Category Archives: Food & Drink

Ancient Roman Food – Feeding Soldiers, Gladiators, Plebs and Priests!

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

When most people think of food from Ancient Rome there is a high likelihood that pasta comes to mind, and that makes sense since Italy produces the largest volume of pasta annually in the world (the USA is #2). The point is, however, that pasta as we know it today wasn’t around in Ancient Rome and really wasn’t in Italy until around 1154 AD.

Having said that, today we take a light-hearted look at some of the food of Ancient Rome (be certain to take it with a pinch of salt, and a gallon of garum)!

A table showing some of the common foods eaten by everyday Romans.

Whether you are a Legionnaire, Gladiator, Pleb or Priest, we’ve got something for you to enjoy.

We hope you enjoyed today’s visual exploration. Maybe you might even have been inspired to try to eat like a Roman (maybe not so much the garum though).

In any event…till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Bucellatum: Roman Army Hardtack

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

When it comes to eating in Ancient Rome, it was pretty much feast or famine. It really came down to what social class you belonged to for the types of food, and how much food, you had available.

Now if you were in the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) things were a tad different. You didn’t really have a choice of what to eat since you were supplied food in the form of rations.

So today, we’re bringing you a  staple of a Legionarius (Roman Legionary) ration as we share with you Bucellatum: Roman Army Hardtack!

Roman Soldiers reenacting a campaign, which included rations that could be preserved for a long time.

Bucellatum was the precursor to hardtack, which is a simple type of biscuit or cracker, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting, it was and is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages, land migrations, and military campaigns.

Some early physicians associated most medical problems with digestion. Hence, for sustenance and health, eating a biscuit daily was considered good for one’s constitution.

Because it is so hard and dry, hardtack (when properly stored and transported) would survive rough handling and temperature extremes for years if kept dry. To soften hard tack (and make it edible), it was often dunked in wine, brine, coffee, or some other liquid, or cooked into a skillet meal.

We hope you enjoyed today’s outing. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to attempt to make some for Bucellatum yourself.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


“Bucellatum – Roman Army Hardtack”. Pass the Garum, 25 October 2014.

Posca: A Popular Drink of the Ancients

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you have not checked us out before, then you should know a few things before we get started. We LOVE Ancient Rome and we LOVE all that was encompassed there (locations, people, history, food & drink, etc).

We that in mind, we are taking a drinking expedition to quench our collective palates on Posca, the wine of the people!

Soldiers and Peasants the focus group of Posca.

Posca was a popular drink among the Roman soldiers and citizen poor. Popular in Ancient Rome and Greece, Posca was usually made by watering down low quality wine (or even vinegar) and then adding flavoring herbs & spices to make it taste better.

Having originated in Greece as a medicinal mixture, it quickly became an everyday drink for the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) and the lower classes from around the 2nd Century BC. It was so popular that Posca‘s usage continued throughout Roman History, and even into the Byzantine period.

The word Posca is derived from either the Latin potor (to drink) or from the Greek epoxos (very sharp). It was an unfamiliar beverage in the largely Greek-speaking eastern Mediterranean region, where sweet wines were preferred.

A Byzantine campaign in the Balkans (594 AD).

As the Greeks lacked a word for Posca, sources written in Greek, such as Plutarch and the Gospels, use the word oxos (vinegar) in its place (translated as acetum in the Vulgate Bible). The word eventually migrated into Greek from about the 6th Century AD onwards, as the Byzantine Army continued the Roman tradition of drinking what they termed phouska.

It was not usually drunk by the upper classes (Patricius, Plebis, Senatorial rank, Equites, Nobiles) since it was associated with the peasants. It was made by reusing wine spoiled by faulty storage.

Roman Soldiers drinking

Posca was increasingly heavily used by the Roman Army during the Republican period when it became a standard beverage for soldiers. The drinking of quality wine was considered a sign of indiscipline, to the point that some Generals banned imported vintage wine altogether.

Appian records both Posca and wine as being among the provisions of the Army of Lucullus in his Spanish campaign of 153 BC. It had evidently become part of the customary rations by the 1st Century AD.

The Legio Romanus (Roman Legions) used to receive a lot of vinegar in rations, which they would then add to water in order to turn it into drinkable Posca. The Roman Legions were known to carry huge barrels of Posca during their military campaigns.

High ranking Roman Generals would also drink it together with troops to show their allegiance to the Legion. Even the great Emperor Hadrian always drank Posca when in campaigns, to show his men he was one of them.

The Roman Soldier pushes a sponge with Posca up to Jesus.

The Christian Gospels describe Roman Soldiers offering Jesus sour wine on a sponge during the Crucifixion. The Historia Augusta records that by Hadrian’s time sour wine was a standard part of the normal cibus castrensis (camp fare).

According to Plutarch, Cato the Elder was particularly noted for liking PoscaGirolamo Cardano, in his Encomium Neronis (1562), attributed the superiority of the Roman Armies to only 3 factors: the great quantities of levies; their sturdiness and ability to carry heavy weights due to training; and good foods such as salted pork, cheese and the use of Posca as a drink.

Since water sanitation in those times was quite sub-standard, and normal drinking water was usually contaminated, this only added to Posca’s popularity. The acidity of Posca killed most of the germs and kept the drink from early stagnation.

It also had important dietary advantages to water, aside from not being full of germs and bacteria. As well as being a source of liquid, it provided calories and was an antiscorbutic, helping to prevent scurvy by providing vitamin C.

Ingredients for Posca

No recipes for Posca are known to have survived. An approximate recreation of the beverage can be made by combining 1½ cups of vinegar with ½ cup of honey, 1 tablespoon of crushed coriander seed, and 4 cups of water.

The mixture should be boiled in a saucepan to dissolve the honey before being allowed to cool to room temperature. After straining out the coriander seeds, it can be served.

Hopefully you enjoyed today’s journey. Maybe you’ll even try to make (and possibly enjoy) yourself some Posca.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Cardano, Girolamo. Nero, An Exemplary Life (translated by Angelo Paratico). Inkstone Books, 2012. ISBN 978-988-99939-6-2.

Dalby, Andrew. “Posca”. Food in the Ancient World from A to Z. Routledge, 2003. ISBN 0-415-23259-7.

Kaufman, Cathy K. Cooking in Ancient Civilizations. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. ISBN 0-313-33204-5.

Nealon T. De Condimentis: Drunken Vinegar.

Roth, Jonathan. The Logistics of the Roman Army at War (264 B.C.-A.D. 235). BRILL, 1999. ISBN 90-04-11271-5.

Showalter, Dennis E. Soldiers’ Lives Through History. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. ISBN 0-313-33348-3.

“Top 10 Ancient Roman Foods and Drinks”. Ancient History List.

“The Roman posca or the drink of the plebeians” (Recipe). Romae Vitam.

Rick Steves’ European Christmas

Class Aptent taciti! Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noël! Feliz Natal! Frohe Weihnachten! Vesela Koleda! Vrolijk Kerstfeest! Nollaig Shona! Buon Natale! Merry Christmas and welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s officially the holiday season and we are going to celebrate. We all know about Christmas and all the accompaniments (including Christmas treeschurch services, Christmas lightsnativity scenes, an Advent calendar, garlandswreathsmistletoe and holly).

There are also the closely figures of Santa ClausFather Christmas, Saint Nicholas and Christkind.  All across Europe there’s a blending of traditions and styles.

