Pliny the Younger was born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo. He lived from 61 to 113 AD. Pliny was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him.

Pliny the Younger wrote hundreds of letters, of which 247 survive and are of great historical value. I wanted to share one of those today, even though it's a Roman piece of writing. Based on what we know of ancient Hellenic food habits, what follows could very well be accurate for Hellenic times as well, which is why I enjoy finding (or rediscovering) passages like this.

This letter is directed at a man called Septimius Clarus, who was supposed to show up for dinner but didn't. What follows is a summation of everything that was served during and organized for the banquette.

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me.

You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”