Lecture reveals the role food played in establishing the Roman Empire

The news of Julius Caesar’s death reached Octavian as he was beginning his dinner. It was late March of 44 BC, and with the death of his great-uncle, Octavian needed to consider his future as Caesar’s political heir.

Over a seemingly typical meal, Octavian and his guests laid the foundation for establishing the Roman Empire and transforming Octavian into its first emperor, Augustus.

On March 9, renowned British classicist and food historian Andrew Dalby will reveal the integral role entertaining played in securing Augustus’ political success. The free lecture, “Dining with Augustus: The Roman Princeps as Host and Guest,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Paulus Lecture Hall at Willamette University's College of Law

Dalby’s lecture ­— which also serves as the keynote address for the 41st annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Pacific Northwest — will demonstrate that Roman feasts were not merely a necessity or a pleasure, but a forum for political maneuvering.

“Would-be politicians apply the same skills that ancient rulers did,” Dalby says. “The better they do it, the easier their road to success."

Dalby has a Ph. D. in ancient history from Birkbeck College, London. He has published 18 books, including, “Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece,” “Empire of Pleasures: Luxury and Indulgence in the Roman World” and “Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices.”

The annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Pacific Northwest (CAPN) runs from March 9-10 on the Willamette University campus. Classical civilizations scholars from 20 universities will be in attendance.

The keynote address is co-sponsored by Willamette’s Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology, CAPN and the Salem Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.