And there’s no better person to take a person through, or knows about traveling in, Europe than Rick Steves.

He’s a great guy and a HUGE influence on this site. We figured why not share him with those who haven’t had the pleasure?

Today we are sharing Rick Steves’ European Christmas!

Connection to Rome:

Prior to and through the early Christian centuries, winter festivals—especially those centered on the winter solstice—were the most popular of the year in many European pagan cultures.

Reasons included the fact that less agricultural work needs to be done during the winter, as well as an expectation of better weather as spring approached.

Many modern Christmas customs have been directly influenced by such festivals, including gift-giving and merrymaking from the Roman Saturnalia, greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year, and Yule logs and various foods from Germanic feasts.

We hope you enjoyed Rick Steves as much as we do. Please have a safe and responsible Christmas season, and we’ll see you soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Agiorgitiko – The Grape of Greece

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! Everyday there’s an adventure into something new from the past.

My full-time career has me in the wine industry, so lots of my time is spent handling, talking about or tasting wine. With so much about wine going on up here (pointing at my head) I felt the need to share it out there (pointing at y’all).

That being said, today we are going to explore Agiorgitiko!AGIORGITIKO

Agiorgitiko, also known as Aghiorghitiko, Mavro Nemeas and St. George, is a red Greek wine grape variety. As of 2012, it was the most widely planted red grape variety in Greece, ahead of Xinomavro.

The grape has traditionally been grown in the Nemea region of the Peloponnese. However, it can also be found throughout the country including Attikí (Attica) and Makedonía (Macedonia).

Agiorgitiko is a very versatile grape variety that can be made in a wide range of styles from light rosés to soft, fruity reds made by carbonic maceration in a style similar to the French wines of Beaujolais, to very tannic wines with spicy, red fruit aromas and the potential to age.

At its most extreme, Agiorgitiko wines have the potential to be very low in acidity, high alcohol and high in phenolics with both issues requiring the winemaker to make decisions on how to handle these components in order to make a balanced wine.Agiorgitiko_from_nemea

One of the more commercially important indigenous Greek varieties, Agiorgitiko can exhibit a wide range of characteristics, from soft to very tannic, depending on factors in the growing and winemaking processes. The grape is typically made as a varietal, though it is notably blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in the area around Metsovo to make the table wine traditionally called katoi.

In the region of Nemea it is often made into rosés of oak-aged red wines. The wines are known for their high level of fruitiness but tend to lack some acidity and body.

The red wine produced from the Agiorgitiko grape is characteristically spicy with notes of plum. It has low acidity but good fruitiness and coloring.

The small berries and thick skins of the grape contribute to high phenolic levels of Agiorgitiko which leads the wine needing very little maceration time in order to extract the deep, dark color associated with the grape. It also contributes to the tannin levels and the grape’s ability to handle the effects of oak aging in the barrel.

Agiorgitiko is generally planted in dry, infertile soil to encourage the production of fewer but more concentrated grapes, ripening after mid-September.

Ampelographers believe that Agiorgitiko is indigenous to Greece, likely the Argolis and Corinthia regions of Peloponnese, but while apocryphal tales exist of the grape being cultivated in Ancient Greece, there is no historical or genetic evidence to support those tales.

Hercules and the Nemean LionIn Nemea, the wine made from Agiorgitiko is nicknamed the “Blood of Hercules”  because of the legend that after the Greek hero slew the Nemean lion, it was the local Nemean wine made from Agiorgitiko that he consumed. Some versions of the story have Hercules consuming the wine before slaying the lion.

Another legend states that the wine was a palace favorite of King Agamemnon who led the Greek forces during the Trojan War.

The name Agiorgitiko means literally “St. George’s grape” which could be a reference to the chapel of Saint George in Nemea or to Saint George’s Day which is celebrated in November around harvest time in some Orthodox Churches.St_George_by_Raphael

However, in many of the Greek areas where Agiorgitiko is grown, Saint George’s Day is celebrated in April or May which cast doubt on the theory that the grape’s name is affiliated with the feast day.

Another theory is that the grape is named after one of the many Greek towns named after the Christian saint.

Agiorgitiko tends to produce small clusters of small, thick-skinned berries. The vine is highly disease prone; with almost all Agiorgitiko vines planted in Greece are virused. Depending on the virus, and age of the vine, this can lead to issues with ripeness and yields which can have an impact on the resulting quality of the wine.

The grape is a late budding and ripening variety that is prone to produce high yields if not kept in check by winter pruning or green harvesting. In addition to its susceptibility to numerous grapevine viruses, Agiorgitiko is also very sensitive to fungal infection from botrytis bunch rotdowny and powdery mildew.

The vine also responds adversely to water stress which may require some irrigation in regions where the practice is permitted. In order to limit yields, Agiorgitiko is often densely planted in poor vineyard soils but growers need to be mindful of the variety’s sensitivity to potassium deficiency.PotasDed

For most of the 21st Century, growers have been working with Greek wine authorities to produce new virus-free clones of Agiorgitiko that have the potential to resist most grape disease, including botrytis bunch rot, and produce small berries with thicker skins that could ripen to higher sugar levels with most consistent yields.

Several of these new clones were released to Greek wine growers in 2012, and have slowly begun to replace the previous Agiorgitiko vineyards.

While Agiorgitiko vines can withstand heat well, the grape tends to produce better in higher altitude vineyards that are slightly cooler but still sufficiently warm to insure that the grape fully ripens. The altitude of the vineyard, in particular, seems to have an effect on how much of a “spicy note” comes out in the flavor of the resulting wines.

The grape is most widely associated with the dry and sweet red wines of Nemea in northeastern Peloponnese. Here the grape is only variety permitted in the Oeni Onomasias Proelefseos Anoteras Poiotitas (OPAP) (a designated wine region similar to the French Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system).Oeni Onomasias Proelefseos Anoteras Poiotitas (OPAP)

Some examples of Agiorgitiko are describes as lush and “almost Port-like” with spicy, peppery flavors. It has also been noted that the quality of Nemean wine made from Agiorgitiko is highly dependent on the individual skill of the winemaker.

A few wine experts have stated that some examples can “be spoiled by dried-out or dead fruit” that is harvested too late, with too little acidity, at excessively ripe levels.

According to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the best examples of Agiorgitiko tend to have moderate to low acidity, with a deep, ruby color, red fruit aromas and a sweet spicy note.

These examples tend to come from vineyards planted in the middle range of the hillside slopes around Nemea with grapes harvested near the top of the 3,000 ft hills being excessively acidic while those harvested from the very warm valley floor often being too “jammy”.Agiorgitiko in the Peloponnese

The variance in quality of Agiorgitiko from the different vineyards around Nemea has led some Greek wine producers to investigate developing a cru classification system.

Unlike the Xinomavro-based wines of fellow OPAP region Naousa, the wine experts at WSET note that the Agiorgitiko-based wines of Nemea tend to have a more “international style” which may enhance the potential of Greek wines on the international market.

Over the years, Agiorgitiko has been known under various synonyms including: Aghiorghitico, Aigeorgitiko, Mavro (Black or Dark), Mavro Nemeas (in Nemea), Mavronemeas, Mavrostaphylo Mavraki, Mavroudi Nemeas, Nemeas Mavro, and Nemeas Mavroudi.ampelonas_Ghymno

We hope you enjoyed learning, or learning more, about Agiorgitiko grapes and the wine they produce. Maybe now you’ll even go out and try some for yourself.

