C. Sergius Orata was famous for the oysters that he raised on the Lucrine lake, where he also bought and renovated villas, reselling them at a profit. His oysters changed the market for gourmet seafood by creating a new standard in taste around 100 b.c., and he grew rich enough from this trade to enjoy the luxuries that he purveyed. He was a path-breaking entrepreneur in luxury goods, ‘the first Campanian speculator to cater to the leisure of the great grandees’, as D'Arms described him. Instructive as this interpretation is, it does not address the way Orata is presented in the sources. While the ‘facts’ may be reliable enough to establish a biographical sketch, their presentation has another story to tell because Orata is known from rhetorically coloured portraits that reveal less about him as an individual than about elite identity generally. Fish and fishponds were a favourite target of Roman moralizers concerned with elite behaviour and attitudes. Oysters in particular have a long history as a signal luxury. Orata is a prime example in this tradition, and his name became nearly a trope: ‘Orata’, as I will write when I mean this reputation and not the man himself. A cognomen was a sign of family identity, but it also could be used as an indicator of character. Although Kajanto rejects this interpretation of Orata's name because of its association with fish, it is the very association with fish that made his name powerful as a literary example, whether or not it reflects anything about his actual personality. No more can be said about the Orata family reputation because he is the only man with this cognomen in our sources. For Roman moralizers, ‘Orata’ represented the contested relationship between wealth, commerce and status, because his oyster ponds were both a symbolic luxury and a commercial success.