Re: Puzzled on Inf. in Mk 2:15

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Oct 21 1997 - 13:37:14 EDT

At 10:58 AM -0500 10/21/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 10:24 AM 10/21/97 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>>(English translators always want to
>>translate this clear reference to ancient eating in a triclinium or the
>>like as "sit at table," which of course one can do, if it's preferred). At
>>any rate, that's the way I've always read this construction.
>I didn't know this word, so I did a quick search on the Internet. There's a
>picture of a triclinium at each of these sites:

This is a good representation of the normal layout in a Roman dining room:
three couches, each broad enough to have three (sometimes four) persons
reclining at them. In very large halls there may be several arrangements,
but this is the standard pattern: the guests recline on their sides and
face each other over a central area where servants bring the food and set
it in front of the guests.


This is an accurate picture of the chamber in a house at Pompeii, but of
course it doesn't show the couches or arrangement (lava will do that to
your dining room too!).

I checked the site noted by Jonathan in his later post, and it's a pretty
amateurish attempt to recreate the ancient arrangement on three small
couches that are arranged the right way but just won't allow for a normal
sized dinner party.

What you're looking at here is the standard Roman arrangement in the
imperial period. The Greek ANAKLINESQAI does imply reclining to eat, but
I've never known whether the eastern Mediterranean arrangments are quite so
formal as the Roman ones. Nevertheless, it's always seemed curious to me
that pictures of the last supper show Jesus and disciples actually seated
at the table, but the Greek text of the last supper stories does use the
Greek word ANAKLINESQAI, and John's gospel actually describes the Beloved
Disciple as lying with head in Jesus' bosom, which is a not uncommon
arrangement of guests, particularly of couples, in the Roman triclinium as
described in, say, Petronius' account of the Dinner of Trimalchio in the

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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