Please check us out again soon to see what new project we have in store. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Robinson, J. Harding and J. Vouillamoz. Wine Grapes – A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours. ISBN 978-1-846-14446-2.

Konstantinos Lazarakis. The Wines of Greece. Sterling Publishing Company (2005). ISBN 1-84000-897-0.

Robinson. The Oxford Companion to Wine(3rd ed). Oxford University Press (2006). ISBN 0-19-860990-6.

Oz ClarkeEncyclopedia of Grapes. Harcourt Books (2001). ISBN 0-15-100714-4.

David Rosengarten. WINE AT THE TABLE New Greek Pitch: No Resin. Newsday.

Derek Gatopoulos. Popular Greek Wine Is Rained Out for the Year. Los Angeles Times.

Clarke. Oz Clarke’s Encyclopedia of Wine. Time Warner Books, London 2003. ISBN 0-316-72654-0.

Nestor Imports. Greek Grape Varietals.

MacNeil. The Wine Bible. Workman Publishing (2001). ISBN 1-56305-434-5.

Stevenson. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia (5th Edition). Dorling Kindersley (2011). ISBN 9780756686840.

Wine & Spirits Education Trust. Wine and Spirits: Understanding Wine Quality (Second Revised Edition. London (2012). ISBN 9781905819157.

AgiorgitikoVitis International Variety Catalogue.

Aqua Vitae – Water of Life

Welcome to Rome Across Europe! If you’re like us, then you love yourself some food and drink.

If we can toss in something fun or interesting to make your time eating or drinking better, then we’ve met our goal. Each day here at RAE do our best to meet that goal.

Recently we’ve had some articles like History of Wine: Ancient RomeAncient Roman CuisineBeer…Roman Style; and Wine – The Water of Rome.

Liber_de_arte_DistillandiToday we expand that journey as we take a look at Aqua Vitae!

Aqua Vitae (or aqua vita) literally translate from Latin as water of life. This is an archaic name for a concentrated aqueous solution of ethanol.

Aqua Vitae encompasses various types of alcoholic spirits, though it has other distinct meanings as well. The term was in wide use during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, although its origin undoubtedly came about much earlier.Still_for_aqua_vitae_country_farm

The term was commonly used in ancient history and spread throughout the entirety of the Imperium Rōmānum. Aqua Vitae entered into a number of different languages and formed the basis for the names of numerous alcoholic distillations throughout all lands and people conquered by ancient Rome.

The phrase was used colloquially to refer to baptismal waters. Saint Patrick and his fellow monks were said to have used the term to refer to both alcohol and the waters of baptism.

Generally, the term is a generic name for all types of distillates, and eventually came to refer specifically to distillates of alcoholic beverages.

Aqua Vitae was typically prepared by distilling wine. It was sometimesCognac_glass called “spirits of wine” in English texts, a name for brandy that had been repeatedly distilled.

IrishWhiskeyAqua Vitae was often an etymological source of terms applied to important locally produced distilled spirits. Examples include whisky (from the Gaelic uisce beatha), eau de vie in France, acquavite in Italy, and akvavit in Scandinavia, okowita in Poland, okovyta in Ukraine and akavita in Belarus.akvavit

If Aqua Vitae is requested in most English-speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom, then it is typically used in an idiomatic manner and often intended to specifically refer to French brandy.

Throughout various regions of the Western world, Aqua Vitae has commonly become used in reference to a particular alcoholic beverage important to that region.

Some interesting synonyms for Aqua Vitae, aside from alcohol, are as follows: milk, oil, syrup, sauce, essence, sap or nectar.

Material chemist and history of chemistry researcher at North Dakota State University, Seth C. Rasmussen, has even written a book about this term. His book is titled The Quest for Aqua Vitae: The History and Chemistry of Alcohol from Antiquity to the Middle Ages.AB14-aqua_vitae

Rasmussen explored a wide variety of publications on the origin of alcohol production. In his book, he considers evidence from archaeology, botany, genetics and chemistry, which enables him to make informed judgments on the varieties of cultivated yeasts, and on various aspects of archaeological research.

Aqua Vitae is something that isn’t simply for the past, it lives in the present. We hope you enjoyed discovering the origins of this ancient term, and look forward to hearing it spread today.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle AgesISBN 0-85115-611-8

Ward, Artemas. The Grocer’s Encyclopedia.

wiseGEEK. What is Aqua Vitae?

Mead – Drink It Down

Cheers and welcome to Rome Across Europe! If this is your first time visiting us then you’re in for a treat.

We cover so many various topics in order to allow our readers the choice to follow what they enjoy. Since our goal is to share anything past or present that happened, or stands, in what was once the Roman Empire, it gives us plenty to talk about.

In my family, October is a busy month for all of the birthdays going on. This leads to parties, which have food, which turns to drink.

So instead of fighting to keep back the alcohol, we’re letting it flow. Today we talk Mead!liquidMead

Mead (or Mel as the Romans knew it) is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains or hops. Hops act as a preservative and produce a bitter, beer-like flavor.

The alcoholic content of mead may range from about 8% ABV to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey.

Mead may be still, carbonated or naturally sparkling. It may also be dry, semi-sweet or sweet.

Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Some regard it as the “ancestor of all fermented drinks”.

Archaeological chemists consider the presence of beeswax markers and gluconic acid, in the presence of other substances known to ferment, to be reasonably conclusive evidence of the use of honey in ancient fermented beverages.

Mead has played an important role in the beliefs and mythology of some peoples. One such example is the Mead of Poetry, a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar.mead of poetry

The terms “mead” and “honey-wine” are often used synonymously. Honey-wine is differentiated from mead in some cultures.

Hungarians hold that while mead is made of honey, water and beer-yeast (barm), honey-wine is watered honey fermented by recrement of grapes (or other fruits).

greeceIn Europe, mead is first attested in residual samples found in the characteristic ceramics of the Bell Beaker Culture (c. 2800 – 1800 BC). During the Golden Age of Ancient Greece, mead was said to be the preferred drink.

Aristotle discussed mead in his Meteorologica and elsewhere, while Pliny the Elder called mead milities in his Naturalis Historia and differentiated wine sweetened with honey or “honey-wine” from mead. Around AD 60, the Spanish-Roman naturalist Columella gave a recipe for mead in De re rustica:

Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius of this water with a [Roman] pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water with nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.

There is a poem attributed to the Brythonic-speaking bard Taliesin, who lived around AD 550, called the Kanu y med or “Song of Mead”. The legendary drinking, feasting and boasting of warriors in the Mead Hall is echoed in the mead hall Din Eidyn as depicted in the poem Y Gododdin, attributed to the poet Aneirin, a contemporary of Taliesin.

In the Old English epic poem Beowulf, the Danish warriors drank mead. In both Insular Celtic and Germanic cultures mead was the primary heroic drink in poetry.

Later, taxation and regulations governing the ingredients of alcoholic beverages led to commercial mead becoming a more obscure beverage until recently.

Some monasteries kept up the old traditions of mead-making as a by-product of beekeeping, especially in areas where grapes could not be grown. A well-known example of this is at Lindisfarne, where mead continues to be made to this day, albeit not in the monastery itself.monestaries

The yeast used in mead making is often identical to that used in wine making. Many home mead makers choose to use wine yeasts, especially those used in the preparation of white wines, to make their meads. The problem with this is that the honey-based must does not have a sufficient quantity of nutrients to produce wholesome mead.

To circumvent the nutrient issue, both commercial and homebrew mead makers add specific quantities of diammonium phosphate, thiamine, vitamin B12, niacin, biotin and other key minerals.

These are often added based on a staggered addition schedule in order to achieve high-quality readily-drinkable mead. In some cases, the mead prepared with a staggered nutrient addition can be consumed the moment it is bottled as opposed to waiting over one year for it to age.

Meads will often ferment well at the same temperatures in which wine is fermented. After primary fermentation slows down significantly, a secondary fermentation takes place.

Some larger commercial meaderies are designed to allow both primary and secondary fermentation to happen inside of the same vessel. If the mead maker wishes to back sweeten the product or prevent it from oxidizing, potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate are added prior to being bottled and distributed.moonlightmeadery

Mead can have a wide range of flavors depending on the source of the honey, additives including fruit and spices, the yeast employed during fermentation and the aging procedure. Some producers have marketed white wine sweetened and flavored with honey after fermentation as mead, sometimes spelling it “meade”.

This is closer in style to a Hypocras. Blended varieties of mead may be known by the style represented; for instance, a mead made with cinnamon and apples may be referred to as either a cinnamon cyser or an apple metheglin.

Mead that contains fruit is called a melomel, which was also used as a means of food preservation, keeping summer produce for the winter. Mead that is fermented with grape juice is called a pyment.

Mulled mead is a popular drink at Christmas time, where mead is flavored with spices and sometimes various fruits. It’s served warmed, traditionally by having a hot poker plunged into it.mulled mead

Some meads retain some measure of the sweetness of the original honey, and some may even be considered as dessert wines. Drier meads are also available, and some producers offer sparkling meads.

There are faux-meads, which are actually wines with honey added after fermentation as a sweetener and flavoring. Mead can also be distilled to a brandy or liqueur strength.

A version called Honey Jack can be made by partly freezing a quantity of mead and straining the ice out of the liquid, a process known as freeze distillation, in the same way that applejack is made from cider.

mazer cupMead is quite popular in America where there are several festivals focusing on the drink. Every year in March, the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition and Tasting Event, Sponsored by, is held in Boulder, Colorado.

The Mazer Cup is the largest mead event in the world, with over 300 home meads and over 200 commercial meads in competition. There is a Friday tasting event with the gold medal winning commercial meads from the previous year, plus feature meads from around the world.

Real Ale Festival in Chicago, Illinois, includes categories for mead as well as cider and perry.

The Woodbridge International Mead Festival claims to be the only mead festival east of the Mississippi. While few types of mead are available, all are homemade and go through a rigorous judging process.

On the 2nd Saturday in May, the Orcas Island Cider and Mead Festival (Sponsored by the Northwest Cider Association) is held on Orcas Island in Washington State. It includes cider and mead producers along the West Coast of the United States and Canada.

Mead goes farther than just consumption. It has been written about throughout history.

Mead is featured in many Germanic myths and folktales such as Beowulf, as well as in other popular works that draw on these myths. Notable examples include books by Tolkien, George R. R. MartinT. H. White, and Neil Gaiman.Beowulf

It is often featured in books using a historical Germanic setting and in writings about the Viking age. Mead is mentioned many times in Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, American Gods, where it is referred to as the drink of the gods.

In the Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini, the protagonist, Eragon, often drinks mead at feasts. Mead is also referenced in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle novel series, where the protagonist Kvothe is known to drink metheglin.

The popularity of mead has also led to many variants around the world. There is a native Mexican version of mead known as Balche.

methe_botMetheglin is a traditional Welsh mead with herbs or spices added. Some of the most common metheglins are ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves or vanilla. Its name indicates that many metheglins were originally employed as folk medicines.

In Brittany there is a version of mead called Chouchenn. Polish mead, made using 3 units of water for each unit of honey, is called Czwórniak.

Tej/Mes is an Ethiopian and Eritrean mead, fermented with wildTej yeasts and the addition of gesho. Recipes vary from family to family.

Braggot, of Welsh origin, is brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt. Hops can either be added or not.

There is also Mõdu, an Estonian traditional fermented drink with a taste of honey and an alcohol content of 4.0%. Pitarrilla was a Mayan drink made from a fermented mixture of wild honey, balché-tree bark and fresh water.

Dandaghare is mead from Nepal, combines honey with Himalayan herbs and spices. It has been produced since 1972 in the city of Pokhara.

Medica is a Slovenian and Croatian variety of mead. Mead commercially available in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and presumably other Central and Eastern-European countries, is Medovina.

There is Medovukha, an Eastern Slavic variant (honey-based fermented drink). The Greek Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water.Medovukha

MidusLithuanian for mead, is made of natural bee honey and berry juice. Infused with carnation blossoms, acorns, poplar buds, juniper berries and other herbs, it is often made as mead distillate or mead nectar, some of the varieties having as much as 75% of alcohol.

Sima is a quick-fermented low-alcoholic Finnish variety of mead. It’s seasoned with lemon and associated with the festival of Vappu.

Finally, there is Sack Mead. This refers to mead that is made with more honey than is typically used.

The finished product contains a higher-than-average ethanol concentration (meads at or above 14% ABV are generally considered to be of sack strength) and often retains elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads can be produced.

According to one theory, the name derives from the fortified dessert winesherry that, in England, once bore the nickname “sack”. Another theory is that the term is a phonetic reduction of Sake the name of a Japanese beverage that was introduced to the West by Spanish and Portuguese traders.

Upon its creation, mead was popular in Eastern Europe and in the Baltic states. Since the 19th Century, mead has remained popular in the Russian drinks medovukha and sbiten long after its decline in the West. Sbiten is often mentioned in the works of 19th-Century Russian writers, including Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

During secondary fermentation, raisins are added to control the amount of sugars and to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption since they rise to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready.

In the USA, mead is enjoying a renaissance, starting with small home meaderies and now with a number of small commercial meaderies. As mead becomes more widely available, it is also seeing increased attention and exposure from the news media.outside-meadery

Thanks for stopping by today and we hope you’ll enjoy some mead in your future. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Digby, Kenelm; Jane Stevenson; Peter Davidson. The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt Opened 1669. Prospect Books (1997). ISBN 0-907325-76-9.

Gayre, Robert; Papazian, Charlie. Brewing Mead: Wassail! In Mazers of Mead. Brewers Publications (1986). ISBN 0-937381-00-4.

Kerenyi, Karl. Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible LifePrinceton University Press (1976). ISBN 0-691-09863-8.

Schramm, Ken. The Compleat Meadmaker. Brewers Publications (2003). ISBN 0-937381-82-9.

Other Features of Roman Dining

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! It is a pleasure to have you join us.

Last week we shared with you an article about Ancient Roman Cuisine. If you didn’t see it, please check it out. You may find some interesting morsels that your palette will enjoy.

If that’s not the case, well, you probably enjoy the occasional dinner party. That’s why today we are going to experience other features of dining like a Roman!Food and Dining

During a dinner, musicians, acrobats, poets or dancers would perform for the guests. Dinner conversation played an important role.

