This introductory chapter talks about the upsurge of scholarly interest, over the past fifteen years, in Roman dining practices and foodways. The concerted attention of historians, archaeologists, and literary critics has greatly enhanced their understanding of the physical environments, social dynamics, and symbolic operations of the Roman convivium. The positions assigned to the guests, the kinds of food and entertainment on offer, and even the give-and-take of convivial conversation all participate in the construction and maintenance of social hierarchies. Being concerned with how bodily bearing relates to social hierarchy, the chapter pursues this sociocultural approach. It also seeks to contribute to a second area of burgeoning scholarly interest: the history of the body, and specifically of the ways in which a Roman's social position and subjectivity were expressed in and constructed through bodily dispositions and movements.
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