A Look At The Dining Habits Of Ancient Romans

By: teahupoo
Modern society is quick to lay claim to inventing things that were actually introduced to society, many generations ago. We may take credit for wireless communication; however, from the beginning of time, this type of communication has been in existence. Tribes would communicate with other tribes by beating a code out on drums. Others used smoke signals. This is also true in terms of meals. It is only recently that the term brunch, referring to the time period between lunch and breakfast, came into fashion. This popular pastime was actually begun in Rome. The only difference is, is that they called it dinner.

Dinner for the ancient Romans was simple as compared to the late morning meal. It consisted primarily of vegetables. This meal was prepared by the wife or mother of the family, or by servants, as directed by the wife, if the family was affluent. The family would gather and dine in a room called the atrium and sit on stools at tables, once dinner was served. When it came to utensils, forks and knives were viewed as being very cryptic, and so the ancient Romans preferred to eat with spoons. They would also eat things like meat, cut into small, thin slices, with their hands. However, by the time there were councils in the senate, in the last two centuries of the Republic, the dining style had changed to some extent. During the time of industrialization, further changes took place. These changes included separate areas in which people of different classes would feast. The people no longer sat on benches during meals, but instead sat on couches.

The lowest class in society was that of the plebeians. They survived almost entirely on porridge that was made from vegetables. When they were able to afford it, they would enjoy eating olives, fish, meat, bread and wine. The government helped the plebeians under a program that was similar to a welfare system, called the "annona". In the early 2C AD, a separate but similar system was established for children, called the "alimenta". This involved giving little tokens to each child, called "tessarae". The children had special containers in which to carry wheat and flour, which were filled in exchange for their tokens. Meat was given to the children on special occasions.

In contrast to the plebians, the upper class patricians of ancient Rome dined on much more extravagant cuisine. Separate parties were held for men, while others were held for the women and children. These parties went on for many hours; they were spent socializing and drinking plenty of wine. The party also included music. Some of the guests played instruments, while the others danced. Each party was a celebration, filled with entertainment.
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