Dances were unusual, as it was considered improper and would not mix well with table manners, although during the comissatio (a round of drinks) this habit was often disregarded. To leave the table for bodily functions was considered inappropriate and restraining oneself was considered good manners.

Around the mensa (table), 3 of these lecti (dining couches) were arranged in the shape of a horseshoe with the open side usually facing the entrance of the room. This allowed the house slaves to serve easily while a maximum of 3 diners could recline at each lectus.Lying Down

Diners reclined on their left elbow with their head pointing at the table. In some cases a 4th diner, usually an intimate friend or a minor of high social standing, could also be seated.

The required posture would have been uncomfortable had the couches not been covered in cushions and positively inclined towards the table. The various positions around the table were not all equal, with the host seating his guests according to social status and closeness or intimacy.

During the Rēgnum Rōmānum and early Res Publica Romana, the only people allowed a place on a lectus were men. Unlike in Greece, however, women could be present.

In these early dining years women usually sat on chairs to dine across from their husbands or fathers. By the late Republic and Imperium Rōmānum times, and especially among the aristocracy, women were permitted to recline during meals.

More tables for the beverages stood beside the couches. Cena was consumed in a special dining room, which later was to be called triclinium.

In this fashion at most 9 people could dine together from a single table. Further guests had to sit on chairs, with slaves normally standing.Serving

If the meal was routine, everyone ate while seated or even standing. How common, right?

Grander houses often featured a 2nd, summer triclinium in or overlooking the garden and the grandest houses had 3, 4 or even more triclinia. Many houses in Pompeii had stone couches at a particularly beautiful spot in the garden to dine al fresco.

Feet and hands were washed before the Cena. The food would be taken with the fingertips and 2 kinds of spoons, the larger ligula and the smaller cochlear with a needle-thin grip, which was used as a prong when eating snails and mollusks, which performed some of the functions of the modern fork.

At the table, larger pieces of food would be cut up to be served on smaller plates. Everything that could not be eaten (e.g. bones and shells) was thrown onto the floor, whence it was swept away by a slave.

After each course the fingers were washed again and mappae (napkins) were customary to wipe one’s mouth. Guests could also bring their own mappae to take home the leftovers from the meal or apophoreta (small gifts).napkins

After the main course, during a pause, an offering was made to the Lares and the dī penātēs were believed to protect the larder. This offering normally consisted of meat, cake and wine. The cake was usually colored with saffron.

One focus of Ancient Roman cooking was a hearth placed in front of the lararium, the household altar which contained small sculptures of the household deity. In homes where the lararium was built into the wall, the focus was sometimes built of raised brick into 4 sides, constructed against a baseboard on which a fire was lit.lararium

A more common focus was rectangular and portable, consisting simply of a moveable hearth with stone or bronze feet. After the development of separate kitchens, the focus began to be used only for religious offerings and for warmth, rather than for cooking.

Portable stoves and ovens were used by the Romans, and some had water pots and grills laid onto them. At Pompeii most houses had separate kitchens, most fairly small, but a few large.

The Villa of the Mysteries covers a 30-by-39 feet area. A number of kitchens at Pompeii had no roofs, resembling courtyards more than ordinary rooms, allowing smoke to ventilate.Villa of the Mysteries

Kitchens that did have roofs must have been extremely smoky. Since there were no chimneys, only high windows or holes in the ceiling allowed for ventilation.

Many Roman kitchens had an oven (furnus or fornax), and some had a pair. Again, the kitchen of the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii is an example of this.

A square or dome-shaped construction of brick or stone, these ovens had a flat floor, often of granite and sometimes lava, which were filled with dry twigs and then lit.Kitchen

On the walls of kitchens were hooks and chains for hanging cooking equipment, including various pots and pans, knives, meat forks, sieves, graters, spits, tongs, cheese-slicers, nutcrackers, jugs for measuring, and pâté moulds.

Wine was normally mixed with water immediately before drinking, since the fermentation was not controlled and the alcohol grade was high. Wine was sometimes adjusted and improved by its makers.

Instructions survive for making white wine from red and vice versa, as well as for rescuing wine that is turning to vinegar. Those instructions as well as detailed descriptions of Roman viticulture date back to 160 BC in the first known text written in Latin prose.

Wine was also variously flavored. For example, there was passum, a strong and sweet raisin wine, for which the earliest known recipe is of Carthaginian origin.

Mulsum, a freshly made mixture of wine and honey, and conditum, a mixture of wine, were matured wines. One specific recipe, Conditum Paradoxum, is for a mixture of wine, honey, pepper, laurel, dates, mastic and saffron, cooked and stored for later use.Drinking

Another recipe called for the addition of seawater, pitch and rosin to the wine. A Greek traveler reported that the beverage was apparently an acquired taste.

Sour wine mixed with water and herbs (posca) was a popular drink for the lower classes and a staple part of the Roman soldier’s ration. Beer (cervisia) was known but considered vulgar, and was associated with barbarians.

The Roman dinner party is a popular and recurrent theme in Roman literature. In a letter, Pliny the Younger chides his friend Gaius Septicius Clarus for not turning up to his dinner party,

All ready were a lettuce each, three snails, two eggs, porridge, with mulsum and snow…olives, beetroot, gourds, bulbs, and a thousand other things no less appreciated. You would have heard comic actors or a poetry reader or a lyrist, or, such is my generosity, all three. But you chose to go to someone else’s for oysters, sows’ wombs, sea urchins, and dancing girls from Cadiz.

Despite such extravagances, many Romans took great pride in the freshness and simplicity of their produce and all the more if it has been sourced from their country farm.

Of course, many people could not afford extravagant ingredients, and had to make do with a staple of wheat bread augmented with some fruit and vegetables and whatever else they could find or afford. The poorest Romans could not even afford street food, and came to rely on the free bread ration issued to inhabitants of the city.

At the end of the evening, guests called for their sandals to prepare to leave (hence the expression, soleas poscere). As your sandals are brought to you, we shall wrap things up.Bring Sandals

We can see not every Roman dined the same and not every party was the same either. This was only a real problem if you weren’t rich.

Hopefully you enjoyed learning how Romans, particularly those of means, enjoyed their cuisine. Please come back again to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Roman Dining: A Special Issue of American Journal of Philology – Google Books

Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome – Patrick Faas – Google Books

Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World: Responses to Risk and Crisis – Peter Garnsey – Google Books

Jacques André. L’alimentation et la cuisine à Rome. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1981.

Blanc, A. Nercessian. La cuisine romaine antique. Grenoble: Glénat, 1992.

Dalby, Andrew (2003). Food in the ancient world from A to Z. London, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-23259-7.

Dalby, Andrew (2000). Empire of Pleasures. London, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-18624-2.

Grocock, Christopher; Grainger, Sally (2006). Apicius. A critical edition with an introduction and an English translation. Totnes: Prospect Books, ISBN 1-903018-13-7.

Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti. Dining as a Roman emperor: how to cook ancient Roman recipes today. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1995.

Beer…Roman Style

Hello and welcome to Rome Across Europe! Over the past year or so we’ve put together some articles about Wine in Ancient Rome, the History of Wine, Winemaking, Wines within the Empire, even Who Wrote about Roman Wines.

Maybe we got a little vinum crazy. Heck, wine’s been this author’s main focus of each day since July so it makes sense as to why wine’s been a focal point.

