What food did old Athenian soldiers eat?

Roman food / fruits & vegetables

Vegetables on the Roman menu: holus

In addition to grain, vegetables were the most important vegetable foods for the Romans. Legumes, called dielegumina, were particularly valued. Because of their high protein content, they were a good substitute for meat, which was not always available and was also more expensive. Another advantage: they were easy to dry and store.

The most important legumes were fabae (field beans), pisa (peas) and lentes (lentils). They had a long farming tradition in the Mediterranean region that goes back a long way into prehistory. The Romans spread cicer (chickpeas) and phaseolus (green bean) in Europe, which originally came from Africa. The Romans usually made a porridge from beans or mixed them into a cereal porridge. The Romans also liked to use them for salads, various vegetable dishes or stews. Concicle was the name of a stew made from beans and other legumes. The same applied to the peas and lentils were probably only used in a dried state. The legumes owe their rapid spread to the possibility of growing them in crop rotation with cereals.

It was ancient Roman to smell of garlic

After the legumes, onions, leeks and garlic were also very important for the diet of the Romans. They belong to a genus that was already cultivated by the ancient Egyptians and are therefore the oldest cultivated plants of all. Al (l) ium (also aelum; the garlic) was already considered healthy back then. To smell of garlic was considered ancient Roman. It was not until the late Republican era that the “stench” was considered unpopular in upscale circles. Later consumption was typical for the rural population and the military. Not only was its taste popular, but also its healing properties. In a religious sense, garlic was said to have a disastrous effect. In addition, the Romans attributed a warming effect to garlic, so that even fighting cocks were rubbed with it before they were used!

Spicy celery, cabbage and carrots in Roman pots

Apium, or celery, was widely used as a spice plant throughout the empire. The Romans used leaves, stems, tubers and their seeds as spices for their dishes. Brassica, or cabbage, was widespread in the Roman Empire. Cato the Elder already mentioned several varieties and not only emphasized their health, but also described the cabbage as superior to all other vegetables. The Romans also knew the carota (carrot). But the antique carrot differed from the modern forms, which were only grown in the last 150 years. The varieties of that time had much less carotene, were smaller and not yellow or orange, but white.

The vegetables in Roman cuisine - Part II

Numerous varieties of cepa, or onions, already existed in Roman times. Dried or fresh, they were added to many dishes. Peasants and soldiers also ate them raw with or on bread. Bulbus (onion) was also used by the Romans to refer to the onions of other plants - such as the muskathyacinth. Porrus (leek), which was mostly cooked, was also part of Roman cuisine.

Parsnips, radishes and sorrel with the Romans

The carrot-like pastinaca (parsnip) was native to the eastern Mediterranean and was spread by the Romans. There were wild and cultivated forms. It came mostly in stews. Raphanus (radish) was a popular vegetable that the Romans liked to eat as a radish salad (raw, with salt and vinegar). The Romans also extracted oil from radish as radish oil. Rumex, the sorrel, played a much more important role in ancient kitchens than it does today. In addition to the wild-growing form, Romans moved rumex scutatus (shield-leaved or Roman sorrel) as a cultivated plant in the garden. It was put on the table raw and cooked.

Salads of the Romans

In ancient times, lamb's lettuce grew in numerous varieties in the wild. Cultivation in gardens began late. It was eaten with vinegar and oil. Lactuca, lettuce, the original form of modern leaf salads, was eaten raw, cooked or canned by the Romans in many varieties. The same was true of the endive. Pumpkins were rather rare in Roman cuisine and were limited to agenaria, the bottle gourd and cucumis, the cucumber. Nettle, calendula, dandelion and goose thistle were served as pure wild plants.

Roman food is not a pizzeria

Much that we associate with modern Italian cuisine today did not even exist in Roman times. Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini and aubergines grew outside of areas that were then accessible to Europe. Spinach, for example, only appeared in the Middle Ages and was imported from Asia. Plants such as the modern garden beans or runner beans, for example, come from America. And the pumpkin plant zucchini, an indispensable part of Italian cuisine today, has its origins in North America - it probably comes from the Texas wild pumpkin!

