Good Food for Ancient Times

By Matteo Brunel

"When there is happiness among all the people; when feasters in the house... this seems to me in my heart to be the best of all"

                                                             Odysseus to his host Alcinous in HOMER, Odyssey 9

Overview of Presentation

In any society, food and drink are at the center of social life, and even more so in Ancient Rome where the main idea we remember about Ancient Rome is its food. Many different foods were served at different occasions. In this tackk you will learn about a three course meal with food prepared in the 1st Century A.D. and even learn how to prepare your very own Ancient Roman meal (and sample it later!) with my new TV show, "Good Food for Ancient Times."

Book of Apicius, a famous 1st Century A.D. chef

Focaccia Bread

In Rome, and in places where its reign extended, you could not have a meal without some sort of bread. Plain bread was an inexpensive way to fill yourself while you ate, but soon many other kinds of bread became popular, such as the Focaccia. Focaccia was traditionally prepared as a thin 'cake' made of  flour,  garlic and herbs, and salt and water. Then it was put in a stove to cook.

Recipe for Focaccia Bread



Flour, water, active dry yeast, salt, rosemary (or other herbs), and olive oil.

Latin: farīna, cerevisiae, sal, rosmarinus, et oleum.

  1. Mix water and flour. Add yeast and make a dough. Roll dough out on cookie sheet.  Add olive oil, salt, and rosemary (or other herbs).  Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.


Panzanella was essentially a salad with soggy pieces of day old bread, boiled eggs, tomatoes and other vegetables, and basil (or other herbs). This dish is often referred to as "a poor man's lunch" as it did not take much to make and you could use bread that had gone stale. Since bread dried quickly in deserts or hot areas, this would make an ideal meal for the Jews on Masada, as they would not want to let food go to waste.

Recipe for Panzanella


English: Day old farmers bread, boiled eggs, cucumbers, capers, green onions, basil, salt, pepper to taste, and olive oil.

Latin: Pane, cocta, cucumis, cappari, cepa, ocimum, sal, piper, et oleum.

  1. Get the stale bread wet and squeeze all the water out.  Add, cucumbers, green onions, basil, capers, and eggs.  Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Patina of Asparagus

The Patina of Asparagus was a common food that was served in the 1st Century. Prepared with asparagus, eggs, and onion, this dish made for an easy meal to anyone, especially the Jews at Masada. This dish was recorded by a Roman foodie, Apicius, whose book was also documented in the 1st Century.

Recipe for Patina of Asparagus


English: Eggs, asparagus, onion, olive oil, parsley, pepper and salt.

Latin: ova, asparagus, cepa, oleum, apium, piper, et sal

  1. Steam asparagus.  Cut them in small pieces. Sauté onion in pan and add asparagus.  Add parsley, salt, and pepper and cook for a few more minutes.  Pound them down to a smooth mixture.   Put mixture into shallow oven dish and break eggs on top. Bake at 375F for 10 minutes.


Frittelle, or fritters, originated in Salemi, Sicily, just southwest of Palermo. This dish was made in Ancient Rome for a festival dedicated to the gods of wine. Frittelle would be a dessert most likely brought to Masada by the Romans. Made with citrus rind, raisins, and apples, and served with honey, this made a delicious dessert to finish a meal!

Recipe for Frittelle



Flour, yeast, sugar, eggs, apples, orange rind, lemon rind, raisins, and milk.

Latin: farina, cerevisiae, saccharum, ova, poma, aurantiaco cortices, lemon cortices, uva passa, et lac

  1. Mix sugar and eggs.  Add cut apples, orange rind, lemon rind, raisins, and milk.  Add flour and yeast.  Fry them in hot oil.


"A BRIEF HISTORY OF FRUITS." A History of Fruit. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

"A Nut Tart With the Romans." The Hairpin. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Dalby, Andrew, and Sally Grainger. The Classical Cookbook. London: British Museum, 1996. Print.

"Frittelle, Focacce E Piatti Freddi: Nella Roma Antica Si Mangiava (anche) Così." Frittelle, Focacce E Piatti Freddi: Nella Roma Antica Si Mangiava (anche) Così. N.p., 2002. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.

"The Food Timeline: History Notes--salad." The Food Timeline: History Notes--salad. N.p., 3 Jan. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

"The Oxford Companion to Italian Food." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.


Apicius Manuscript. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Pompejanischer. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.


Masada. Dir. Boris Sagal. Perf. Peter O'Toole and Peter Strauss. 1981. Mini-Series.

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2 years ago

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2 years ago