As of late it seems as if we’ve been receiving quite a few messages about why we haven’t had any articles or videos about beer or if the Romans enjoyed beer. Well, those requests get answered now.

Today we’re discussing Beer…Roman Style!

Beer is an alcoholic beverage produced by the saccharification of starch and fermentation of the resulting sugar. The starch and saccharification enzymes are often derived from malted cereal grains; most commonly malted barley and malted wheat.

Most beer is also flavored with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative, though other flavorings such as herbs or fruit may occasionally be included. The preparation of beer is called brewing, which causes a natural carbonation effect.

Beer is the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, and the 3rd-most popular drink overall, after water and tea. Leave it to the Britts to spread their influence around the world, right?

It is thought by some to be the oldest fermented beverage. Modern beer is sold in bottles and cans in pubs and bars, and is even available on draught.

Beer forms part of the culture of beer-drinking nations and is associated with social traditions such as beer festivals, pub crawling and pub games such as billiards.ancient-beer-drinkers

Beer is one of the world’s oldest prepared beverages, possibly dating back to the Early Neolithic or 9500 BC, when cereal was first farmed. It has been recorded in the history of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

Archaeologists even speculate that beer was instrumental in the formation of civilizations. (I don’t think too many of my friends will argue that point.)

Some of humanity’s earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer. The Code of Hammurabi included laws regulating beer and beer parlors, and The Hymn to Ninkasi, a prayer to the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, served as both a prayer and as a method of remembering the recipe for beer in a culture with few literate people.

The earliest known chemical evidence of barley beer dates to circa 3500–3100 BC from the Sumerian site of Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains. Some of the earliest Sumerian writings contain references to beer, providing the ancient advice (Fill your belly. Day and night make merry) to Gilgamesh, recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh, by the ale-wife Siduri.

The Ebla tablets, discovered in 1974 in Ebla, show that beer was produced in the city in 2500 BC.Ebla_clay_tablet

The Sumerians loved beer so much they ascribed the creation of it to the gods, among them, Inanna.

Brewers were female, most likely priestesses of Ninkasi, and early on beer was brewed by women in the home as a supplement to meals. The beer was a thick, porridge-like drink consumed through a straw and was made from bippar (barley bread) which was baked twice and allowed to ferment in a vat.

By the year 2050 BC beer brewing had become commercialized as evidenced by the famous Alulu beer receipt from the city of Ur dated to that time.

Almost any substance containing sugar can naturally undergo alcoholic fermentation. It is likely that many cultures, on observing that a sweet liquid could be obtained from a source of starch, independently invented beer.

Bread and beer increased prosperity to a level that allowed time for development of other technologies and contributed to the building of civilizations.

The Sumerians passed on their knowledge of brewing to the Babylonians who further commercialized it and passed laws regulating the beverage. The Code of Hammurabi from Babylon states that tavern keepers who pour a “short measure” of beer would be drowned.

The Babylonians brewed many different kinds of beer and classified them into 20 categories which recorded their various characteristics. Beer became a regular commodity in foreign trade, especially with Egypt, where it was very popular.Babylonian Brewing

Through trade, beer travelled to Egypt where the people embraced the brew eagerly. Egyptians loved their beer and breweries grew up all around Egypt. As in Mesopotamia, women were the first brewers and beer was closely associated with the goddess Hathor at Dendera at an early stage.

The Egyptian goddess of beer was Tenenit and it was thought the art of brewing was first taught by the great god Osiris himself. Workers at the Giza plateau received beer rations thrice daily and prescriptions for various ailments included the use of beer.

Over 100 recipes for medicines included the drink. Beer was thought to be healthier than drinking water and was consumed by Egyptians of all ages, the youngest to the oldest.Egyptian Beer

Beer was enjoyed so regularly among the Egyptians that Cleopatra lost popularity toward the end of her reign more for implementing the first ever tax on beer than for her wars with Rome which the beer tax went to help pay for.

Drunk or not, it appears that all ancients seemed to recognize that alcohol was a safer, and healthier, beverage than water which was typically unclean.

From Egypt, beer traveled to Greece (known there as zythos) but did not find the same receptive climate there. The Greeks, however, favored strong wine over beer and considered the grainy brew an inferior drink of

The Greek General and writer Xenophon, in Book IV of his Anabasis, writes:

There were stores within of wheat and barley and vegetables, and wine made from barley in great big bowls; the grains of barley malt lay floating in the beverage up to the lip of the vessel, and reeds lay in them, some longer, some shorter, without joints; when you were thirsty you must take one of these into your mouth, and suck. The beverage without admixture of water was very strong, and of a delicious flavor to certain palates, but the taste must be acquired.

Beer was obviously not to Xenophon’s taste, nor was it any more popular with his countrymen. The playwright Sophocles, among others, also refers to beer somewhat unfavorably and recommends moderation in its use.

Beer was spread through Europe by Germanic and Celtic tribes as far back as 3000 BC, and it was mainly brewed on a domestic scale with methods mirroring those of the ancient Sumerians. The product that the early Europeans drank might not be recognized as beer by most people today.Germanic_tribe

Alongside the basic starch source, the early European beers might contain fruits, honey, numerous types of plants, spices and other substances such as narcotic herbs. What they did not contain was hops, as that was a later addition, first mentioned in Europe around 822 AD.

Again, women were the original brewers in Germania and beer was made from only fresh water, heated, and the best grains. The Germans, like those who preceded them, also instituted a daily beer ration and considered beer a necessary staple of their diet.

The tradition continued down into the Anno Domini when monks took up the craft of brewing and sold beer from their monasteries.Beer-Drinking-Monks

From the Celtic lands, beer brewing spread, always following the same basic principles instituted by the Sumerians: female brewers making beer in the home, use of fresh, hot water and fermented grains.

The intoxicant known in English as beer takes its name from the Latin bibere (by way of the German bier) meaning to drink and the Spanish cerveza comes from the Latin word cerevisia (of beer), giving some indication of the long span human beings have been enjoying the drink.

The Roman Emperor Julian even composed a poem exalting the virtues of wine as a nectar, while noting that beer smelled like a goat. Romans did brew beer, however, as evidenced by finds at a Roman outpost in Germania.

The Roman historian, Tacitus, writing of the Germans, says, “To drink, the Teutons have a horrible brew fermented from barley or wheat, a brew which has only a very far removed similarity to wine”. Even so, the Romans were brewing cerevisia quite early as evidenced by the tomb of a beer brewer and merchant (a Cerveserius) in ancient Treveris.

Excavations of the Roman military encampment on the Danube, Castra Regina, unearthed evidence of beer brewing on a significant scale shortly after the community was built in 179 AD by Marcus Aurelius.Castra Regina

Beer could have caused the fall of the Imperium Rōmānum because it probably led many Romans to settle in lands far away from Rome. This left the heart of the Empire unprotected against ravaging barbarians.

The great Julius Caesar is known for his military campaigns and conquests in the province of Gallia. In the time of Caesar, the Legio Romanus wandered far and wide conquering lands to expand the Roman Empire.Caesar

The Legions were rumored to be able to march for days while only consuming water and a hardtack. A Legionarius between towns, would often supplement rations whenever, and wherever, possible.

Maybe even trying some “liquid bread”.

