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Ancient History Sourcebook:
Macrobius:
Saturnalia Convivia, III.13: The Bill of Fare of a Great Roman Banquet, 63 BCE


[Introduction (adapted from Davis)]

The Romans laid a vast stress upon the joys of eating. Probably never before or since has greater effort been expended upon gratifying the palate. The art of cooking was placed almost on a level with that of sculpture or of music. It is worth noticing that the ancient epicures were, however, handicapped by the absence of most forms of modern ices, and of sugar. The menu here presented was for a feast given by Mucius Lentulus Niger, when, in 63 BCE, he became a pontifex. There were present the other pontifices including Julius Caesar, the Vestal Virgins, and some other priests, also ladies related to them. While this banquet took place under the Republic, it was probably surpassed by many in Imperial times.

Before the dinner proper came sea hedgehogs; fresh oysters, as many as the guests wished; large mussels; sphondyli; field fares with asparagus; fattened fowls; oyster and mussel pasties; black and white sea acorns; sphondyli again; glycimarides; sea nettles; becaficoes; roe ribs; boar's ribs; fowls dressed with flour; becaficoes; purple shellfish of two sorts. The dinner itself consisted of sows' udder; boar's head; fish-pasties; boar-pasties; ducks; boiled teals; hares; roasted fowls; starch pastry; Pontic pastry.


Source:

From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. ??

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.


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© Paul Halsall, July 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu