when we think of Roman food the first image that usually comes to mind is a decadent emperor worn out from his latest orgy stuffing himself with peeled grapes peacock eggs and flamingo tongues personally I've got nothing against a good orgy but there are so many more interesting things to say about the way the ancient Romans eight in one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen food was politics and religion business and entertainment all rolled into one it's a topic that's far too important to reduce to a toga party cliche you can uh quaffing get on with it I want to find out what ordinary Romans eight I've chosen to zoom in on one year 80 AD at that time Rome had a million inhabitants making it the biggest city in the known world the Emperor was the battle-hardened Titus his vast dominions now reached as far as Scotland where I was born 80 AD was also when one of the most famous buildings of its time and ours first opened its doors for business the Colosseum gladiators have always appalled and fascinated me most were slaves and prisoners of war but the public adored them on the eve of combat fans even came to see them eat their last meal this is the ludus Magnus the gladiators gin it's connected to the Colosseum by a tunnel there's even a mini arena to practicing but for these athletes marked out for death or glory the ludus Magnus was much more than somewhere to hone their skills in fact they actually lived in the gym they slept here they ate their meals here and strange as it may sound gladiators were largely vegetarian now that may simply be because their owners didn't want to waste meat on men who could end up being shot to bits at any moment the gladiator diet was based on barley which they put in soups or news to make bread apparently they flavored it with honey and spices hmm it's not bad but it's a bit meagre for your last meal before fighting to the death but what's really piqued my interest is what gladiators drank a recent archeological study on the remains of Thracian gladiators has concluded that they had their own energy drink it was a curious little pick-me-up and I simply have to try it out on someone unfortunately we couldn't find any gladiators in the phonebook so we've had to make do with some boxes instead right 20 or up job nuclear lady Andreas he'll do a throwaway Almay cerebral palsy figure Tory energetic band Ogami rocky bottom pose magnesium potassium Oh Park a Palazzo de Grey Lady Comanche unaffected Aeneas very many sue layoffs actor gladiatori in bars are quested an okapi Tokarev Integra Torre moto specially however we meant to differ on experiment oh hey Venky for a schoolbook modular Sachi we do open a monsoon apply the BB potrebbero funciona ahora me figures to already gladiatori own ingredient a segreto a request already fee no Greco's Bianco trophy on cam4 similar finicky oh I see use ancora la cucina in Indiana sorry sorry en la medicina alternativa NK / tratar de problema d y como este lo alto indigestion a hey honky play dis funciona erectile a no me me no mae problema di questo tip oh no narrow lens otto in forma de chain a penny no tambien approach RA zero yogi reggae load or a new name mondaya future gierek a cozy pronto absolutely bah-bah-bah Amory Seema GC my case put him into a Senate sent on a baby I'm a union former Allah okay this analogy was a public secure I'd see every officer that I see thank you very fine sir let me know you can come Hank there gladly friend so he sent up a staggering for you I don't think there's any money to be made by buckling and selling this ancient Roman concoction it certainly doesn't give you wings bastard absolutely no difference whatsoever anything absolutely worse after that horrible taste yeah the gladiators had something else that they drank just before going into the arena it induced a kind of euphoria that helped overcome fear made from fermented fruit it was also an anaesthetic my new friend has decided to test it out on me come on ESO kappa talk in english agama Garagiola on Daisy will derail Coachella you Bria Cassie Gomez obj adesso Kimiko santera necesito Vanessa okay oh yeah opportunity glasses only did I ah bloody gladiators that is the end of the experiments as far as what gladiators drank is nearly as horrifying as what they had to do in the arena but what about the spectators we know they were bloodthirsty but what did they eat this gigantic amphitheater was built nearly 2,000 years ago and it's a fantastic place to observe just how society worked in the imperial capital at one point or another pretty much all of Rome's inhabitants came here the crowd in the Coliseum was 50 to 70,000 strong a third of them were poor people who sat in the highest seats so high that it wasn't easy to see but archaeologists made a discovery up here that shed new light of what a day out at the Colosseum was like they unearthed a little 2000 year old cooking home and what it proved was that if you didn't have enough money for a snack in the stands you could cook for yourself between one bout of bloodletting and the next a bit like rustling up a meal in the stands while watching the World Cup final the humblest plebeians the ones stuck up here operate a kind of porridge called pulse now it doesn't take a great chef to make it first you need some of this stuff spelt which you then boil in water and then to flavor it you use whatever you've got to hand in our case an onion some cauliflower and a few pulses this rather tasteless dish filled the bellies of the roman pour for centuries man as always for people for whom meat was scarce a stodgy came a staple somehow this takes me back to those times that I've eaten meat pies