Otium: A Roman Poetry Teatime - Poetry Teatime
Otium: A Roman Poetry Teatime

Otium: A Roman Poetry Teatime

Guest post by Daniela Cima Usher

Let’s share some Roman Poetry Teatime together!

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Two thousand years ago, the Roman city of Pompeii was a thriving coastal town full of life, magnificent villas and amazing art rising in the shadow of a sleeping volcano.

One fateful day in 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius woke up, and Pompeii’s art, temples, markets, theater and even quite a few uneaten meals were frozen, or rather seared, in time. The beautiful city and those reluctant to leave their homes and possessions behind were buried under an avalanche of pumice and ash and would remain hidden for almost 17 centuries.

As Pompeii’s ruins attest today, the Romans left behind an incredible legacy of architecture, road construction, water management, art, cuisine, and countless other treasures. But beneath the ashes in Pompeii and, more so, with the fall of the Roman Empire, we also lost a wealth of knowledge and wisdom including their insightful notion of how to spend free time.


The Romans believed the ideal and fulfilled life had two main components: otium and negotium.

Negotium was life in the public eye. It was business. It was politics. It was public relations. From this Latin word and concept, we get today’s Italian word for store - “negozio”. And we get the English word negotiation. Negotium was the time a person spent engaged with other members of society and outside of themselves. Among many other things, today’s social media proves we very clearly remember how to live Roman negotium!

Otium, on the other hand, was a person’s private time. It was a time for leisure and relaxation. But otium was not to be lazily spent disengaged from life or even engaged in some form of recreational activity. It was their time for reflection, study and contemplating the philosophical ideas of the day. Otium was when the Romans would have enjoyed reading, literature and… poetry.

Even though the Romans didn’t have tea, they would have completely understood the need for and the pleasure to be found in Poetry Teatime! For them, Poetry Teatime would have been an ideal form of otium!

Sadly, the socially admirable space that otium created for our leisure time with literature died with the excesses of the late Roman Empire. But today, I invite you to bring this beautiful concept back to life and enjoy a few moments of Roman otium with your kids.

Have a Roman Poetry Teatime!

Join me here for a naturally sweet treat adapted from some favorite Roman ingredients and a refreshing Roman “soda” that’s just perfect for the summer! Feel free to choose your own literature to go with these delicacies, but I think they pair quite nicely with the story of Remus and Romulus, the mythical founding brothers of Rome. As you can see in the free ten minute video, you could even blend a little historical costume and a triclinium into the experience!

Roman Poetry Teatime

If you liked this story and the Roman Poetry Teatime, you and your kids would also enjoy my program, A Taste of Italy, this summer! In addition to Poetry Teatimes with period specific treats, drinks and literature, I’ve prepared a hands-on artistic and culinary journey through 2,000 years of Italian history for you.

A Taste of Italy is perfect for families studying the Romans, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance or modern Europe or those who might be planning a physical trip to Italy one day. Beginning July 1st, you can discover real life from each of these historical periods and have a fun experience of my native Italy right in your very own home!


Daniela Cima Usher is an Italian mother of two living in San Diego. She is the founder of an
art restoration school in Italy and created www.arkevita.com, a resource for parents who wish to provide mindful, personalized and holistic learning experiences for their children.

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