Some literary sources on the “nundinal days”

Yesterday I talked about the “nundinal days”, the “8-day week” that the Romans used for market day, in addition to the lunar 7-day week.  I thought that some primary sources might be useful here.  This site lists quite a few, and Lacus Curtius has a good article here.  So let’s look at this.

The Saturnalia of Macrobius is not accessible to me in English, but I understand that book 1, chapters 6, 13 and 16 are all of interest.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, book 2, ch. 28:

In time of peace he [Romulus] accustomed them to remain at their tasks in the country, except when it was necessary for them to come to market, upon which occasions they were to meet in the city in order to traffic, and to that end he appointed every ninth day for the markets; …

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, book 7, ch. 58:

The Romans had markets then, as now, every eighth day, upon which days the plebeians resorted to the city from the country and exchanged their produce for the goods they bought, settled their grievances in court, and ratified by their votes such matters of public business as either et laws assigned or the senate referred to them for decision; and as the greater part of them were small farmers and poor, they passed in the country the seven days intervening between the markets.

The next item referenced looks like a lexicon: and it turns out that “Festus” is indeed just that, an imperial-era dictionary, De verborum significatu, by Sextus Pompeius Festus, transmitted by a single damaged manuscript and supplemented by extracts made at the end of the 8th century by Paul the Deacon.   There is, remarkably, a Festus Lexicon Project, from which I borrow these details, although it has not been updated since 2009.  There are various editions, some online.[1] A French translation exists[2], facing the Latin text. 

Pompeius Festus, De verborum significatu, “Nundinalem Cocum”; “Nundinas” (p.295 and 296 of vol. 1 of Savagner’s text and translation, p.317 and 318 of the PDF above):

NUNDINAS feriarum diem esse voluerunt, quo mercandi gratia Urbem rustici convenirent.

NUNDINAE: They wanted the day to be a holiday, so that country-folk might gather at the City for trade.

NUNDINALEM COCUM: Plautus dixit in Aulularia: “Cocus ille nundinale est, in nonum diem solet ire coctum;” hic ab alis novendialis appellatur et cocum viliorem significat, quem tenuiores educebant, ut in nonum diem coqueret.

NUNDINALIS COCUS [i.e. The market-day cook]: Plautus said in the Pot of Gold, “He is a holiday coook, accustomed to cook on the ninth day;” this is called by others “novendialis” [i.e. ninth-day cook], and they give this term the meaning of a poor-quality cook, whom the nobodies give praise to in order that he will cook on the ninth day. 

That’s all that I shall look at tonight, but so far so good!

  1. [1]E.g. C.O. Mueller, Sexti Pompei Festi De uerborum significatione quae supersunt cum Pauli Epitome, 1839, online here.
  2. [2]A. Savagner, Sextus Pompeius Festus, De la Signification des mots, Paris, 2 vols., 1846.  How reliable this is I do not know.  Online: Vol. 1, Vol.2.

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