and rain-soaked English football stadiums the pulse isn't up to much but the spectacle is so much better while the poor were stuck up here night senators and the Emperor himself had seats in the front rows where they got a close-up view of the massacre they had tastier nibbles too archaeologists have found the remains of what they ate in the Coliseum sewers Oh Solaria the Coliseum's manager has invited me to pick through a few 2000 year old leftovers Aoyama rested the fruited amader potato do rata grazie Mira Mira Millia no LOC ostrich Amanda gusto ain't a Garuda Conley tranches propio della for so to repair primo so this is the ancient Roman equivalent of popcorn hot dogs and ice cream hey Questor Sara Barrow oh so busy so no echo butantã per chain totally osaka siri trova known on solo nelly phony Delco sarah in general roma Sonos edema yah de seguir a rota poi dolla dolla oscidyne yellow bikini alla era molto consummated aqua new per category as a Charlie so it seems that ancient Roman Stadium snacks were much healthier than ours but if I'd been in the Coliseum for the grand opening in 80 AD I'm not sure that I'd have been able to keep my food down in the first three months nine thousand animals were slaughtered from rhinos and tigers to Elks and buffaloes it tastes ok your daughter Alan tengo delante en todo no answer now is a bone Conejo dopants are occasionally kadadiri denali que de persona who need to a loaded in a hole a messy check we need ensued or and caldo loved miss fatale receive additional today did they call Cal that is Cal Minaj history to top yes pusheen a toad or a day coochie not OK for Sarah la cosa me no peg Joe pseudo questo see Turkana Dimity garlic on especially in the folder editor her are no saffron is one of the most expensive spices on the market today so I doubt that FIFA would even consider spraying it over an area the size of three football pitches to clear the air things have changed I suppose even before it was finished the Colosseum allowed thousands of Romans to put food on the table by giving them work it's even said that the Emperor Vespasian who commissioned the Colosseum refused to use a new machine for moving columns because it would have cost jobs no wonder building this monster took a decade let's have a look at the diet of one of the people who worked on the Colosseum let's say a middle-class family man an engineer with a wife and three kids and a couple of three slaves in other words a fine upstanding gentleman like me well minus the slaves the first thing is that you can forget all of those stories about ancient Romans stuffing themselves having a good vomit and then stuffing themselves all over again because if you did something like that you'd get a very bad reputation very quickly because the Romans valued frugality even if they didn't always live up to the ideal breakfast was eaten at the crack of dawn because public life began early in ancient Rome it was a simple affair fruit and milk or a piece of goat's cheese our engineer would have eaten lunch at the inn or even at the baths a good place to escape the heat of the day archeologists have found the remains of chicken wings and lamb chops in some Roman Baths there would also have been things like olives figs vegetables and beans but the main meal of the day was dinner eating alone just wasn't done in ancient Rome even the gods were invited to dinner and offered the first few mouthfuls then of course there was family friends colleagues dinner was all about the company come on everyone Romans much like us divided their meal into starter main course and dessert dinner was usually eaten about 4 or 5 in the afternoon when there was still daylight so as to save on lamp oil you have to wonder what they did for post dinner entertainment but there's something missing here on this table something essential in every Roman meal whether you were rich or poor bread and bread is what makes the next stop on my journey really important the Imperial port of Ostia this is what's left of Ostia where Rome got access to the sea in 80 AD Ostia was one of the biggest ports in the world goods of all kinds were brought here from right across the empire but there was one cargo that was much more precious than all the others grain a very basis of the Roman people's diet by 80 AD Rome imported an average of 350,000 tons of grain every year that's enough to make 260 million loaves of bread and to control this precious resource the Roman authorities created the men saw rays or grain measurers this mosaic shows us what they did here the measurer is leveling out the grain in this container while a little slave using beads on a string is keeping a tally of the sacks but of course somebody had to keep an eye on the grain measures and according to the experts this guy here the only one wearing shoes is a bureaucrat from a powerful government ministry the unknown and the unknown owes main task was to make sure that the city never went without bread the inanna not only distributed the grain it regulated the market to make sure that speculators couldn't profiteer in times of scarcity because if grain ran short riot and revolt could soon follow not even an emperor who had lost his marbles and there were a few of them that did would have risked that Emperor's even paid out of their own pocket to make sure that one particularly important group of people never went without bread under Titus every month two hundred thousand people received a free sack of grain like this one there's about 35 kilos in here that's enough to feed two adults for about the month now we might think that giving away all this free grain was charity but in Rome it wasn't