Fungi in Roman cuisine - the mushrooms

People ate mushrooms as early as the Stone Age and they were also part of the food in ancient times. Italy flourished well for mushrooms in great variety, so that they found their way into Roman cuisine. The Romans even used Boviste or tinder sponges to make fire. When it comes to consumption, it was of course important to distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms. Already in the 5th century BC The Athenian poet Euripides is said to have lost his wife, daughter and two sons in one day to poisonous mushrooms.

Mushrooms in ancient times

Pliny described the characteristics of poisonous mushrooms and gave antidotes - mostly emetics - in the case of poisoning. Its natural history contains chapters on the subject of mushrooms. He prefers to treat the truffle, but also mentions the Kaiserling and the boletus as delicacies. In addition to processing them for food, the Romans also used mushrooms in medicine. Since the ancient descriptions of mushroom varieties are meager or ambiguous, it is difficult to assign old names to the mushroom species known today. The agaricum (larch mushroom), the boletus (male mushroom), which was highly valued for gourmet meals in imperial times and was even recommended by the doctor Galen, the equally popular fungus suillus (imperial mushroom), the fungus candidus (real mushroom) and especially tuber are certain (Truffle). The Romans called inferior mushrooms "Saupilze". In Roman times there were no limits to the preparation of mushrooms and particularly beautiful specimens were eaten raw. The Romans were also familiar with mushroom cultivation and dried mushrooms in order to preserve them.

Roman knowledge of mushrooms

The fungus aridus (tinder fungus), boviste, larch sponges and other tree fungi have been passed down as non-edible mushrooms in Roman times. Grain rust and brandy or mold were not considered mushrooms in antiquity. Even in the Middle Ages, knowledge about the effects of mushrooms was not expanded, but rather mystified or falsified. Only the natural sciences at the end of the Renaissance found out more about mushrooms and their properties and properties.

Fruit in ancient times: poma

The Romans ate all kinds of fruit: fresh, dried or canned. Only in the course of the Romanization did the cultivation of fruit develop - especially in the provinces. Previously, most of the fruit the Romans consumed came from wild trees and bushes. The archaeological reconstruction of the pome fruit that the Romans ate results from the little rotten remains, such as pips or peel. After that, fruit was always in season with the Romans. Due to the seasonal offer, the Romans often suffered from diseases caused by excessive or unripe consumption of fruits. Diarrhea and typhus could result.

Cherries invade

Some fruits only conquered Italy through conquests of the outgoing republic. A well-known example is the cherry introduced by Lucullus in Italy. Raspberries, blackberries, sloe, hawthorn, black elder, wild strawberries and rose hips were harvested locally by the Romans. In contrast, grapes were initially imported into almost all provinces.

Orchards among the Romans

Excavations show that the Romanization was accompanied by the creation of orchards and that the supply also changed due to increased imports. From this point on there were, for example, greater quantities of malum (apple), pirum (pear), prunum (plum), plums, sweet cherries, malum persicum (peach), grapes and elderberries. Already in Caesar's time there were 23 apple and 38 pear varieties on a market in Rome, because pome fruit was particularly suitable for plantations and horticulture. Soft fruit, on the other hand, was only harvested wild by the Romans until late antiquity. Ficus (fig) and palmula (date) soon reached the markets in the Roman Empire from long-distance trade. The advantage of these fruits was their high sugar content, which made them very nutritious and also long-lasting when dried. Even the melones (honey or sugar melons) cultivated very early by the Egyptians were already known to the Romans and they roasted their kernels for consumption.

Nuts, raisins and co

Nuts of all kinds were popular with the Romans. The walnut was even grown in plantations. Hazelnuts were harvested from wild coryli (hazelnut trees). Castaneae (chestnuts / chestnuts), almonds, pistachios and pine nuts were also part of the Roman cuisine. By the way, the olive was considered a fruit in ancient times! - Since the fruits did not last long and were only available in abundance at harvest time, the Romans explored conservation methods early on. Nuts and kernels were roasted, fruits pickled or boiled in honey or sweet wine, vinegar or cider. The Romans dried apples, pears, figs and grapes in the sun. In addition, they already knew drying ovens. Numerous recipes prove the popularity of fruits in Roman cuisine. Many sauces were refined with fruits and thus got their typical sweet and sour taste. Often it was seasoned with fruit or vice versa, the fruits were treated with herbs and spices.