People in Ancient Rome ate a wide variety of foods. What a person ate depended on both their wealth and where they lived in the Roman Empire. Food was imported from all around the empire to feed the large populations in the capital city of Rome.
How many meals did they eat?
The Romans ate three meals during a typical day. The first meal (breakfast) was called the "ientaculum." It was usually eaten around sunrise and consisted of bread and maybe some fruit. The next meal (lunch) was called the "prandium". The prandium was a very small meal eaten around 11 AM. The main meal of the day was the "cena." It was eaten in the afternoon.
Typical Food of the Poor
As you might expect, the poor people in Rome did not eat the same food as the wealthy. The main food of the poor was a porridge call "puls." Puls was made by mixing ground wheat and water. Sometimes they might get some vegetables or fruit to eat with their puls. The poor ate very little meat.
The wealthy ate much better than the poor. They would often have fancy dinner parties that lasted for hours and had several courses. They would have a variety of foods including fruit, eggs, vegetables, meats, fish, and cakes.
Did they sit around a table?
At formal dinner parties, the Romans reclined on couches around a low table. They would lay on their left arm and then eat from the center table using their right hand. For less formal meals, the Romans would sit on a stool or stand while eating.
Did they use forks and spoons?
The main utensil used by the Romans for eating was the spoon. They also used their hands a lot. They sometimes used a knife or a fork like utensil for cutting or spearing a piece of food.
Did they eat any strange foods?
Some of the foods that the Ancient Romans ate would seem strange to us today. At fancy banquets they sometimes ate things like flamingo's tongues, roast peacock, and stewed snails. Perhaps the strangest thing they ate was dormice. Dormice were considered a delicacy and were sometimes eaten as appetizers. One Roman recipe called for the dormice to be dipped in honey and rolled in poppy seeds.
What did they drink?
The main drink of the Romans was wine. It was often watered down for daily consumption.
Interesting Facts About Ancient Roman Food and Drink
The government of Rome provided free or cheap grain for the poor called a "grain dole." This was used by politicians to gain popularity with the lower class.
The Romans dressed up their meals with various sauces. The most popular sauce was a fermented fish sauce called garum.
Fish was more common than other types of meat. Oysters were so popular that there were large businesses devoted to oyster farming.
In addition to the porridge puls, bread and cheese were common staple foods in the Roman Empire.
Wealthy Romans often had entertainment at their dinner parties including dancers, poets, and musicians.