Beer could not travel well, and hops had not yet been introduced as a preservative, so it was easier to store and transport the grains than to move around large quantities of beer. Discovering this, brewers then became part of the lixae (camp followers).Camp Followers

For the local brewery to be able to supply the garrison with its favorite beer, a supply of grain would be needed. This could be taken from the military stores, but those would run short. A local crop of grain would be harvested or expropriated.

As the Roman Empire grew, the nobility created vast estates in the newly acquired coloniae. More and more forests were cleared to cultivate grain. Two of the initial crops planted were wheat and barley.

A week after the harvest, the first batch of fresh beer would be served. Legionnaires often stayed in newly conquered areas as either part of their praemia, or as deserters.Farm

Put yourself in their caligae. If your term in the Exercitus Romanus were up, would you march back to Rome or would you stay where you were?

There were always plenty of women around in these new colonies, especially since most brewmasters traditionally were women.

When push came to shove, there were not enough soldiers to protect Rome from the barbarians. Most battle hardened veterans, the survivors, were all living their lives away from the heart of the Empire.

Beer was important to the Roman Amy as proven in Diocletian‘s Ēdictum Dē Pretiīs Rērum Vēnālium where zythus (beer of Egyptian type) is rated at half the price of cervesia and camum (beer of Gaulish and Dalmatian type). This again fetches half the price per pint allowed to table wine.

Fresh water is one of the vital ingredients for a good beer. Roman communities had fresh running water, which was brought in from vast distances through their viaducts.

It was piped in to public fountains and the homes of the rich. In fact during times of drought, the water department would reduce the flow of water to the public initially before the supply to the rich would be affected, and even the rich took a backseat to wine and beer.

Breweries would be located upstream from the community and the flow of water would not be reduced. Too many taxes would be lost by cutting off the supply of water to such valuable and essential businesses.

Created with the water and local grains, wort would be cooked in a large copper pot. Then it was transferred to a clay pot.

Because yeast’s role in beer making was not fully understood until just a few decades ago, the pot was left to sit open in the hope that the god of beer and wine would kiss it and make it start to ferment.

The use of central heating in Roman homes would make the production of beer easy to control. Even though most breweries were in the countryside, the floors of Roman homes were heated so a clay pot sitting over an open vent would be warmed directly on the bottom.central-heating

The equipment used to make beer and wine has not changed much since the Romans introduced the screw press, which is used even today for crushing grapes. Many modern brewers are using methods and equipment that have been handed down through the generations.

Clay crock pots like those used by the Romans will always be with us. Modern airlocks, yeasts, and cleansers have been added to the brewer’s list of supplies, simple improvements on classic techniques.

The Romans, like the Greeks and Egyptians before them, were constantly trying to improve their brewing and vinification techniques. In ancient times brewing knowledge and techniques would be part of the secret society of brewers.

To learn the craft Romans would work in a guild or family that held the secrets of the brew. While the brewers themselves were well known in the community, the knowledge of how to make a good beer was not shared with the public or even within the brewing community.Libation

It was important that the competition not find out the brewer’s trade secrets. Although the secrecy may have led one brewer to covet another’s method, not much was known about the science of making beer.

When it came to making a beer, the Romans used the techniques and equipment that worked the last time and relied on locally grown ingredients. Therefore, each town’s beer had a unique taste and appeal.

By 770 AD Charlemagne the Great was appointing brewers in France and, like the Babylonians before him, regulating the use of it. In 1516 AD, William IV, Duke of Bavaria, adopted the Reinheitsgebot (purity law) was instituted which regulated the ingredients which could legally be used in brewing beer (only water, barley, hops and, later, yeast) and, in so doing, continued the practice of legislation concerning beer which the Babylonians under Hammurabi had done some 3,000 years earlier.Regensburg

This may be perhaps the oldest food-quality regulation still in use today.

Today, the brewing industry is a global business, consisting of several dominant multinational companies and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from brewpubs to regional breweries. All it took was a couple thousand years and the collecting of ancient knowledge and techniques to make it happen.

We hope we have satisfied your thirst for beer knowledge. Maybe now it’s time for you to go grab one of your favorite brews in honor of this ancient tradition.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Cornell, Martyn. Beer: The Story of the PintISBN 0-7553-1165-5.

Glover, Brian. Beer: An Illustrated HistoryISBN 1-84038-597-9.

Haydon, Peter. Beer and Britannia: An Inebriated History of BritainISBN 0-7509-2748-8.

Hornsey, I. A History of Beer and Brewing. ISBN 0-85404-630-5.

Mark, Joshua J. Beer.

Mark, Joshua J. Beer in the Ancient World.

Smith, Gregory. Brew Julius Caesar’s Beer.

Tlusty, Ann. Bacchus and Civic Order: The Culture of Drink in Early Modern GermanyISBN 0-8139-2045-0.

Ancient Roman Cuisine

Bono Laetificabitur and welcome to Rome Across Europe! We don’t know about you, but there’s always at least one evening each when my family gets together.

It’s typically for catching up and socializing, finished with some great eats. For the Ancient Romans, and even today’s Italians, things were no different.

This day of family is the inspiration for our article. Today we take you to Cuisine of Ancient Rome!FoodRecreated

Ancient Roman cuisine changed over the long duration of this culture. Dietary habits were affected by the influence of Greek culture, the political changes from Kingdom to Republic to Empire, and the Empire’s enormous expansion.

And expansion exposed the Romans to many new, provincial culinary habits and cooking methods. In the beginning the differences between social classes were not very great, but the culinary gap widely developed with the Empire’s growth.

Traditionally, a breakfast called Ientaculum was served at dawn. In the late morning, Romans then ate a small lunch, and in the evening they consumed Cena, the main meal of the day.Cena

With the influence of Greek culture and the increased importation of foreign foods, Cena grew larger in size and more diverse in terms of the foods eaten. Cena gradually shifted to the mid-to-late afternoon, while Vesperna, a light supper eaten in the evening was abandoned completely.

Because of this change in dining times, Prandium, another breakfast, was introduced around noon.

Among the lower classes of society, these changes were less pronounced as the traditional routines corresponded closely to the daily rhythms of manual labor.

Originally flat, round loaves made of emmer with a bit of salt were eaten by the average Citizen. Among the upper classes, eggs, cheese and honey, along with milk and fruit were also consumed.bread

From 301 BC, growing wealth led to ever larger and more sophisticated meals with nutritional value not regarded as important. Gourmets preferred food with low food energy and nutrients that was easily digestible foods, and diuretic stimulants were highly regarded.

In the Imperial period, around the beginning of the Christian era, bread made of wheat was introduced. With time, more and more wheaten foods began to replace emmer loaves.

The bread was sometimes dipped in wine and eaten with olives, cheese, and grapes. They also ate meat as much as possible including: wild boar, beef, sausages, pork, lamb, duck, goose, chickens, small birds, fish and shellfish.Food

Among the members of the upper classes, who did not engage in manual labor, it became customary to schedule all business obligations in the morning. Who wants to work later in the day, especially when the weather gets warm? Not us.

After the Prandium, the last responsibilities would be discharged, and a visit would be made to the Thermae. Around 2 pm Cena would begin.

This meal could last until late in the night, especially if guests were invited, and would often be followed by comissatio (a round of drinks).

