When the patron had clientes and
guests to dine, supper became a convivium, or
banquet, and took on a greater level of formality, just
as today's business and politicial leaders entertain clients
for a variety of business reasons.
Clients might not get a square
meal but for the benificence of their patronus, and if he was
not invited to partake of a particular feast was probably
offered a basket of goodies, or sportulae, to carry
home. Other dinner guests included artists, writers and poets,
aspiring politicians and the ever-present social climbers.
A prescribed number of courses were the rule: the convivium
opened with a certain number of appetizers (the
gustum, gustatio or promulsis),
followed by the main courses (mensa prima or
caput cenae) and last a dessert, the mensa
secunda, which usually was a sweet or fruit dish.
Sources: A Taste of Ancient Rome
, by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa