Online Introduction

The Inns of Greece and Rome

This book, The Inns of Greece Greece & Rome, and a history of Hospitality from the Dawn of Time to the Middle Ages, by W. C. Firebaugh, is a subgenre of history. It collects the material from the extant collection of classical texts on, as titled, the inns and taverns, their patrons and proprietors, their wines and food, as well as the other products and professions affiliated with them, as they have been reported by their devotees and detractors in ancient times.

when I asked Bill Thayer about a reference in it to a couple of obscure historical names mentioned as being in one of Plutarch’s works, he discovered that Firebaugh had plagiarized that paragraph from a French text on the history of hotels and the hospitality industry called Histoire des hotelleries et cabarets, courtilles, et des anciennes communautés et confréries d’hoteliers, de taverniers, de marchandes de vins, etc. by Francisque-Michel and Édouard de Fournier, 2 Volumes, Paris: Adolphe Delahays, 1859.

It also turns out that the obscure two names that were cited by Michel as being from Plutarch, Secaldus and Orée, were false, not occurring in Plutarch at all (or anywhere else), and Firebaugh didn’t bother to check out the reference and catch his error either. Of course, if these names had not been false and mentioned solely by Michel, and translated exactly as he spelled them, French-style, by Firebaugh, we might never have discovered the iniquity of Firebaugh.

Then after a closer look at the French text, it seems that most of this book is an English translation of the text by Michel and Fournier. Now, since the subject has not been addressed in this language before, Firebaugh did a good deed by translating it. However, he must be blamed for not crediting the source. Very little (either of the ideas, conclusions, or the research) in this book was conceived by Firebaugh himself.

Not content with plagiarizing from Michel, he plagiarized English translations of multiple classical texts as well, from Erham, and G. G. Andrews, and the anonymous translator of Gaston Maspéro’s work, to name just those in the first chapter. Nor does he credit C. D. Yonge as the “English translator”, thus referred to, of all the quotes he takes from Athenaeus throughout the book.

Firebaugh does seem to have done some original translations of some of the Latin texts he cites, as far as I can tell at the moment. This may change when more texts are transcribed and available on the internet.

It is safe to say that this is a translation of Michel’s work, almost completely. The parts that are uniquely Firebaugh’s are small, and I haven’t compared the two books completely to spot the original bits. There is a great deal of Michel’s work that was not translated and included in his version, so it is an abridgement on top of everything else. How important the missed bits are, or how interesting or how accurate Michel was, I do not know. Spotting the original source and some of the victims of Firebaugh’s plagiarism is public service enough at this point. So I thank Bill Thayer for keeping me from rhapsodizing about Firebaugh’s contribution to arcane classical knowledge and discovering Firebaugh’s skankiness.

Because it is an abridgement, Firebaugh repeats material within a few pages that was probably widely separated and appropriately restated by Michel in his work. Before I knew he was stealing and excerpting, I just thought that Firebaugh had had a few too many glasses of something as he indulged in his literary flights of ideas and words with the proper ‘spirit,’ and that his proofreaders were no less sober and careful.

What is more appalling still: Firebaugh’s plagiarized English text is cited by multiple ‘real’ scholars, none of whom have bothered to check any of his sources, and so his deceptive work has gone undetected until my serendipitous e-mail to Bill Thayer. Just as “good wine needs no bush,” shoddy research knows no limits, by either popular or ivory tower historical types.

Since Firebaugh’s ethics are so questionable, I am now wondering about the legality of the use of the pictures too. Norman Lindsay was a prolific Australian artist and author. He illustrated a rare earlier work on Petronius’ Satyricon a decade earlier, and I wonder if the pictures in this book are from that one, and used without his permission back then.

I have not traced all the original sources of the material used here — I need something to do later, when I am sick of typing, and will add to it then. Plus you can search as well as I can, if you are really interested.

Anyway, the material is interesting, often funny, and some of the translations are far more interesting than the usual translations of classical poetry, whoever did the work, and there is also no other English translation of Michel’s work, so enjoy this book for those reasons.

Get started with the Introduction, by Wallace Rice, an American writer who wrote some funny poetry: two examples are on this site as the online notes to that page will tell you.

This is a good book, bad habits and bad boys and girls from any age are always entertaining reading.