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1 “Abnormis.” "A philosopher without rules." Ofellus was an Epicurean without knowing it, but his morality was in a medium between the very rigid and very dissolute followers of that sect.
2 Minerva presides over spinning, hence this proverbial expression for "of a thick thread," i. e. of a coarse texture. Thus Cic. Ep. Fam. ix. 12, “Crasso filo” .
3 “Diluta.” This mixture was called mulsum, mead. Ofella says: Don't drink any thing but mead made of the best honey and the best wine. Diluere is applied to those things which are melted by the addition of fluid. Thus Virg. Geor. i. 341, “Cui tu lacte favos et miti dilue Baccho.” And Sat. ii. 3, 214, “aceto | Diluit insignem baccam.”
4 “Lagois.” We do not find this word in any other author. It was probably a foreign bird, whose flesh tasted and looked like that of a hare; a favorite dish among the Romans. Ostrea is of two syllables, as in Virgil, “Bis patriae cecidere manus: quin protenus omnia.” (Aen. 6.33)
5 Quintus Hortensius was the first who gave the Romans a taste for peacocks, and it soon became so fashionable a dish, that all the people of fortune had it at their tables. Cicero very pleasantly says, he had the boldness to invite Hirtius to sup with him, even without a peacock. “Sed vide audaciam, etiam Hirtio coenam dedi sine pavone.” (Fam. 9.20) M. Aufidius Latro made a prodigious fortune by fattening them for sale.
6 Olives, intended for the table, were gathered when they began to ripen and turn black.
7 The fanciful, fashionable taste is but of short continuance; that of nature is unalterable. You are now as fond of turbot as Gallonius was of sturgeon. But were there no turbots in his time ? Certainly there were; but no coxcomb had made them fashionable, and the praetor decided in favor of sturgeon. Another glutton brought turbots and storks into vogue, and perhaps we only wait for a third man of taste to assure us, that a roasted cormorant is infinitely more delicious than sturgeons, turbots, or storks.
8 The storks built their nests in safety until the time of Augustus, when your praetor taught you to eat them. Asinius Sempronius, or, according to others, Rutilius Rufus, when candidate for the praetorship, entertained the people with a dish of storks. But the people, according to an ancient epigram, revenged the death of the poor birds by refusing the praetorship to their murderer. From this refusal the poet pleasantly calls him praetor.
9 “Repotia” was a festival the day after the nuptials, when they drank and ate whatever remained of yesterday's entertainment, quia iterum potaretur. The construction is remarkable, “alios dierum festos”, for alios qui ex diebus festi sunt. “Albatus”, white, was usually the color of the Roman robe even at funeral feasts. “Ipse” is a circumstance that strongly marks the avarice of Avidienus. Afraid that his guests or his servants should be too profuse of his oil, he pours it himself. The poet tells us, his bottle was of two pounds weight, as if it were his whole store, although he was extremely rich; and the vessel was of horn, that it might last a long time. All these particulars are in character.
10 “Divinae particulam aurae.” To raise the nobleness of the mind, Horace has borrowed the language of Plato; who says, that it is a portion of the universal soul of the world, that is, of the divinity himself.
11 “Metato in agello.” Ofellus was involved in the same disgrace and ruin as Virgil, Tibullus, and Propertius. Their estates were given by Octavius to the veterans who had served against Brutus and Cassius in the battle of Philippi. That of Ofellus was given to Umbrenus, who hired its former master to till the ground for him, “mercede colonum”. As each soldier had a certain number of acres, the land was measured, “metato agello”, before it was divided.
12 “Duplice” , a kind of large fig, called Marisca; or bifida; or figs were split into two parts, and when dried, served up mensis secundis. The last is proved to be the correct interpretation from Pallad. R. R. iv. 10, 36: “Subinde ficus, sicut est divisa, vertatur, ut ficorum coria siccentur et pulpae tunc duplicate in cistellis serventur aut loculis.”
13 It was customary with the Romans to appoint some person magister bibendi, who directed the number of cups to be taken, and the toasts, etc. Ofella says there was no such person appointed, but that the only president that they had at their table was culpa, i. e. "excess." Each person took as much as he pleased, restricted only by the feeling that excess was culpable. The ancients had a ludus, which was intended to prevent the intoxication that might arise from being obliged to obey the magister bibendi in taking the number of cups which he directed. The person who (aliqua in re peccarat) violated any of the convivial laws or customs, was punished by being obliged to drink a cupful, poculo multabatur, so that as no one drank but those who committed some breach of the laws, bibere poenae et dedecoris esset, non invitationis aut magisterii. Thus culpa was magistra bibendi.
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