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Ancient Roman Dining: Breakfast and Lunch
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  4/23/06
By: Yona Williams

One of the basic necessities in life is food, so it is always interesting to explore some of the mealtime customs of ancient civilizations. For example, during ancient Roman times, slaves played quite an important role when it came to preparing, serving and eating meals throughout the day. This fact and others, including what was eaten, can be found in this article.


Ancient Roman Breakfast Time


When taking a look at the eating habits of the ancient Romans, you will find that there is a distinct difference between the way lower class and upper class Romans conducted their daily activities. Lower class Romans, which were referred to as plebeians, may start off their day eating dry bread. Sometimes the bread is eaten as is, but often they dipped the bread in wine or water. A plebeian may also sprinkle other food items on top of the bread, such as olives, cheese and raisins. During the early days of Rome, there was a tradition of giving out bread on a daily basis to those who were not working. Workers were allowed to pick up some bread while they were on their way to a full day’s work.


As for the upper class Romans, who were called patricians, their breakfast included a wide-range of food items. Their breakfast consisted of fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, fish, as well as bread. When sweetening meals, honey was used due to the fact that the Romans did not know of sugar at this time. It was the slaves’ duty to clean, as well as cook the food. The slaves even cut the food for the patricians. Using their fingers is the way that ancient Romans ate their food. This is due to the fact that forks and knives were not used at this time. Schoolchildren often purchased food items, like a pancake so that they can eat something on their way to school.


Ancient Roman Lunch Time


Now we will deal with the meal that was eaten during the ancient lunch rush. The poor were expected to work tirelessly throughout the day. Lunch was often eaten around 11 in the morning and consisted of cold food items. Some of the meal was comprised of bread, salad, olives, fruit, nuts, as well as cheese. Cold meat also accompanied the lunchtime meal. The cold meat items usually came from the meal that was prepared for the previous night’s dinner.


When afternoon set in, the rich rested at home or spent time relaxing with their friends. After the lunch meal, Romans during ancient times would take a nap during the midday, which was also referred to as a siesta. During the summer months, it was quite common for everyone to take a nap at this time. For schoolchildren, they even took a 2-3-hour break during the middle of the day for this siesta period. They then returned to school after the nap to round out their schooling. The siesta was so common that the streets were left without a soul wandering about.






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