A Roman Banquet of 63 BC.

A Roman Banquet of 63 BC.
02 June 2016 0 Comment

We like our food today, perhaps a little too much, but compared to a famous Roman Banquet of 63 BC we pick around the edges of our measly dinners which pale by comparison!

In ancient Rome food and the cooking and presentation of food was as considered and revered as great art, on the same level as great sculpture. Certainly no people before or since for that matter, have placed so much importance on the seduction of the palate, despite the contemporary obsession we have with food today! In 63 BC a certain Mucius Lentulus Niger, upon his election to Pontifex (priest), decided to throw a dinner party to celebrate his important appointment. Below is the menu that was prepared and presented to his fortunate guests.

As appetizers a continuous stream of sea hedgehogs, fresh oysters (as many as the guests desired), large mussels, sphondyli (used as a green vegetable, when harvested just as they are sprouting from the ground; they are somewhat like asparagus in flavor), field fares with asparagus (a small sparrow like bird), fattened fowls, oyster and mussel pasties, black and white sea acorns, another serve of sphondyli, sea nettles, becaficoes (a warbler, songbird stuffed and roasted), and purple shellfish of two sorts, of course! I suspect at this point of the proceedings a visit to the vomitorium would have been mandatory!

No doubt the guests would have been treated to the obligatory washing of hands, face and feet (last!) with perfumed water before settling back on their couches, readying themselves for the dinner! What followed was an orgy of food beginning with sows’ udder, boars head, fish pasties, boar pasties, ducks, boiled teals (freshwater ducks), hares, roasted fowls, starch pastry and pontic pastry (Greek sweet pastries with fruit fillings) – all presented magnificently on gold and silver platters.

“So rise my good friends and let us waddle down to the forum and take delight in glorious Rome for tomorrow I shall sleep and the rest of the world can just bugger off!” so said Kilbus Petros Giovanius, friend of Mucius Lentulus Niger, general of the eighth army, cousin to Caesar and many other things! Oh yes, Rome loved a good banquet and the greatest empire of antiquity certainly knew how to party. Now pass me the wine!

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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