Sunday, September 23, 2007

Something I didn't know before yesterday

The original title for F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gasby was Trimalchio in West Egg (I'm going to side with the book's publishers and say the name change was a good idea.)

Trimalchio is a character from 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. The name Trimalchio is Semitic and means "thrice-blessed". His wife's name is Fortunata, a former prostitute. 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 revelers 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.

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