In a Roman kitchen

Discover the utensils and food used for banquets

Cuisine romaine; les analyses en laboratoire (contemporaine) by image OpixidoMusée de la Romanité

Our current knowledge of Roman cuisine comes from several sources: ancient literature, material found during archaeological excavations, and lab studies (in particular archaeobotany, archaeozoology, and ceramology).  

Cuisine romaine; recette du lièvre aux épices (contemporaine) by image OpixidoMusée de la Romanité

The gourmet Apicius, who lived in the first century  CE, provides us with a lot of information about Roman cuisine in his work entitled De re coquinaria (The Art of Cookery).  Known for his extravagance, he compiled 468 recipes. 

Cuisine romaine; archéobotanique (contemporaine) by image OpixidoMusée de la Romanité

Archaeobotany is the study of plant remains. The Romans had a predominantly plant-based diet. They mostly ate cereals, but also pulses, fruits, green vegetables, roots, and various spices. 

Cuisine romaine; céramologie (contemporaine) by image OpixidoMusée de la Romanité

Ceramology consists of the study of shards and ceramics unearthed during excavations. Ceramics were used extensively in cooking and were used for preparation, preservation, and consumption. 

Cuisine romaine; l'archéozoologie (contemporaine) by image OpixidoMusée de la Romanité

Archaeozoology is the study of animal bones. The Romans ate pork, beef, hare, and poultry. They also enjoyed seafood, especially oysters. Eggs were also used, in particular to cook patinae (flan). 

Patina (Romaine, Haut-Empire)Musée de la Romanité

This low, open-shaped ceramic container is known as a patina. It was used, in particular, for second cooking, together with the olla (a container for boiling) and the caccabus, which was used for simmering. They were placed on a hearth during cooking. 

Jarre et bocal en verre (Romaine, Haut-Empire)Musée de la Romanité

Ceramics were also used to preserve food. Food was stored in urcei (pots), and doila (jars) sometimes very large in size, or in glass containers. Food was preserved in brine or vinegar.

Jarre (dolia) (Romaine, Haut-Empire)Musée de la Romanité

The Romans loved honey and garum. Garum is a sauce prepared from fish processed in salt. It was originally a luxury product made in the Black Sea and the Iberian Peninsula, before being produced throughout the Mediterranean and appearing on every table.

Cuisine romaine; la cuisine (contemporaine) by image OpixidoMusée de la Romanité

The culina (kitchen) was a rather small room. It was built next to the latrine to make the most of the water supply and drainage facilities. A masonry table with embers served as a hearth. Shelves on the wall provided storage for utensils and ingredients.

Cruche en sigillée (Romaine, Haut-Empire)Musée de la Romanité

Ceramics were widespread on Roman tables as they were inexpensive and abundant. Fine ceramics, also known as terra sigillata, recognizable by their red and glossy surface, were favored. Whether plain or decorated, it was produced in large quantities in the first and second centuries CE.

cruche ; oénochoé ; urceus (grecque archaïque)Musée de la Romanité

Metal tableware was the most lavish of all tableware. Made of bronze or silver, the pieces were displayed in the reception rooms of the home as prestigious objects. They also represented a financial reserve: in times of need, they could be sold or recast. 

Tasse en verre (Romaine, Haut-Empire)Musée de la Romanité

Glass tableware was very popular: trays, plates, bowls, tumblers, bottles, and more. Unlike bronze, glass does not alter the taste of food. Its transparency enhances the dishes on the table. 

Le banquet (contemporaine) by image OpixidoMusée de la Romanité

At a banquet, the meal was served in the triclinium (dining room). Three beds (klinè) were arranged in a U-shape around the table (mensa). The banquet was a time for social bonding, and the Romans did not hesitate to spend huge sums on food and tableware. 

Credits: Story

Musée de la Romanité de Nîmes - 
Realization:  Ville de Nîmes - Musée de la Romanité 
Iconography: © Ville de Nîmes - Musée de la Romanité 
Illustrations © Opixido ( - Ville de Nîmes - Musée de la Romanité 

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