Ancient Roman Food- Ancient Rome - what kind of food did people eat in ancient Rome?
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Roman Food

April 2017 - Although the first people who came to the Mediterranean were probably following along the coast, and ate mainly fish, shellfish, seaweed, and wild figs, by the time the Roman Republic got started, there were far too many people in the Mediterranean to be able to live entirely from the ocean, and although people kept on eating a lot of fish and seafood, most people had to also eat farmed foods. So most people in the Roman Empire lived mainly on the usual foods of people living around the Mediterranean Sea - barley, wheat, and millet, olive oil, and wine, which we call the Mediterranean Triad. In addition to being full of carbohydrates, these foods provided fat (the olive oil) and protein (the barley and millet). Poor people ate more millet, and rich people ate more wheat. Starting around 100 AD, poor people started to eat oats, too.

painting of figs in a basket
A basket of figs (Pompeii)

If you were rich, you could also eat beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and fish, dormice, and snails. If you were poor, you ate mostly just the Mediterranean Triad, with vegetables like lentils and cucumbers, onions, garlic, and lettuce, fruit like apples and figs, nuts, and sometimes cheese and eggs.

People also ate different food depending on where they lived in the big Roman Empire. In Egypt and West Asia, most people didn't eat pork. In northern Europe, some people drank beer instead of wine, and got their fat from butter instead of olive oil.

Rich people's food (with recipes)
Poor people's food around the Mediterranean
in Northern Europe and England
in Egypt
in West Asia
A rich Roman's dining room (triclinium)

Learn by doing: cook a Roman meal

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Roman food:

Here's a good webquest about Roman food, if you're interested.

Rich people's food in ancient Rome
Poor people's food in ancient Rome
African Food
German Food
Ancient Greek Food
More about Ancient Rome
Quatr.us home

Cook and eat some Roman food:

Make your own wine like the ancient Romans with this wine-making kit

Or try making Roman bread with barley flour

Try dipping vegetables and barley bread in olive oil, or use olive oil to light a lamp


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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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