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Ancient Roman Meals

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

Ancient Roman Meals - The Food
The food of the earliest Romans was of the simplest kind. At first these Romans rarely indulged in meat, and wine was almost wholly unknown! They were so averse were they to luxury, that epicures were expelled from among them. However, all of this changed when riches were introduced by the extension of conquest. In all walks of life the Romans assimilated the manners and customs of the people they came in contact with.

The customs were particularly affected by the influence of Greek culture however, many new culinary habits and cooking techniques from the provinces. The manners of the ancient Romans were therefore changed, and the pleasures of the table and the importance of meals, became the chief object of attention.

Ancient Roman Meals - The Customs at Meals
Whilst at meals, the Romans reclined on sumptuous couches of a semicircular form, around a table which was of the same shape. This meal time custom was introduced from the nations of the east, and was at first adopted only by the men, but afterwards allowed also to the women. For the poor, or informal meals, food was eaten from normal tables and chairs. The food would be eaten from plates with the fingertips and two kinds of spoons, the ligula and the smaller cochlear. After each course of the meal the fingers were washed again and napkins (mappae) used to wipe the mouth. Everything that could not be eaten such as shells, bones and fruit stones were thrown onto the floor where it was swept away by slaves. The clothing worn at ancient Roman meals differed from that in use on other occasions, and consisted merely of a loose robe of a slight texture which was generally white.

Ancient Roman Meals - The Prandium, Lunch
The first meal of the day was what they called the Prandium, or lunch. The usual time for their lunch was late morning / early afternoon. The Prandium, or lunch, consisted of items left over from the main meal from the day before and occasionally included fish and fresh fruit.

Ancient Roman Meals - The Ientaculum, Breakfast
The first meal of the day was what they called ientaculum or breakfast. The usual time for their breakfast was early in the morning. The ientaculum, or breakfast, consisted of a buffet of flat, round loaves seasoned with salt were eaten. Rich ancient Romans, the Patricians would also have eggs, cheese, honey, milk and fruit included in these early meals

Ancient Roman Meals - The Coena, the Main Meal
Their principal meal of the day was what they called coena or the main meal of the day. The usual time for their midday meal was the ninth hour, or about three o'clock in the afternoon. This meal could last until late in the night, especially if guests were invited. It was customary to serve drinks following the meals.

Ancient Roman Meals - Religious Observances
Various religious observances were adhered to at Roman meals. Small figures of Mercury, Hercules and the penates, were placed upon the table, of which they were deemed the presiding genii; and a small quantity of wine was poured upon the board, at the start and end of the feast, as a libation (portion of drink or food given to a deity) in honor of them, accompanied by a prayer.

Ancient Roman Meals - Travellers
As the Roman people did not have proper inns for the accommodation of travellers, the Romans, when they were in foreign countries, or at a distance from home, used to lodge at the houses of certain persons whom they in return entertained at their houses in Rome. This was esteemed a very intimate connexion, and was called hospitium, or jus hospitii: hence hospes is put both for a host and a guest.

Roman Food
Ancient Roman Recipes
Roman Colosseum
Roman Life

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