World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000030604
Reproduction Date:

Title: Trimalchio  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker, History of seafood, Seafood, Venus (mythology), Cumaean Sibyl
Collection: Fictional Ancient Romans, Fictional Greek and Roman Slaves
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Trimalchio is a character in the 1st century AD Roman work of fiction Satyricon by Petronius. He plays a part only in the section titled "Cena Trimalchionis" (The Banquet of Trimalchio). Trimalchio is a freedman who through hard work and perseverance has attained power and wealth. The name "Trimalchio" is formed from the Greek prefix τρις and the Semitic מלך (melech) in its occidental form Malchio or Malchus.[1] The fundamental meaning of the root is "King", and the name "Trimalchio" would thus mean "Thrice King", "greatest King".[1]

His full name is "Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatianus"; the references to Pompey and Maecenas in his name serve to enhance his ostentatious character. His wife's name is Fortunata, a former slave and chorus girl. Trimalchio is known for throwing lavish dinner parties, where his numerous servants bring course after course of exotic delicacies, such as live birds sewn up inside a pig, live birds inside fake eggs which the guests have to "collect" themselves, and a dish to represent every sign of the zodiac.

The Satyricon has a lengthy description of Trimalchio's proposed tomb (71–72), which is ostentatious, and lavish.[2] This tomb is to be designed by a well-known tomb-builder called Habinnas, who is among the revellers present at Trimalchio's feast. He seeks to impress his guests—the Roman nouveau riche, mostly freedmen—with the ubiquitous excesses seen throughout his dwelling. By the end of the banquet, Trimalchio's drunken showiness leads to the entire household acting out his funeral, all for his own amusement and egotism.

Cultural references to Trimalchio

  • Trimalchio is referred to in the novel Pompeii by Robert Harris, where the character Numerius Popidius Ampliatus, also a freed slave who has become wealthy, throws a great, but ghastly, dinner party where there is too much for everyone to eat. One of the magistrates present for the banquet, Quintus Brittius, secretly mouths the word Tri-mal-chio to Ampliatus's former master, Lucius Popidius Secundus, one of the aediles of Pompeii, to their greater amusement.
  • There is a single mention of Trimalchio in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby as his showy parties and background parallel those of Gatsby: Chapter Seven begins, "It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night – and, as obscurely as it began, his career as Trimalchio was over." Trimalchio and Trimalchio in West Egg were among Fitzgerald's working titles for the novel. In the 2013 movie based on the novel, the orchestra leader at Gatsby's mansion, played by iOTA, is named Trimalchio.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Rats in the Walls" makes reference to Trimalchio, reading, "There was a vision of a Roman feast like that of Trimalchio, with a horror in a covered platter."
  • Trimalchio is mentioned and quoted by Henry Miller in his book Black Spring. The section titled "Third of Fourth Day of Spring" opens with a quotation reading: "To piss warm and drink cold, as Trimalchio says, because our mother the earth is in the middle..."
  • Trimalchio's Feast is alluded to in the short story "Toga Party" by John Barth, which was included in The Best American Short Stories 2007, in reference to Tom and Patsy Hardison's lavish toga party.
  • Trimalchio and his feast are referenced in Octavio Paz's poem, "I Speak of the City."
  • Lina uses the term "Trimalchian" to describe a wonderful salad prepared for her by Ned in the play, "Three Days Of Rain" by, Richard Greenberg.
  • Albert Pike in the "Entered Apprentice" chapter of his Scottish Rite Freemasonry text Morals & Dogma (1871) references Trimalchio as an example of a legislator who spends the public purse lavishly or extravagantly – operating from their own vices and egotism. He counsels Scottish Rite Freemasons to stand against such lawmakers.[3]
  • Victor Hugo references Trimalchio in Les Misérables, saying, "History and philosophy have eternal duties, which are, at the same time, simple duties; to combat Caiphas the High-priest, Draco the Lawgiver, Trimalcion the Legislator, Tiberius the Emperor; this is clear, direct, and limpid, and offers no obscurity."


  1. ^ a b Bagnani, Gilbert (1954). "Trimalchio".  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Socttish Rite of Freemasonry, by Albert Pike; Charleston, [1871]


  • Frangoulidis, Stavros (January 2008). "Trimalchio as Narrator and Stage Director in the Cena: An Unobserved Parallelism in Petronius' Satyricon 78". Classical Philology (University of Chicago Press) 103 (1): 81–87.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.