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The Lavish Roman Banquet: A Calculated Display Of Debauchery And Power

A new book profiles 10 prominent emperors who helped shape the destiny of Rome. Part of their legacy includes wild stories of hedonistic banquets, when luxury ruled even as plebeians went hungry.
The banquet of a noble Roman in ancient Rome was more than a lavish social meal, it was a crucial power tool — a way of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Source: Bildagentur-online

The Roman banquet may well have been the original staging ground of gastronomic excess — think platters of peacock tongue and fried dormice, chased down with liters of wine poured by naked waiters. But at the heart of all that gluttony was cold calculation.

For the aristocrats who ruled this sprawling ancient empire, which, at its peak under the soldier-emperor Trajan (A.D. 98 to A.D. 117), stretched all the way from Britain to Baghdad, the banquet was much more than a lavish social meal. It was a crucial power tool.

"The banquet was a chance to follow the precept of keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer," says historian and Cornell University Professor Barry Strauss. His engaging new book, profiles 10 prominent emperors whose policies and personality shaped the destiny of imperial Rome. "They allowed emperors to display political power and wealth, and dispense valuable favors to the invitees and monitor potential rivals. Even before there were emperors, members of the Roman elite

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