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Cena Nasideni and Cena Trimalchionis

One of the papers from the Eta Sigma Phi panel at the 2011 APA

Hannah Rich
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This paper studies the relationship
between the Cena Nasideni from Satire 2.9
of Horace and the Cena Trimalchionis from
the Satyricon of Petronius. A close reading
of both passages reveals many similarities.
The two dinners have many details in
common — guests, food, and events — but
power lies in the hands of different characters.
In the Cena Nasideni, the guests are
the protagonists as well as the characters
in control of their situation. In the Cena
Trimalchionis, the guests are again the
protagonists but the host is firmly in control.
The power of the guests in the Cena
Nasideni conveys the secure and optimistic
feeling of Romans under the new regime of
Augustus. The feeling of helplessness felt
by the characters in the Satyricon reflects
the helpless feeling of life in Rome under
Nero, in an age where traditional figures
no longer held authority and social turmoil
shook the empire. A comparison of these
two literary dinners demonstrates the
great change in worldview experienced by
Romans in a span of less than a century.

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