the poor who got it in fact to get your grain you had to show a token like a tax code or an identity card and what that token said was that you had the status of Roman citizen citizenship was sought after it gave you privileges like the vote no surprise then that this constituency had to be kept on side but being a citizen didn't necessarily mean being rich and in Rome only the rich had an oven at home so to get their grain turned into bread everyone else went to the bakers I've had to get up really early to catch one of the best Baker's in modern Rome Gabrielle ed bond Qi he's promised to show me how his ancient ancestors made their bread dough yeah yeah any and we might cook grano grano mukesh a very good girl funny funny though I didn't funny video intro la Farina UNITA okay laugh all you want Gabriela but in ancient Rome bakers were often millons to proceed rata devar a parent ego paneer man cuando una cometa the deferment that Sione is his tenth and a probability Luba okay Queenie enter biryani a gentle appear on Yentl div go naturally Monsieur Firmin taco Luba prima cosa Luva when you up está de cemento calamari therefore ferment re y su Kahlua Farina nella Teague aroma la fermentation l non vanilla control ah de era mucho spoon tana molto AC degree Shiva Wendy Keiko Suzuki diva il panel occasionally sido el loco Lovano in kashi om e questo la shadow ferment rfon4 na Devon total coach Oh a drill el coche au vin Eva Ruto suitable Oh eller oh man Java non-eternal a colloquium Paso oppressor forma a common Shamu ah spits sorry Polly in 80 AD there were about 300 bakeries in the city and even though their prices were fixed by the authorities like the price of grain bakers were often well-off pochamma Natale KO SI ella SE Madiba Bob Arum all to Sado ilium TV Romani boy was summoned RA L for John EPROM toe a kholokov wanna kiss Otago nose friend espresso L know so body part o Sultan Togo la fermentation Elmo study passaglia Columbo DVD Kusumoto Eiichi Vanna colada tell me judging by the breakfast he made me Gabriela would have made a fortune in 80 AD under water you can keep your eggs and bacon frankly this is the breakfast of champions mayor you wanna yeah bread wasn't just the basis of the Roman citizens diet it also fueled the most fearsome military machine the ancient world had ever seen the legions legionaries treasured their bread not just because it filled their bellies for them bread was also a symbol of Roman civilization part of what separated them from the barbarians they fought mind you when they were on campaign Roman soldiers led a pretty uncivilized life themselves as I'm about to try and experience starting with these extraordinarily uncomfortable hobnail sandals they really are torture you know these things I hope I'm not expected to actually walk 15 kilometres like some legionary roman soldiers marched for tens of kilometers every day they hung their kick bag on a forked pole that weighed about 30 kilos that's about as much as my nine-year-old son and as if that wasn't enough they also had a shield armor and a spear or p l'm that they threw at their enemies in the opening exchanges of a battle and with all that they marched for as much as six hours without stopping i'm already pushed time for a snack for my peel em down oh let's see what a Roman legionary actually carries with him little frying pan is this pretty fearsome trenching tool there's a good for water which I've already emptied this has got grain in it for making soup or bread olive oil pretty essential it's in here it's very greasy what they call lard or in Italian it's cured pork fat olives and last but not least bit of cheese pickling on sheep's milk now that might not seem very much but behind the simple rations that every legionary was given there was a gigantic logistics operation in 80 AD Rome wasn't at war with anyone but a hundred and fifty thousand men were stationed on the Empire's borders feeding them meant sending tons of grain to places like Portugal Ukraine the river Danube and the Balkans all without modern means of transport but if you ask me despite this huge logistical effort the average legionary would have gladly exchanged his bread and cheese for today's italian army rations couple chena cookies and jam for breakfast and a three-course lunch including pasta main course and pudding not bad oh and to think the military service lasted 25 years there were rewards of course even for a barbarian from Britain like me serving in the Roman army would have weren't me Roman citizenship and a piece of land but farming's a bit too much like hard work for me I need a drink taxi oh it feels good to get those excruciating shoes off when they're marching brought them to Rome legionaries headed here this area was called the Subura it was a seedy part of town where Romans party in the emperor Titus's day this whole area was full of taverns where people would stop by for a cup of wine or three but the stuff the ancient Romans drank was very strange in fact the only thing it had in common with modern wine was the grapes everywhere you go here you get a sense of another city just below the surface this Osteria or tavern is a perfect example it's built on top of an ancient Roman house not surprisingly its owner loves everything to do with ancient Rome this is a great place to go boozing 80 AD style the ancient Romans drank a lot of wine they even drank the stuff at breakfast they like to dip their bread in it a bit like modern Italians do win biscuits and milk at breakfast time but ancient Roman wine was actually very different to wine as we know it today went through a whole series of adulterations so I've put together this