Trimalchio is a character in the 1st century AD Roman work of fiction Satyricon by Petronius. He plays a part only in the section titled "Cena Trimalchionis" (The Banquet of Trimalchio, often translated as "Dinner With Trimalchio"). Trimalchio is an arrogant former slave, who has become quite wealthy by tactics that most would find distasteful. The name "Trimalchio" is formed from the Greek prefix τρις and the Semitic מלך (melech) in its occidental form Malchio or Malchus.[1] The fundamental meaning of the root is "King", and the name "Trimalchio" would thus mean "Thrice King", "greatest King".[1]

The term "Trimalchio" has become shorthand for the worst excesses of the nouveau riche. (See below under F. Scott Fitzgerald).

His full name is "Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatianus"; the references to Pompey and Maecenas in his name serve to enhance his ostentatious character. His wife's name is Fortunata, a former slave and chorus girl. 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, live birds inside fake eggs which the guests have to "collect" themselves, and a dish to represent every sign of the zodiac.

The Satyricon has a lengthy description of Trimalchio's proposed tomb (71–72), which is ostentatious, and lavish.[2] This tomb is to be designed by a well-known tomb-builder called Habinnas, who is among the revellers present at Trimalchio's feast. He seeks 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.

Cultural references to Trimalchio


  1. 1 2 Bagnani, Gilbert (1954). "Trimalchio". Phoenix. 8 (3): 77–91. doi:10.2307/1086404.
  2. Arrowsmith, William (1966). "Luxury and Death in the Satyricon". Arion. 5 (3): 304–331. ISSN 0095-5809. JSTOR 20163030.
  3. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, by Albert Pike; Charleston, [1871]


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