How did people eat in ancient Rome? Roman silverware and dishes

Home » How did people eat in ancient Rome? Roman silverware and dishes
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Spoons made out of bone from ancient Rome

Spoons made out of bronze and animal bone from ancient Rome

Most people in ancient Rome ate most of their food with spoons. A lot of it was soups and porridge. The spoons in this picture are made of bronze and bone. But a lot of Roman spoons were made of wood.

Fancy rich people also used silver spoons, and forks like this bronze one. (It’s a myth that forks were not invented until much later, but Roman forks may have been mainly used for serving and cooking):

Roman silverware: two spoons and a fork

Roman silverware made from real silver and bronze (from St. Germain en Laye, France)

The main reason that Roman people didn’t use forks for eating their food was that they had no practical way to make a lot of forks. The fork in the picture is made of bronze. But bronze was too expensive, and not really strong enough, to make good forks for everyone to use. Wooden forks and bone forks would just snap off their tines as soon as you tried to use them. The Romans could make iron forks, but they would also break easily. They could make good forks out of silver, but silver was really too expensive for every day.

What you really want to use for forks is steel. That’s what our forks are made of today. The Romans could get steel. But they didn’t have any way to make steel cheaply. In the time of the Roman Empire, steel was an expensive thing that you used for swords, or for small things like sewing needles. There just wasn’t enough steel to make forks.

Drinking glasses from ancient Rome

Drinking glasses from ancient Rome

In the time of the Roman Republic, most people drank their wine or beer or water out of pottery mugs or wooden cups. After the Phoenicians invented glass-blowing about 50 AD, most people switched to glass cups. Only the very poorest people still used clay mugs or wooden cups.

Learn by doing: try to carve your own wooden spoon

Roman Dining Rooms
Roman Kitchens
Or Roman Restaurants

Bibliography and further reading about Roman silverware and dishes:

Ancient Roman Homes, by Brian Williams (2002). Easy reading.

A Roman Villa: Inside Story, by Jacqueline Morley (American edition 1992). For kids, with lots of pictures.

Ancient Rome (Eyewitness Books), by Simon James (2004). Also for kids, with lots of great photographs.

The Roman Banquet : Images of Conviviality, by Katherine Dunbabin (2004). By a specialist, for interested adults. What Roman dinner parties were like, and how they were different from Greek ones.

Around the Table of the Romans: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome, by Patrick Faas (2002).

Roman Food
Roman Houses
And Roman Bedrooms

Ancient Rome home

By |2018-04-25T09:06:28+00:00August 31st, 2017|Food, Romans, Science|7 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. How did people eat in ancient Rome? Roman silverware and dishes. Study Guides, August 31, 2017. Web. January 24, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. 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 Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. Herb Wills December 31, 2018 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    I came here after watching Maximus and his pals in “Gladiator” eating with what looked like metal spoons. I was all but certain that in ancient times any sort of metal was expensive enough that slaves destined for gladiatorial combat wouldn’t have rated metallic tableware

    • Karen Carr January 12, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      Well, I would think it’s more likely they used wooden spoons or bone spoons, yes. But some gladiators were big stars, super popular, and lived luxuriously. So it’s hard to say.

  2. katkittens May 9, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply


    • Karen Carr May 9, 2018 at 6:10 pm


  3. katkittens May 9, 2018 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    hey kar… i has a question… plz.. it wont let my comment more than 1 time on the comment part… when ever i try to comment it wont let me!!!!! also i has a history question

  4. katkittens May 9, 2018 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    kar plz i has a question help

  5. katkittens May 9, 2018 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    kar i has a question

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.