little experiment in an effort to try and understand what the real taste of ancient Roman wine was like for a start it was always cut with water what or cold according to taste okay so far nothing too strange we've just added a bit of water but Rhone wine was full of sediment and so it needed to be filtered okay and they filtered their wine through a whole series of different things starting with barley and even celery like on a good method this now comes the moment to add the flavorings starting with honey now honey was actually quite expensive in Roman times hmm but for flavouring wine it was a very popular option there we go shouldn't just about do it give it a stir but the real luxury ingredients in World War II were spices for better off drinkers preparing wine involved mixing it with a whole range of stuff like saffron wormwood aloe elderberry myrrh coriander cinnamon aniseed the question is of course why did the Romans add all this stuff to their wine and the answer is basically that wine wasn't very good in the first place they weren't very good at controlling fermentation that in bottles the store the stuff in so it was a constant risk of going bad very often in fact Roman wine was a kind of halfway house between wine and vinegar so we're gonna add a bit of vinegar just to sort of reproduce that problem because they had no Beryl's bottles or corks or wine cellars like this one for that matter the Romans had a real problem they tried all sorts of experiments and wrote treatises about how to preserve wine without it's going bad and they adopted some peculiar measures they added all kinds of things like chalk or resin or even salt water so it's only fair for the purposes of our experiment we add a bit of salt water to the wine as well so now I think we're close or as close as we can be to what the real taste of Roman wine was like their wine had so much dregs in it that the Romans drank it from vars like cups to make sure all the rubbish stayed down at the bottom it's not terrible it's just not wine as I know it tastes a bit like a kind of ketchup hmm now we've got to see what other people think of this Roman wine yah Vicky's a de vino del antique aroma ye go you really want the money yeah I really want to know it doesn't taste like wine tastes um like we know it today Jaco Drago stogie Baby Jogger Eno mmm Mario it's a little bit's AC that GM Shalaka nella pero me gustas ah see less than jealous bastard well at least nobody's thrown up on me quite an achievement I think I would have got in real trouble in ancient Rome for offering wine to women because they weren't allowed to drink it in fact some sources say that men had a so-called kissing right they had the right to kiss their wives at any time to check their breath for alcohol my wife as it happens asked for exactly the same right before she married me the Romans were very fond of wine from the slopes of Mount Vesuvius but the eruption of 79 ad that swallowed Pompeii cut off that source from then on they imported wine from further away from places like Greece and North Africa they imported plenty of other things too and some are quite surprising toda vehicle is by many fire SOT jaren pulled all your Bordeaux coming out now this saloon of us right with italianissimo grass here Italy today is famous for its extra virgin but 2,000 years ago the Romans had to import huge quantities of olive oil the fact is they didn't just use it to make salad dressing hmm it served as fuel in lamps as medicine for treating wounds and burns and they went through rivers of the stuff in the bath where they used it to hydrate their skin and hair the average Roman went through about two liters of olive oil a month that's twice as much as today most bought it from one of Rome's 2,000 re tailors but the city imported much more than olive oil salmon from the Rhine geese and pigs from Gaul dried fruit from Syria Persian peaches and Turkish honey with all these ingredients coming from every corner of the Empire it's hardly surprising that Roman food was a kind of international cuisine Sally Granger is an expert on Roman cooking she's gonna help me explore the unusual recipes that made the Romans love their brand of fusion cuisine according to her it was when they conquered Greece in 146 BC that the Romans began to develop exotic tastes actually looking back on this period they say that they were porridge eating barbarians oh really that's the image they had of themselves that they weren't interested in food they didn't have cooks and it's only with the contact with the Greek you wear slave cooks initially I think it taken us as war captives yeah and brought to Rome and they because they like the food they found in Greece so they brought them back to her and said hey cook like that for us here so Rome's becoming an international city in some ways it's a city of immigrants absolutely I think so so what did these Greek chefs bring to Roman probably the most important thing was fish sauce is that it that's it yes very similar to nickname or num-num plus G's which is Thai fish sauce it honestly smells like it is made out of go have a getting jockstrap song it's a good smell wha no why not strong don't believe you what's it I mean how they make this style whole small fish and salt mix together left to dissolve ferment in the Sun in a large tank hmm in the Mediterranean Sun two or three months and actually if I if I make Roman food without it you know the difference there's something wrong with the food without it yeah there are two types one is a table condiment yeah which which the diner would use with Paul on to his oysters for instance and one is a is a cooking fish sauce