In the period of the kings and the early Republic, but also in later periods for the working classes, Cena essentially consisted of a kind of porridge (puls). The simplest kind would be made from emmer, water, salt and fat. The more sophisticated kind was made with olive oil, with an accompaniment of assorted vegetables when available.puls

The richer classes ate their puls with eggs, cheese and honey, and it was also occasionally served with meat or fish. How fancy of them.

Over the course of the Republican period, Cena developed into 2 courses: a main course and a dessert with fruit and seafood (mollusks, shrimp, etc.). By the end of the Republic, it was usual for the meal to be served in 3 parts: Gustatio (Hors d’oeuvre), Primae Mensae (Main Course), and Secundae Mensae (Dessert).

The ancient Roman diet included many items that are staples of modern Italian cooking. Pliny the Elder discussed more than 30 varieties of olive, 40 kinds of pear, figs (native and imported from Africa and the eastern provinces) and a wide variety of vegetables.

Some of these vegetables are no longer present in the modern world, while others have undergone significant changes. For example, carrots of colors other than orange were consumed.

Several foods considered characteristic of modern Italian cuisine were not used in Ancient Rome. In particular, spinach or aubergine were introduced later from the Arab world, while tomatoes and capsicum peppers appeared in Europe following the discovery of the New World. There were also few citrus fruits.

Butcher’s meat was an uncommon luxury. Seafood, game and poultry were more common.

On his triumphus, Julius Caesar gave a public feast to 260,000 humiliores which featured all 3 of the aforementioned meats, but no butcher’s meat. Apparently meat was sparse except at sacrifices and the dinner parties of the elite and wealthy.Caesar Triumph

The most popular meat in ancient Rome was pork. Beef was uncommon, being more common in Ancient Greece.

Fish was more common than meat, with Italy being a peninsula and all. Aquaculture was sophisticated having lots of large-scale industries devoted to oyster farming.Fish Mosaic

The Romans also engaged in snail farming and oak grub farming. Some fish were greatly esteemed and fetched high prices, such as mullet raised in the fishery at Cosa, and elaborate means were invented to assure its freshness.

Believe it or not, Dormice were consumed. The fattest of these rodents were considered to be a delicacy.dormice

A status symbol among wealthy Romans, some even had dormice weighed in front of dinner guests. A sumptuary law enacted under Marcus Aemilius Scaurus forbade the consumption of dormice, but they continued to be consumed.

When in season fresh fruit was eaten, then dried or preserved over winter. Popular fruits included the following: apples, pears, figs, grapes, quinces, strawberries, blackberries, currants, damson plums, melons, rose hips and pomegranates.

Less common fruits were the more exotic azeroles, medlars, cherries, apricots (introduced in the 1st Century BC), oranges, lemons, dates and peaches (introduced from Persia in the 1st Century AD). At least 35 cultivars of pear were grown in Rome, along with 3 types of apples.Fruits

Although known to the Ancient Romans, lemons were not cultivated in Italy until the Principate. The lemon was known and was accurately distinguished from the citron.

Many kinds of vegetables were cultivated and consumed. These included celery, garlic, yellow squash, cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuce, endive, onion, leek, asparagus, radishes, turnips, carrots, beets and cucumber. Some vegetables were illustrated in reliefs.

The potato, tomato and chili pepper (capsicums) from the New World were not available to the Ancient Romans, nor were French beans, zucchini (courgettes), and corn. Also, while the precursors of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, sweet peas, rutabaga and possibly cauliflower probably existed in Roman times, the modern cultivated forms we think of were not developed until the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance times.

Cato greatly esteemed cabbage, believing it to be good for the digestion, and believing that if a sick person ate a great deal of cabbage and bathed in his urine, he would recover. Legumes were limited to dried peas, sweet peas, lupines, lentils and fava beans.

The Romans knew several varieties of chickpea, which were eaten both cooked down into a broth and roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius gives several recipes for chickpeas.

They ate walnuts, almonds, hazel nuts, pine nuts, and sesame seeds, which they sometimes pulverized to thicken spiced, sweet wine sauces for roast meat and fowl.

The Roman colonies provided many foods to Rome. The Capital City received ham from Belgium, oysters from Britanny, garum from Mauritania, wild game from Tunisiasilphium from Cyrenaica, lettuce from Cappadocia and fish from Pontus.

Cheese was eaten and its manufacture was well-established by the Imperial period. It was part of the standard rations for Roman soldiers and was popular among civilians as well.cheese

The Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD) fixed maximum prices for cheese. The manufacture of cheese and its quality and culinary uses are mentioned by a number of Roman authors.

Pliny the Elder described cheese’s dietary and medicinal uses in Book 28 of Historia Naturalis, and Varro in De Agricultura described the Roman cheese making season (spring and summer) and compared soft, new cheeses with drier, aged cheeses.

The ancient Romans were known for their fish sauce, which was distinctive in ancient cuisine. It could be used as a seasoning during cooking in place of salt, as a table condiment or as a sauce.garum

There were 4 major fish sauce types: garumliquamenmuria and allec. The term garum referred to the best quality of fish sauce, although it was also used generically to refer to fish sauce in general.

The composition of garum varied, depending on whether it was made from tunny (tuna), mullet, sea bass, or some combination. Flavored garum existed, including a variety mixed with wine (oenogarum), another mixed with vinegar (oxygarum), and some mixed with water (hydrogarum).

Hydrogarum was common among Roman soldiers. The Emperor Elagabalus, however, asserted he was the original host to serve it at public banquets in Rome.

The most esteemed of all garum was garum sociorum, made exclusively from scomber (mackerel). This highly prized sauce was produced at New Carthage fisheries in Hispania, and was widely-traded.

Pliny wrote in his Natural History that 2 congii of this sauce cost 1,000 sesterces, and that “scarcely any other liquid except perfume has begun to be more highly valued”.

The 3 other varieties of fish sauce were of lower quality than garum. Liquamen was the generic term for fish sauce used by Apicius, and included both higher-quality and lower-quality conduct.

Muria referred to a briny liquid used to pack salted fish during transportation, to pickle olives, and to preserve cheese and meat. It was cheaper than garum or liquamen and was salty.

This is the only type of fish sauce attributed in tablets of the castra at Vindolanda, near Hadrian’s Wall.Soldiers Eating

The lowest quality product, allec was unlike the other 3 varieties. It was more of a paste than a liquid. Originally made from the sediment or dreg byproduct of garum production, Pliny writes that allec was made from the tiny apua (anchovy) that was otherwise useless.

Cheers to everyone for joining us today. Maybe you found some items to expand your palate, and quite possibly we made you never want to eat some items at all.

Whatever the case, we hope you come back and visit us again soon. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Roman Dining: A Special Issue of American Journal of Philology – Google Books

Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome – Patrick Faas – Google Books

Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World: Responses to Risk and Crisis – Peter Garnsey – Google Books

Jacques André. L’alimentation et la cuisine à Rome. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1981.

Blanc, A. Nercessian. La cuisine romaine antique. Grenoble: Glénat, 1992.

Dalby, Andrew (2003). Food in the ancient world from A to Z. London, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-23259-7.

Dalby, Andrew (2000). Empire of Pleasures. London, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-18624-2.

Grocock, Christopher; Grainger, Sally (2006). Apicius. A critical edition with an introduction and an English translation. Totnes: Prospect Books, ISBN 1-903018-13-7.

Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti. Dining as a Roman emperor: how to cook ancient Roman recipes today. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1995.