Top 5 Ancient Roman Foods and Drinks

Ancient Rome was one of the largest empires of its time, primarily based around the Mediterranean. Naturally, many of the eating and drinking habits of the ancient Romans were influenced by popular foodstuffs grown in the Mediterranean region, primarily wheat. Romans typically had three meals a day: jentaculum was their breakfast, prandium was the name for lunch and cena or dinner was the main meal. The food and drink served for the main course varied according to the Roman classes. The eating habits of rich Romans were lavish and grand when compared to those of an ordinary Roman peasant. Well-to-do Romans could afford the best and loved throwing dinner parties that lasted for hours. Personal preferences aside, the ancient Roman diet primarily consisted of a certain set of dishes. Here is a list of the top 5 ancient Roman foods and drinks:

5. Sauces and Spices

24228549 – a selection of various colorful spices on a wooden table in bowls

The ancient Romans were inexplicably fond of sauces and spices with their meals. For the poor Romans, meals were bland and consisted of the boiled paste of available staples like wheat, barley, and vegetables. So adding a little sauce and spice into the mix helped them have a cuisine that excited the taste buds. Again, a rich Roman’s dining habits included pretty much every popular variety of sauce and exotic spice he could purchase.

One fish-based sauce by the name of garum was particularly famous among the Romans. They would first make a brine of fish intestines, then crush the mixture and leave it to ferment for weeks until it was ready to serve. They also used a wide range of spices such as pine kernels, leeks, celery seeds, parsley, capons, dried mint, safflower, coriander, dates, honey, vinegar, and broth to season their food.



Bread was a popular staple food in ancient Roman times. In fact, the Romans started baking bread as early as 300 BC and soon realized the perks of baking wheat and other flours over serving them as a gruel or paste. Soon, consumption of bread gained so much popularity that in 168 BC, the first bakers’ guild was formed. Within 150 years, there were more than 300 specialist pastry chefs in Rome.

As baking flourished, more varieties of breads were made. The difference in their quality depended on the flour being used, the fineness of the grain, and the mills used for grinding the flour. Furthermore, legumes, milk, eggs, and butter were often added to bread to make it more nutritious and to taste better, but such specialist breads could only be afforded by rich citizens.

3.Fish and Meat


Meat was an expensive commodity in ancient Rome (at least for the poor Roman peasants), so the common people preferred buying it in small pieces and mainly ate it during festivals. Meat was more exclusively for the rich since they could afford pretty much anything. So naturally, a variety of meat items were served during the grand dinner parties of rich Roman families. Primary meat sources were poultry and wild game such as rabbit, hare, and boar.



Wine was such a popular drink among the Romans that it could be called their national drink. They despised beer since it was a popular drink among the barbarians – the Britons and the Celts – so naturally wine was the preferred option. The Romans always diluted their wine with water since drinking it straight was not part of their culture. Wine came in several varieties, the popular ones being black, red, white, and yellow wines.

A household’s first course at dinner was usually accompanied by mulsum, a slight variation of regular wine made by mixing honey with it. Clearly, there was an ever-increasing demand for wine in ancient Rome which gave rise to widespread wine production especially along the border between Latium and Campania in Italy. Some vintage wines like Caecuban, Setian, Falernian, and Massic came from wine producers in these areas.



A primary food item in ancient Rome was wheat which was an essential ingredient in most meals. Wheat flour was used to bake the best of breads. It was also used to prepare porridge and pancake biscuits. All three primary meals had one or more food items made of wheat.

Wheat pancakes with dates or honey were common for breakfast, wheat breads and cheese were usually taken for lunch and wheat porridge was almost always on the dinner menu in Roman households. On the downside, wheat breads were rather more expensive than bran breads, so the common people preferred the latter, while finest-quality wheat breads were the first choice for the rich folk.

As a Conclusion…

The early Romans were not the biggest or grandest eaters, but as the empire gained stability and expanded, so did their culinary habits. There was a time when most Romans had to satisfy their appetites with porridge made of barley or wheat. But soon, there was a surplus of resources as the empire kept on expanding. A stable government meant almost everyone could access sustenance with ease. The Romans made the most out of baking practices they had learned from the Greeks and the Egyptians, but it was during the Roman era that bread production attained new heights and their love for bread gave a huge boost to the baking industry.


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