the posture of reclining (ἀνάκειμαι, ἀνακλίνω, "sit at meat," "sit down") on couches at table, which prevailed among the Jews in and before the time of Christ; a custom apparently derived from Persian luxury, but usual among the Romans likewise. The dinner-bed, or triclinium, stood in the middle of the dining-room (itself hence called "triclinium" also), clear of the walls, and formed three sides of a square which enclosed the table. The open end of the square, with the central hollow, allowed the servants to attend and serve the table. In all the existing representations of the dinner-bed it is shown to have been higher than the enclosed table. Among the Romans the usual number of guests on each couch was three, making nine for the three couches — equal to the number of the Muses; but sometimes there were four to each couch. The Greeks went beyond this number (Cic. In Pis. 27); the Jews appear to have had no particular fancy in the matter, and we know that at our Lord's last supper thirteen persons were present. As each guest leaned, during the greater part of the entertainment, on his left elbow, so as to leave the right arm at liberty, and as two or more lay on the same couch, the head of one man was near the breast of the man who lay behind him, and he was, therefore, said "to lie in the bosom" of the other. This phrase was in use among the Jews (Lu 16:22-23; Joh 1:18; Joh 13:23), and occurs in such a manner as to show that to lie next below, or "in the bosom" of the master of the feast, was considered the most favored place; and is shown by the citations of Kypke and Wetstein (on Joh 13:23) to have been usually assigned to near and dear connections. So it was "the disciple whom Jesus loved" who "reclined upon his breast" at the last supper. SEE LORD'S SUPPER. Lightfoot and others suppose that as, on that occasion, John lay next below Christ, so Peter, who was also highly favored, lay next above him. This conclusion is founded chiefly on the fact of Peter beckoning to John that he should ask Jesus who was the traitor. But this seems rather to prove the contrary — that Peter was not near enough to speak to Jesus himself. If he had been there, Christ must have lain near his bosom, and he would have been in the best position for whispering to his master, and in the worst for beckoning to John. The circumstance that Christ was able to reach the sop to Judas when he had dipped it, seems to us rather to intimate that he was the one who filled that place. The morsel of favor was likely to be given to one in a favored place; and Judas, the treasurer and almoner of the whole party, might be expected to fill that place. This also aggravates by contrast the turpitude and treachery of his conduct. SEE BANQUET. The frame of the dinner-bed was laid with mattresses variously stuffed, and, latterly, was furnished with rich coverings and hangings. Each person was usually provided with a cushion or bolster on which to support the upper part of his person in a somewhat raised position, as the left arm alone could not long without weariness sustain the weight. The lower part of the body being extended diagonally on the bed, with the feet outward, it is at once perceived how easy it was for "the woman that was a sinner" to come behind between the dinner-bed and the wall and anoint the feet of Jesus (Mt 26:7; Mr 14:3). The dinner-beds were so various at different times, in different places, and under different circumstances, that no one description can apply to them all (see Critica Biblica, 2, 481). Even among the Romans they were at first (after the Punic war) of rude form and materials, and covered with mattresses stuffed with rushes or straw; mattresses of hair and wool were introduced at a later period. At first the wooden frames were small, low, and round; and it was not until the time of Augustus that square and ornamental couches came into fashion. In the time of Tiberius the most splendid sort were veneered with costly woods or tortoise-shell, and were covered with valuable embroideries, the richest of which came from Babylon, and cost large sums (Soc. Useful Knowl. Pompeii, 2, 88). The Jews perhaps had all these varieties, though it is not likely that the usage was ever carried to such a pitch of luxury as among the Romans; and it is probable that the mass of the people fed in the ancient manner seated on stools or on the ground. It appears that couches were often so low that the feet rested on the ground; and that cushions or bolsters were in general use. It would also seem, from the mention of two and of three couches, that the arrangement was more usually square than semicircular or round (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in Joh 13:23). SEE DIVAN.
It is utterly improbable that the Jews derived this custom from the Romans, as is constantly alleged. They certainly knew it as existing among the Persians long before it had been adopted by the Romans themselves (Es 1:6; Es 7:8); and the presumption is that they adopted it while subject to that people. The Greeks also had the usage (from the Persians) before the Romans; and with the Greeks of Syria the Jews had very much intercourse. Besides, the Romans adopted the custom from the Carthaginians (Val. Max. 12, 1, 2; Liv. 28, 28); and that they had it, implies that it previously existed in Phoenicia, in the neighborhood of the Jews. It is also unlikely that, in so short a time, it should have become usual and even (as the Talmud asserts, see Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 447) obligatory to eat the Passover in that posture of indulgent repose, and in no other (Gizring, Accubit. ad Pasch. Vit. 1735). The literature of this subject has been brought together by Stuckius (Antiq. Convivalium, 2, 34); and the works on Pompeii and Herculaneum (see Cockburn's Pompeii Illustrated, 2, 5) supply the more recent information. (See Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Coena, Deipnon, Triclinium.) SEE EATING.