custom
to use table-cloths of costly material and embroidery (Lamprid.
27; Alex. Sev.
37). We may gather
from Horace (Sat.
2.8, 10) that no table-cloth
was used in his time, and no doubt the fashion of giving extravagant prices
for dining-tables of a beautiful grain arose at a time when the table was
fully shown. In fact, there is no mention of the covering of the table
earlier than the passage cited from Martial, and, when this custom arose,
the name of the larger or sacrificial napkin was adopted for the table-cloth
(see Marquardt, Privatleben,