Ancient History Sourcebook:
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
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;
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