Porcus Troianus

For all the sex and violence in Petronius’ Satyricon, the food in the Cena Trimalchionis (Dinner at Trimalchio’s) episode is what most stuck with me when I secretly read my father’s copy of the old penguin edition at age 10. This scene is from ch 40 (pg. 137) in the brand new Loeb edition with text and translation by Gareth Schmeling (who also has a wonderful 700 page commentary on the work):

Not yet did we know where to turn our expectations, when a large disturbance was raised outside the dining room, and Spartan dogs began to run about, even around the table. A tray followed them, on which had been placed a huge boar, wearing a cap of freedom, and from his tusks hung two little baskets woven from palm leaves, one filled with sweet Syrian dates and the other with dry Egyptian. The boar was surrounded by rather small piglets made of hard cake, hovering, as it were, over the teats, which indicated that it was a sow. These piglets were meant as gifts to be taken away. But that Carpus who had mangled the fowls did not come in to cut up the boar, instead a huge bearded man with cloth bands wrapped round his legs and dressed in a multicolored hunting coat. He drew a hunting knife and drove it vigorously into the boar’s side. From this gash thrushes flew out; fowlers were ready with limed reeds and quickly caught the birds as they flew around the dining room.

necdum sciebamus, <quo> mitteremus suspiciones nostras, cum extra triclinium clamor sublatus est ingens, et ecce canes Laconici etiam circa mensam discurrere coeperunt. | secutum est hos repositorium, in quo positus erat primae magnitudinis aper, et quidem pilleatus, e cuius dentibus sportellae dependebant duae palmulis textae, altera caryotis altera thebaicis repleta. | circa autem minores porcelli ex coptoplacentis facti, quasi uberibus imminerent, <qui> scrofam esse positam significabant. et hi quidem apophoreti fuerunt. | ceterum ad scindendum aprum non ille Carpus accessit, qui altilia laceraverat, sed barbatus ingens, fasciis cruralibus alligatus et alicula subornatus polymita, strictoque venatorio cultro latus apri vehementer percussit, ex cuius plaga turdi evolaverunt. | parati aucupes cum harundinibus fuerunt et eos circa triclinium volitantes momento exceperunt.

The term for this dish, according to Macrobius (Saturnalia 3.13.13), is porcus troianus (Trojan pig, turducken):

Nam Titius in suasione legis Fanniae obicit saeculo suo quod porcum Troianum mensis inferant, quem illi ideo sic vocabant, quasi aliis inclusis animalibus gravidum, ut ille Troianus equus gravidus armatis fuit.

Titius, in his speech supporting the law of Fannius reproaches his contemporaries for serving Trojan pig, so-called because it is “pregnant” with other animals enclosed within, just as the famous Trojan horse was “pregnant with armed men.

There is another instance a few chapters later in Petronius (49):

He was still babbling on and on, when a tray containing a large pig took possession of the table. We began to express astonishment at the speed of the cooking, swearing that not even a cock could have been thoroughly cooked so quickly, especially as the pig seemed to us to be much larger than the boar had been a little while earlier. Looking at it more and more closely Trimalchio said: “What’s all this? Hasn’t this pig been gutted? By god, it hasn’t been. Call the cook, get the cook here in our presence.” When the sad cook stood at the table and said that he had forgotten to gut it, Trimalchio shouted: “What’re you saying? You forgot? You’d think that he’d not added pepper and cumin. Off with his shirt!” Without delay the cook was stripped and stood there dolefully between two torturers. Then we all began to intercede for him and say: “This happens; we ask that you let him go; if he does it again, none of us will intercede on his behalf.” I felt very hard-hearted and could not contain myself, but leaned over to Agamemnon’s ear and said: “He just has to be the most completely worthless slave; how could someone forget to gut a pig? By god, I would not forgive him, if he forgot to gut a fish.” But not so Trimalchio, his face softened into a smile and he said: “Well, because you’re so forgetful, gut it right here in front of us.” The cook got back his tunic, seized the knife, and with an apprehensive hand slit the pig’s belly on this side and that. At once the slits widened from the pressure of the weight inside, and sausages seasoned with thyme and black pudding tumbled out.

 nondum efflaverat omnia, cum repositorium cum sue ingenti mensam occupavit. | mirari nos celeritatem coepimus et iurare, ne gallum quidem gallinaceum tam cito percoqui potuisse, tanto quidem magis, quod longe maior nobis porcus videbatur esse quam paulo ante apparuerat. | deinde magis magisque Trimalchio intuens eum “quid? quid?” inquit. | “porcus hic non est exinteratus? non mehercules est. voca, voca cocum in medio.” | cum constitisset ad mensam cocus tristis et diceret se oblitum esse exinterare, “quid? oblitus?” Trimalchio exclamat “putares illum piper et cuminum non coniecisse. despolia.” | non fit mora, despoliatur cocus atque inter duos tortores maestus consistit. deprecari tamen omnes coeperunt et dicere: “solet fieri; rogamus, mittas; postea si fecerit, nemo nostrum pro illo rogabit.” | ego, crudelissimae severitatis, non potui me tenere, sed inclinatus ad aurem Agamemnonis “plane” inquam “hic debet servus esse nequissimus; aliquis oblivisceretur porcum exinterare? non mehercules illi ignoscerem, si piscem praeterisset.” | at non Trimalchio, qui relaxato in hilaritatem vulto “ergo” inquit “quia tam malae memoriae es, palam nobis illum exintera.” | recepta cocus tunica cultrum arripuit porcique ventrem hinc atque illinc timida manu secuit. | nec mora, ex plagis ponderis inclinatione crescentibus thumatula cum botulis effusa sunt.

A sort of exaggerated combo of the two pigs had the honor/horror of making it into Fellini’s gruesome adaptation of the scene: