Saturday, November 18, 2006



Friday Archaeology Blogging!! A Day Late!! As Usual!!


A Roman merchant ship.

So the archaeological world, at least that part of it which is interested in the Romans, is pretty much agog these days over this:

Shipwreck of first-century vessel a ‘dazzling find’
November 14 2006

Marine archaeologists in Spain said yesterday that the shipwreck of a first-century vessel carrying delicacies to the richest palates of the Roman Empire had proved to be a dazzling find, with bones still nestling inside two-handled clay jars of fish sauce.


Ah yes, "fish sauce." Garum, as it was known in Latin, was one of the most popular Roman condiments, and it's hardly surprising to find it being shipped around in bulk. Should you wish to emulate the Romans, and concoct your own batch of authentic Roman garum, here are the rough instructions:

  1. Place, in a large container, fatty fish (either whole or in large pieces) and a number of herbs and spices, including copious amounts of salt.
  2. Seal the container tightly, and place it out in the sun.
  3. Go away, and find something else to do for a week, while the fish is fermenting.
  4. For three weeks, stir the concoction daily, until it has achieved a liquid state.
  5. Yum!

The above recipe is derived from a work on herblore by one Gargilius Martialis, an obscure 3rd-century A.D. Roman writer. A far better-known Roman chef was Apicius, although who he was, precisely is unclear. Recipes attributed to him were collected in late antiquity, and a number of manuscripts bearing them have survived.

The Romans did indeed have interesting culinary tastes, although the "Cena Trimalchionis", the elaborate dinner described by Apuleius in his work "The Golden Ass," is probably an exaggeration. Probably the most famous "weird" food of the Romans was the dormouse, which was eaten stuffed or dipped in honey and considered a great delicacy. The dormice themselves were raced in large terracotta jars called "gliraria" (singular "glirarium"). These vessels were perforated, and had an inclined ramp built on the inside to allow the dormice to move about and be fed.


A glirarium from Pompeii

Dormice were very much considered luxury food, and there was great concern about their effects on Roman moral character, to the point that sumptuary legislation was passed in 115 B.C. making the consumption of dormice illegal. However, this particular law was about as effective as most sumptuary legislation, and dormice continued to vanish down Roman gullets throughout most of the history of the Empire.

Anyway, actual work beckons, so that will be all for this week's Friday Archaeology Blogging. Also, I'm all hungry now for some reason... More political stuff tomorrow!

1 comment:

Scout said...

ah, i think my appetite for my midnight snack has just been curbed. ewwww!