right the table condiment is garam is made from blood and viscera of fish and only those components even worse the cooking sauce is like Romans under my uh-huh expert supervision Sally is making belly of pork lamb kabob and Conchita a sort of free tart them with lentils then she has me add some spices of a kind that you'd associate more with Eastern cooking them with ancient Rome strangely enough cumin and coriander are the two dominant spices in Roman shoot now this if this means basically that Roman food tasted a curry great which is confusing for people and a sweet and sour curry because they used an awful lot of vinegar and honey as well so we're talking quite a dense rich sauce okay over the next four hours Sally has me chopping slicing stirring me harder come on we need a bit more labor revolt those stories of slaves being whipped because things weren't quite right oh really yes I suspect she's making me work this hard because I've roped her into another one of my experiments we put our crunchy clock this little marvel is known as an RP abbey peasants use it to carry their produce we've transformed it into a fast food stand so Sally and I can so about what we've cooked we're a bit apprehensive about giving out ancient Roman recipes seasoned with fish entrails so to reassure our customers we've added some tasteful decorations to the stand in ancient Rome only the richest had a kitchen at home the best most people could hope for was a little stove to heat a few things up so huge numbers of Romans eat in the street fast food is not a 20th century invention ready to go Sally because eating out was the norm rather than the exception in ancient Rome there were thousands of taverns takeaways and fast food stores scattered throughout the city even right under the arches of the Colosseum Tavo no more beliefs so very no more beliefs she bowed Estrada DeLeon Tiki Romani vinegar NASA Johnny it's for free come and try it's an angry the money trade is a mr. da food how much your was a bit look any better love you with a flexible be fully money by therefore Allah Fila senior Yanik Oh me and you between the lashings of fish sauce and the heavy spices I feared the reaction of the notoriously picky modern Italian diners but they actually liked our ancient Roman food phew Sully that was a complete triumph you've converted half of modern Rome to the joys of ancient Roman eating you've gotta open a change yes please yeah I love to burn our mobilis all over the city brilliant idea good luck with it thank you Cheers so our little tavern immobulus was a bit of a star attraction at the Coliseum today two thousand years ago people didn't just come here for a takeaway you could also get exotic fresh meat from the slaughtered beasts but a lot of the meat that appeared on Roman tables was the product of ritual sacrifice the ritual slaughter of animals was crucial to Roman religion it marked all kinds of public occasions like religious festivals anniversaries and military victories but also private ones like births marriages and deaths and after every sacrifice the animal was eaten part by the gods and part by the mortals unfortunately sacrifices are banned in the Colosseum these days but a nearby roof terrace provides a nice scenic alternative sacrificial victim was usually a pig a carful maybe a lamb now the first thing that happened where the animal had it the right cut and then it was disemboweled on the altar well I'm afraid you're gonna have to imagine that bit because if I showed you what happened my kids wouldn't let me back in the house anymore next came the key moment the priest examined the innards for impurities if everything was okay the sacrifice was considered propitious and the carcass was divided the gods liked life-giving organs like the heart the lungs and the liver they ate them roasted and the priests got to join them in the meal everyone else got the meat and in big public ceremonies the meat was put on sale that way nothing was wasted in fact the Romans ate me quite a lot because powerful patrons often laid on sacrifices for their hangers-on it was all part of the great Roman art of winning friends and influencing people emperor Titus who inaugurated the Colosseum was a big believer in sacrifice and you can hardly blame him for being superstitious given the disasters that struck early in his reign fire plague and volcanic eruption in Pompeii his bad luck was destined to continue the year after the Colosseum opened Titus was attending a sacrifice there when the animal escaped a terrible omen the crowd saw him leave the stadium in tears he caught a fever and died a few days later over the centuries that followed the opening of the Coliseum the Roman Empire broke up and a Christian Europe emerged the sacrifices disappeared and over time so would much of Rome's food culture so what have I learned at the end of my exploration of Roman food well it's clear that there was more on offer in the Colosseum than gladiators and wild animal fights the Romans hated eating alone and their wine was borderline undrinkable and I found out that not only were gladiators badly fed but they had revolting sports drinks and went into the arena tipsy last but not least religious sacrifices were a very good opportunity for a juicy snake ancient Rome hasn't left many traces in Italian food today there are exceptions the great Mediterranean elements of olive oil grain and wine have remained fundamental and there's one more absolutely crucial legacy urban life the city was the place that sucked in ingredients and creative energies from the countryside today as in Italy's ancient past the city is the beating heart of a great cuisine

