The ancient Graeco-Roman diet was based on cereals (Gk. sitos, Lat. frumentum) but supplemented and flavoured by a wide variety of legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, meats, other animal products, fish, and other seafood. The Greeks used the generic term opson for food eaten with bread or other cereal products. Olive oil and wine were important sources of fats and calories for those living within the Mediterranean climatic zone. In the more northern regions of the Roman Empire and in Egypt, beer was the more common beverage. Most of the meat consumed in the ancient world came from the major domesticates. Garum or fish sauce was eaten in the Greek world but became ubiquitous during the Roman period and was shipped all over the empire. A huge array of fish and shellfish were eaten, fresh where possible but also salted, at both coastal and inland sites. Food in the Greek and Roman world served a multitude of purposes in addition to basic sustenance and human survival. Particular items such as figs, olives, barley, and emmer wheat were strongly connected to notions of Greek and Roman identity. Wealth, status, education, and cultural belonging were displayed through food, and foodstuffs appear frequently in all forms of Greek and Roman literature. Food was also a popular subject in art, and numerous mosaics depict raw ingredients and agricultural scenes. The field of ancient food studies originally explored diet through the ancient textual sources and often focused on the grain supply to Rome. Since the 1980s, however, it has evolved to incorporate all manner of archaeological and environmental evidence to explore a wider array of topics that includes animal sacrifice, non-elite diet, regional and chronological dietary variation, gender, economics, and identity.
|Journal||Oxford Classical Dictionary|
|Publication status||Published - 23 Mar 2022|
- food and drink
- Greek and Roman