Why Did The Ancient Romans Eat So Much

Food has always been central to life in ancient Rome, which was home to one of the greatest empires in world history. In fact, the Roman diet was so celebrated that it was immortalized in literature, art, and popular culture. So, why did the ancient Romans eat so much?

First, it must be acknowledged that the ancient Romans had access to a vast array of food possibilities. Thanks to their strong economy and efficient trade networks, they were able to acquire a wide range of ingredients from throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. This variety allowed them to experiment with different combinations and flavors and to create dishes that were both diverse and indulgent. Moreover, since the Romans had solid agricultural systems in place, they were able to grow an abundance of fruits and vegetables, giving them access to an organic, fresh diet.

It’s also worth noting that the ancient Romans favored a particular approach to food known as “appertizing,” which was designed to maximize flavor. This involved the use of spices, herbs, and other flavor enhancers, as well as the combination of ingredients in novel ways. Appertizing allowed the ancient Romans to craft dishes that were both delicious and pleasing to the eye, which helped to make their meals more memorable. As a result, the ancient Romans had an almost limitless variety of foods to choose from, meaning that they could enjoy culinary delights on a regular basis.

In addition to their access to a wide variety of foods, the ancient Romans also had the luxury of time. Unlike today, when meals are often rushed, the ancients had the luxury of enjoying their meals in a leisurely manner. This gave them the opportunity to savor each bite and to fully appreciate the flavors of the food that they were eating. Furthermore, the ancient Romans favored large feasts and banquets, which gave them the opportunity to indulge in even more gastronomical delights.

Finally, it’s important to recognize that for the ancient Romans, food was about more than just sustenance. It was also about socializing, camaraderie, and pleasure. Food held an important place in Roman culture and was used as a way to bring people together and to celebrate life. As a result, the ancient Romans ate more than was necessary, but did so with joy, revelry, and appreciation.

Roman Feasts

The ancient Romans relished in feasts as a way to celebrate and bring people together. These feasts usually included massive quantities of food and wine and were accompanied by music, dancing, and other forms of entertainment. Furthermore, the Romans typically feasted on the finest foods available to them, choosing only the freshest ingredients and utilizing their skills of appertizing to create indulgent dishes. These feasts could last for hours, giving the ancient Romans plenty of time to enjoy the culinary experience.

Roman Dining Ware

The ancient Romans had a particular fondness for diningware and often used ornamental and elaborately decorated items to adorn the table. These included fine porcelain plates and dishes, as well as intricately carved utensils. Moreover, the Roman tradition of displaying luxurious table settings was often symbolic of wealth and social status, thus creating an additional incentive for indulging in large quantities of food.

Roman Cuisine

Food in ancient Rome was varied and often heavily spiced. The Romans often enjoyed dishes such as sausages and pork, as well as fish and game. Meat and vegetables were typically cooked over an open flame and served with sauces and other accompaniments. Besides the all-important wine, the Romans also enjoyed a variety of other drinks such as mead, beer, and honeyed milk. The ancient Romans also had a taste for exotic delicacies, such as parrot eggs, deer tongues, and roasted dormice.


By modern standards, the diets of ancient Rome weren’t always the healthiest, but they did provide enough vitamins and minerals to ensure the population’s survival and overall wellbeing. This is due in part to the wide variety of ingredients that the Romans had access to and the combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as game and other animal sources of protein. Furthermore, the Romans had access to healing herbs, spices, and remedies, which allowed them to stay healthy and avoid sickness.

Gastronomy and Philosophy

The Romans also had a particular reverence for the art of food. Notably, their philosophies centered around the concept of “gustatio,” which was a kind of “philosophy of pleasure” focused on savoring the taste and experience of food. Gastronomy had an important place in Roman culture, as it was believed to provide a pleasing and enjoyable experience for the body and soul. This appreciation for the culinary arts was a major factor in why the ancient Romans ate such large quantities of food.

Social Customs

Finally, it’s important to consider how food played a role in Roman social customs. The Roman social hierarchy favored certain dishes, and it was considered impolite not to have a substantial amount of food on the table. Thus, having a lavish table spread was seen as a sign of respect and good manners. The availability of food and the Roman appreciation for feasting gave rise to a culture in which meals were often prolonged and indulgent.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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