Trimalchio is a character in the Roman novel The Satyricon by Petronius. He plays a part only in the section entitled Cena Trimalchionis (The Banquet of Trimalchio). Trimalchio is a freedman who through hard work and perseverance has attained power and wealth. 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 and a dish to represent every sign of the zodiac.
The Satyricon has a lengthy description of Trimalchio's proposed tomb, which is incredibly ostentatious and lavish. This tomb was to be designed by a well-known tomb-builder called Habinnas, who was among the revellers present at Trimalchio's feast. He sought 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.
Trimalchio is also 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, and this 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 parallels that of Gatsby. Trimalchio and Trimalchio in West Egg were among Fitzgerald's working titles for the novel.
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 entitled "Third of Fourth Day of Spring" is opened up 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 "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."
Full article ▸