Roman sumptuary legislation of the Republican Era C. 200-100 B.C.
Dauster, Molly Ann Rosser
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Between the end of the Second Punic War and the beginning of the Social War the Roman Senate proposed and the voters passed a number of laws and regulations concemed with private life and public display, among them at least four restricting the cost of provisioning and the number of guests allowed at private banquets. The first was the lex Orchia, a plebiscite carried on the advice of the Senate in 182,^ which limited the number of guests allowed to attend and the days on which banquets could legally be held. Twenty-odd years later in 161, the consul C. Fannius carried the lex Fannia cibaria, which probably continued the restrictions on guests of the lex Orchia, but added a limitation on the allowable expenditure for meals to ten asses a day on "normal" days, thirty asses on market days and one-hundred asses on feast days. In 143, the lex Didia extended the lex Fannia to all of Italy, and, significantly, extended the sanctions equally to invited guests as well as to hosts. P. Licinius Crassus Dives Muciana evidently carried the lex Licinia sumptuaria some time between 143 and 102. The death of Lucilius in 103-102, who mentions this law in one of his satires, fixes the end date for passage of the law.^ J. Suolahti recently summarized the most commonly accepted view, that the author of the law was P. Licinius Crassus, who could have been a tribune of the plebs as early as 107, and is an attested consul in 97.^ Sauerwein, however, argues that the consul of 97 was not from the branch of the Crassi who bore the agnomen Dives. He suggests instead that the author was P. Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus, consul in 131 and possibly a praetor in 134.^ Much is uncertain about this law, but it seems to have restated or revised the provisions of the lex Fannia. The lex Licinia limited the maximum expense on the Kalends, Nones and market days to thirty asses. On ordinary days the law limited the acceptable weights of foods, especially preserved meat and pickled fish, although not the allowable amount of the produce of earth, vine and tree (of one's ovm).^ Since the ass was revalued at sixteen to the denarius after the late 140's, the cash amount of allowable expenditure may have been carried over from the lex Fannia.^ Finally, there was the lex Aemilia sumptuaria, sponsored by the consul, Aemilius Scaurus, passed in 115, but evidently abrogated not long thereafter. It was somewhat like the Licinian law, in that rather than limiting total cost or numbers of guests, it targeted kinds and methods of preparation of foods. ^ For instance, Pliny the Elder notes that the law prohibited stuffed (force-fed) dormice, as well as mussels and wild birds.