AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
The solution to the problem posed by the presentation of the giant turbot to Domitian is put forward by Montanus, a gourmet well qualified to adjudicate in such matters: one bite was sufficient for him to distinguish between oysters from Circeii, the Lucrine, or Richborough (Juv. 4.140-2). The text reads:
... Circeis nata forent an Lucrinum ad saxum Rutupinoue edita fundo ostrea callebat primo deprendere morsu.
Oysters from Circeii, the promontory north of Formiae on the Campanian coast, are mentioned by Horace (Sat. 2.4.33) and by the elder Pliny (N.H. 32.60, 62), who also remarks on oysters from Britain (N.H. 9.169, 32.62; cf. Tac. Agr. 12.6).(1) But their most famous provenance, remarkable (perhaps) because it was not a strictly maritime location, was the Lucrine Lake. In Pliny's time young oysters were even imported from Brundisium to mature in the Lucrine, thereby acquiring a subtle blend of flavours (Plin. N.H. 9.169; cf. 32.61). So famous were the Lucrine oyster-beds that their produce could be designated simply by an adjective identifying their provenance: cf. Mart. 6.11.5 'tu Lucrina uoras, me pascit aquosa peloris', 12.48.4.(2)
Hence oysters from the Lucrine are precisely the right test for Montanus' palate. Yet saxum is an odd way to designate the lake. Discomfort is registered by Ferguson, who remarks that the Lucrine is nowhere else associated with rock(s).(3) The lake is not known to have contained a rock in Antiquity, either protruding or submerged,(4) nor could the phrase Lucrinum ad saxum refer to its surroundings, since it does not occupy the rocky eminence which would be required to make saxum a readily intelligible reference to its setting; indeed, it was separated from the sea not by a rock-face but by a dyke of sand-dunes known as the via Herculanea.(5) Arguably Juvenal might have referred to this dyke as saxum if he did not know that it was composed of sand, or - a more likely circumstance - a scribe might have substituted saxum for another word designating the …