...and I still don't have a suitable sight-reading passage to put on the exam I'm giving on Friday.
I have, however, been reading Valerius Maximus's "Memorable Deeds and Sayings," book two of which is a lot of random anecdotes about the way things were in back in the good old days (ValMax* is Tiberian), including things about how Back In the Good Old Days women weren't allowed to drink wine, and always sat at banquets instead of reclining. People don't usually give Valerius credit for a facultas snarkendi**, but I'm pretty sure that we need to give him snark points for things like "our era preserves this kind of strictness more carefully in the temples of the Capitoline [where Jove gets a ritual couch but Juno and Minerva get ritual chairs] than in our own homes; doubtless because it is more important to control the behavior of goddesses than mortal women."***
There's also a long section about how it used to be that What Happened in the Senate house Stayed in the Senate house," and it was all serious business.
Then there's this one:
2.2.2 How strenuously the ancient magistrates acted to preserve their own majesty and that of the Roman people can be see from this: that among other means of maintaining their dignity, they were especially careful that they would never speak to the Greeks expect in Latin. In fact, they even forced them to shake off their fluency -- which is their greatest strength -- and speak through interpreters, not only in our city, but even in Greece and Asia, so that the glory of the Latin language would spread with even more reverence among all the peoples of the world. They did not lack interest in learning, but they judged that there was no instance in which the pallium should not be made subject to the toga, thinking it improper that the weight and authority of empire be endowed with the enticements and literary elegance.
Way to be jerks about everything, Romans!
Then there is this one, one of my favorite Romans Doing Their Thing anecdotes:
2.2.4 [Fabius Maximus] was sent to Suessa as a legate to his son, who was then consul. Arriving, he noticed that he had come out of the city walls to meet him, and, offended that out of his son's eleven lictors none had ordered him to get down from his horse, he remained sitting, full of rage. When his son realized what was going on, he ordered his nearest lictor to get on with his duty [and command the legate to show respect to the consul and dismount]. As soon as he heard the order, Fabius said, "I was not being disrespectful of your authority, son, but I wanted to see if you knew how to act like a consul. I know what respect is due to a father, but I judge that public institutions are more powerful than filial piety."
*I do not originate this portmanteau. I think it would be more to the point if we also portmanteaued "Valerius Flaccus" into ValFlax"
**It's an objective genitive of the gerund. You're welcome.
***The definitive modern study on issues of dining posture and proper social relations is Matthew Roller's Dining Posture in Ancient Rome: Bodies, Values, and Status
(Princeton, 2006), which is really awesome and breaks down the implicit clearly-defined dining roles implied by anecdotes like this one.