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Methew Wade

25 thoughts on “Ancient Roman food – feeding soldiers, gladiators, plebs and priests!”

  1. Extraterrestrial Composition 👽 🎶

  2. Roman puls was often flavored with what is called today: Guanciale, or Lardo. They didn't like bland food back then either.

  3. Amazing breakfast! Reminds me of one of my Greek relatives who would eat feta, grapes, figs, freshly baked bread from the local bakery & dark thyme Attiki honey for breakfast. They lived to a ripe old age.

  4. My guess is that the fans were eating those 9,000 slaughtered animals, lions, tigers, hippos and giraffes, probably (zebras and gorillas as well. I'm sure they would have thought of the rare meat as exotic delicacies. Or, perhaps they didn't know they were eating the remains of the previous days slaughter show.

  5. And what did the Colosseum eat? The temple goods from Jerusalem, which is why they caused the Jewish revolt. They needed an excuse. They were running out of money and the plebs of patience.

  6. These guys in the workout scene are like Squidward in human form. My 12 year old neighbor can lift more weight….lol

  7. 23:00 – If this is the type of bread they ate and how they ate it then this looks pretty, damn, good to me. Making my mouth water just, looking at it.

    My Best. Out.

  8. When the idiots in charge of SF decided it was a good idea to boot out the military bases ( BIG ASS MISTAKE, as you will see when the Big One hits, just remember my post, because the military WAS our plan for the Big One) I suggested that they fix TI, which is a created island full of toxins, by sealing it in 20 feet of concrete, and then using Roman methods and designs, make a water collection system like they had on Julia's island (fascinating! Collecting condensation!) and rebuild the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus, and the Pantheon and make Ti back into what it was originally, a party destination. We could rent out facilities to the A's and the Raiders (fuck the Santa Clara Golddiggers), free admission if you take a boat (huge creation of jobs for "uberboats"). We are already way below our own rules for open space, and since SF owns the island, that's pure revenue coming in. i even planned a toga party for opening day. I get to play Caligulass, a cross dressing, transgender freak. But no. They want to put up more HIGH RISE CONDOS, on an island made of filthy mud, as if the Bay bridge wasn't already jammed up with too much traffic. I tell you whut, had any of the bozo brigades running this town were running Rome, we never would ave HEARD of rome. We have a $30 BILLION budget and we are already OVER $10 BILLION IN DEBT.

  9. They have so much info wrong already 😑 I dunno if I can watch this whole video. It’s kind of recommended to do research on a topic before making what’s supposed to be a factual documentary 🤦‍♀️

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