Re: A room with three couches?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Jun 03 1998 - 06:02:08 EDT

At 10:25 PM -0400 6/02/98, Jim West wrote:
>At 10:12 PM 6/2/98 -0400, you wrote:
>>John 2:8 - ARXITRIKLINOS - Am I reading this right? Is this a "the ruler of
>>three couches?" Why three couches? There must be a story about ancient
>>customs here.
>>William Boyd
>No- you have mis-taken the etymology of the word.
>In the Roman world a triclinium was, for all intents and purposes, a dining
>room. It is a latin loan word.

The TRICLINIUM was indeed the Roman dining room, or more precisely dining
furniture (sometimes set up in the "patio" or "peristyle" at the back of
the house. It is so-called because three couches, each normally of a size
to accommodate three diners reclining diagonally in such a fashion that all
are facing each other and have access to a serving table placed in the
space between them. One really needs to be aware of this and of the
language of dining which regularly usess the Greek for "recline"
(KATAKEIMAI, ANAKEIMAI) which, for some reason that utterly escapes me, is
glossed in some dictionaries as "sit at table" and usually so translated in
the versions.

About a year ago Jonathan found some interesting diagrams of a triclinium
at Pompeii at this web-site,if anyone is interested in following it up:

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243 OR

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