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Quoting from History
August 14, 2011 9:19 AM   Subscribe

IN which work does the Roman historian Livy state that the Roman empire started to decay when cooks acquired celebrity status?

IN a recent survey on hunger, the Economist paraphrases the Roman historian Livy:
The food industry has been attracting extra attention of other kinds. For years some of the most popular television programmes in English-speaking countries have been cooking shows. That may point to a healthy interest in food, but then again it may not. The historian Livy thought the Roman empire started to decay when cooks acquired celebrity status.

Does anyone happen to know which work by Livy that this came from? Bonus points if someone can produce the latin text.
posted by cheez-it to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Livy was actually alive when Augustus was, that's a pretty quick decline.
posted by empath at 9:30 AM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


“The army from Asia introduced a foreign luxury to Rome; it was then the meals began to require more dishes and more expenditure . . . the cook, who had up to that time been employed as a slave of low price, become dear: what had been nothing but a métier was elevated to an art."

Livy (Titus Livius), Roman historian (59-17 B.C.)
‘The Annals of the Roman People’

posted by lukemeister at 9:33 AM on August 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Livy, Ab urbe condita, 39.6: "tunc psaltriae sambucistriaeque et convivalia alia ludorum oblectamenta addita epulis; epulae quoque ipsae et cura et sumptu maiore apparari coeptae. tum coquus, vilissimum antiquis mancipium et aestimatione et usu, in pretio esse, et quod ministerium fuerat, ars haberi coepta."

The time is the consulate of C. Flaminus and M. Aemilius (187 BCE), and the context is the importation of Asiatic luxury after the campaign in Asia of Cn. Manlius Vulso. The idea is not that cooks became "celebrities"--which is a notion that the Romans didn't have--but that they became valued, and cooking came to be considered an art, as part of a more general importation of luxurious living from the East.

The notion that the decline of the Roman republic--not the empire--was related to conquest in the civilized east was widespread among ancient historians, though many attributed it to the wealth that it brought to some but not all of the leading Roman families. The idea that luxury leads to the downfall of empires is older, though: Herodotus attributes the view to Cyrus the Great at the very end of his histories.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Here's a dissertation on the subject of Roman cooks by Cornelia Gaskins Harcura, in 1913.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:35 AM on August 14, 2011


Oops--in paragraph 2, I misspelled Flaminius.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2011


Also:

Livy, to offer a Republican example, takes advantage of Gnaeus Manlius Volso‟s activities with a Roman army in Asia (39.6.3; 187BC) to remark on the Asiatic
source of luxuries undermining the city of Rome. At this time, says Livy, cooks
and elaborate food achieve respect in Rome which they had not had before:

Luxuriae enim peregrinae origo ab exercitu Asiatico invecta in
urbem est. ... epulae ... ipsae et cura et sumptu maiore apparari
coeptae. Tum coquus, vilissimum antiquis mancipium et
aestimatione et usu, in pretio esse, et quod ministerium fuerat, ars
haberi coepta. Vix tamen illa, quae tum conspiciebantur, semina
erant futurae luxuriae. (39.6.7-9)


For the beginnings of foreign luxury were introduced into the City
by the army from Asia. ... the banquets themselves ... began to be
planned with both greater care and greater expense. At that time
the cook, to the ancient Romans the most worthless of slaves, both
in their judgment of values and in what use they made of him,
began to have value, and what had been merely a necessary service
came to be regarded as an art. Yet those things which were then
looked upon as remarkable were hardly even the germs of the
luxury to come.

posted by lukemeister at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2011


Similar ground is trod in this recent and somewhat snide piece from the Spectator about the classical forebears of El Bulli.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:41 AM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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