dwarfs, kept as an amusement in rich Roman houses.
According to Gellius, 16.7
, the word nanus
introduction of Laberius, and the older word for dwarf was pumilio:
both words afterwards existed together and
in the same writers. The fashion of keeping dwarfs may have come from Syria
and Egypt (cf. Stat. Silv. 5.5
); for they do not seem to have been a
feature in households of Greece proper before the Roman conquest (cf. Plut.
Ῥώμῃ τινές. . .
), or it may have started in Italy: they
are mentioned as kept at Sybaris (Athen.
e), where they were called σκωπαῖοι
is probable that the former name is not, as Liddell and Scott say, from
but rather from σκώψ,
because of the misshapen head and short
neck, and the latter name from their baldness, since their heads were shaven
(see Lucian, Conviv.
18, and Mayor's note on Juv. 5.171
). As to their appearance in later Greek
banquets, see Lucian, l.c.
At Rome great ladies
especially delighted in them, as Livia (D. C.
), Seneca's wife (Sen. Ep.
50); and the
prevalence of the fashion at Rome is marked by Suetonius, when he mentions
83) that Augustus did not care for them.
There is no clear distinction between nanus
“the dwarf,” and morio
), “the jester,” since
the jesters seem to have been selected for their absurd appearance as well
as for that power, often found in the half-witted, of making comical
remarks, for which the mediaeval jesters were in demand. So the morio
in Mart. 6.39
“acuto capite et auribus longis;” and in 14.212, “si
solum spectes hominis caput, Hectora credas, si stantem videas
Astyanacta putes.” The nanus
Tiberius's banquet is a privileged jester (Suet.
; cf. Dom.
4): that they were half-witted
if not absolute cretins
is shown by Mart. 8.13
, which passage also gives a notion of
their price, “morio dictus erat, viginti milibus emi: redde mihi
numos, Gargiliane, sapit.” Misshapen limbs as well as small
stature added to their price (Plut. l.c.;
2.5, 11; Decl.
298); and the most
revolting part of the fashion was that the deformity was sometimes caused by
artificial means, the children being kept in a case or frame (γλωττόκομον
) which would stunt and distort their
growth (Longin. de Sublim.
44, 5). The Romans kept female as
well as male dwarfs and jesters (nanae, fatuae,
Lamprid. Alex. Sev.
34; Sen. Ep.
50). For more
authorities, see Becker-Göll, Gallus,
2.148 if.; Marquardt, Privatleben,
152; Mayor on Juv. 8.32