Food was a very important aspect of the Roman Empire.The rich and poor Romans ate very different diets and the supply of food was very important to the emperor to express his relationship to the Roman people. See below for more information and facts about Roman food.
- The ancient Romans did not eat large meals. However, the rich Romans did enjoy expensive, varied meals with foods from all over the Roman Empire. This was because expensive and lavish meals were a good way to show off your wealth to others.
- The main Roman food was pottage. This was a thick stew made mostly from wheat, millet and corn. Some Romans would add cooked meat, offals or a wine sauce depending on how rich they were.
- Romans typically ate three meals per day. Breakfast was called ientaculum, lunch was known as prandium and the main meal was dinner, which was called cena.
- Food of the common people were the usual Mediterranean foods. This was mainly barley, olive oil and wine – known as the Mediterranean Triad. Other common Roman food included home-grown vegetables, fish, and – if they were lucky enough to own a goat or cow or chickens – cheese and a few eggs.
- The Romans ate almost lying down. Roman food was not eaten while sat at a table. Instead, they had couches that were spread around a low down, square table.
- Romans ate most of their food with their fingers. Sometimes they would use a spoon for a dish like soup, and occasionally a knife to cut their food into smaller pieces.
- Roman knives were made from antlers, wood or bronze. They also had an iron blade to cut their food. Spoons were made from bronze, silver and bone. In addition to soup, they were used to eat eggs and shellfish.
- Romans ate a lot of different fruits and vegetables. Some of the fruits and veg they would have eaten include apples, almonds, beans, carrots, cabbages, celery, dates, figs, grapes, mushrooms pears, plums, pomegranates, radishes, turnips and many more. Many of these had never been eaten in Britain before the Roman invasion.
- The Romans used herbs and spices to flavour their food. As the Empire grew and expanded they found new ways to season their food with salt, pepper and other spices. They also began to eat more fish – shellfish and lobster were both popular Roman foods.
- The Romans kept animals for their meat. Rich Romans would eat beef, pork, wild boar, venison, hare, guinea fowl, pheasant, chicken, geese, peacock, duck, and even dormice – a mouse-like rodent – which was served with honey. Poor Romans did not have access to much meat, but they did add it to their diet from time to time.
- Bread was also staple food in the Roman diet. There were three grades of bread made in ancient times, and only the rich would eat the more expensive refined white bread.
- They used honey as a sweetener. Sugar was not available to Romans so honey was used instead.
- The Romans liked cheese. Cheese in Ancient Roman was made with goat’s milk and was eaten by the rich and sometimes the poor as well. They also enjoyed eggs from a variety of different birds.
- For a rich Roman’s banquet they would serve many exotic foods.
- Most meals were served with sauces. They were fond of sauces because it made the dishes more exciting and less bland than it might have been without. Garum was a type of sauce made from fish waste mixed with salt water and left for several weeks. It was supposedly a very salty and highly flavoured sauce that the Romans enjoyed.
- Sauces made from vinegar, honey, salt, pepper and exotic herbs and spices were also popular.
- A sign of a successful Roman banquet was when guests asked for bags to take home dishes they enjoyed. This pleased the master because it showed everybody at the banquet how well the food had been received.
What Did the Roman’s Drink?
- Wine was the main drink of the Roman Empire and enjoyed by most Romans.
- The wine was always watered down and was never drunk straight from the bottle.
- Romans would drink wine mixed with other ingredients as well. Calda was a winter drink made from wine, water and exotic spices. Mulsum was a very popular wine and honey mixture.
- The Romans did not drink beer and rarely drank milk.
Ancient Roman Recipes
Below are examples of ancient Roman recipes that were used by Romans during the Empire.
Stuff the dormice with minced pork or the meat of other dormice chopped up with herbs, pepper and pine nuts. Sew up the dormice and cook in a small oven.
Take the crusts from a white loaf and break the bread into largish pieces. Soak them in milk. Fry them in hot oil or fat. Pour honey over them and serve.
Below is an excerpt from the writer Petronius who wrote about his eating experiences in around AD 60:
After a generous rubdown with oil, we put on dinner clothes. We were taken into the next room where we found three couches drawn up and a table, very luxuriously laid out, awaiting us.
We were invited to take our seats. Immediately, Egyptian slaves came in and poured ice water over our hands. The starters were served. On a large tray stood a donkey made of bronze. On its back were two baskets, one holding green olives, and the other black. On either side were dormice, dipped in honey and rolled in poppy seed. nearby, on a silver grill, piping hot, lay small sausages. As for wine, we were fairly swimming in it.
Roman Food Worksheets
This pack contains 7 ready-to-use Roman Food worksheets to help you teach students about Roman food and its role in ancient Rome.
After completing these worksheets students will be able to:
- Understand Roman food and why it was such an important part of Roman life, the emperor and the Roman people.
- Brainstorm the common words and keyphrases associated with Roman food
- Write with confidence to explain what food the Romans ate, how often they ate, and any interesting observations about Romans and their food.
- Draw a picture of a typical Roman meal and include three facts about the meal
Did you know?
Pottage was the main Roman food
This was a thick stew made mostly from wheat, millet and corn. Some Romans would add cooked meat, offals or a wine sauce depending on how rich they were.
The Romans ate almost lying down
Roman food was not eaten while sat at a table. Instead, they had couches that were spread around a low down, square table.
Included in This Worksheet (PDF Format)
- Roman Food Study Guide and Information
- Fill in the Blanks
- Roman Food Brainstorm
- Acrostic Poem
- Word Scramble
- What did Romans Eat?
- Draw and Explain a Roman Meal
More About The Romans
Find out more facts about the Romans by visiting our Roman resources page.
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.