NATUS IN PERGULA* - TRIMALCHIONE E L’‘INUTILITÀ DELLA DOMUS
This paper concentrates on a well-known passage of Petronius' Cena Trimalchionis, in which the wealthy master boasts the splendour of his palace and enumerates the spaces which, according to him, establish its social standing. These few lines, too often overlooked by modern scholarship, while raising themselves some textual problems, nevertheless provide an unexpected key for answering an intriguing set of questions raised by the whole episode about the plan of Trimalchio's abode. Coherently with a narrative strategy of tension between the character's expectations, on one side, and reality on the other, his very choice of ‘prestigious' spaces disqualifies Trimalchio as an aristocratic dominus. Both the curious omission of an atrium, and the awkward ‘apotheosis' painted by the main entrance point to a strategy of self-presentation that consciously
avoids any hint to qualities which the owner lacks. On the other hand, the exaggeration of features as the plenty of reception rooms and the deformation of patterns like that of the labyrinth tell how the building was actually expected to be perceived. Trimalchio's proud statement that his own cubiculum was placed on the upper floor (apparently near to service quarters) is a peculiarity in itself, and suggests a broader reading of the freedman's relationship to domestic space.