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Roman meals during the day

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Fresco from Pompeii showing a Roman feast
Fresco from Pompeii showing a Roman feast

Romans ate three meals during the day, in which women also participated. In the morning between eight and nine, the Romans ate breakfast so écantaculum, in the middle of the day between eleven and noon they ate the prandium (second breakfast, dinner) and finally the most important meal was dinner, between the third and the fourth hour.

The first two meals were light and quick. At that time bread, fruit, vegetables, cheese and remnants from supper were eaten. Often these meals were eaten standing up. The most important meal of the day, dinner (cena) was first consumed in the atrium household, where the revelers were exposed to passers-by looks, later they were eaten inside in a special room called cenaculum, which in time became the triclinium, when the Romans and Italics from the upper social classes adopted the habit of eating supper lying on couches (klinai) from the Greeks. Since then, standing food has become a symbol of simplicity.

In the middle of triclinum there was a square or a round table (mensa), around him lay sofas, on which the revelers lay, resting on the left side in such a way as to have free right hand and to be able to eat. The table was marble or ivory. In the first century BCE, a tablecloth appears (mantele). There were dishes, wine and salt shakers on the table. Liquid dishes were eaten like a spoon (cochlear), while other foods were eaten by hand. Tableware, depending on the state of affairs, were made of clay or bronze for the poor, while for wealthy silver with decorated finishes. There were two types of plates: patina – plates and castinus – deep. Wine glasses, i.e. pocula, were made of crystal or gold, decorated with precious stones. The wine was drunk diluted with water.

Author: Mateusz Wąsik
  • Piszczek Zdzisław (red.), Mała encyklopedia kultury antycznej, Warszawa 1990
  • Winniczuk Lidia, Ludzie, zwyczaje i obyczaje starożytnej Grecji i Rzymu, Warszawa 2008

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