New Vico Studies

Volume 20, 2002

Donald Phillip Verene
Pages 69-78

Vico and Culinary Art
“On the Sumptuous Dinners of the Romans” and the Science of the First Meals

This is a discussion and translation of the first academic address of Vico’s career. “Delle cene sontuose de’ romani” (“On the sumptuous dinners of the Romans”) was delivered early in 1699 before the Accademia Palatina. This is the same year that Vico assumed his position as professor of Latin eloquence at the University of Naples. Vico’s choice of a topic concerning the details of everyday Roman life derives from his concern to understand Roman culture in terms other than its political history. He approaches the teaching of Latin in a similar way, advocating in his textbook, Institutiones oratoriae, that the place to begin learning Latin is “From the comics!”—meaning that the everyday expressions of Latin speech are those preserved by the comic poets, especially Plautus and Terence.