Definitions

Garum

Garum

Garum, also called liquamen, is a type of fish sauce condiment popular in Ancient Roman society.

Although it enjoyed its greatest popularity in the Roman world, it originally came from the Greeks, gaining its name from the Greek words garos or garon, which named the fish whose intestines were originally used in the condiment's production. For Romans, it was both a staple to the common diet and a luxury for the wealthy. Garum appears in most of the recipes featured in Apicius, a Roman cookbook. The sauce was generally made through the crushing and fermentation in brine of the innards of various fish such as tuna, eel, and others. While the finished product was apparently mild and subtle in flavor, the actual production of garum created such unpleasant smells as to become relegated to the outskirts of cities so that the neighbors would not be offended by the odor.

When mixed with wine, vinegar, pepper, oil, or water, garum was served to enhance the flavor of a wide variety of dishes, including pear and honey souffle, boiled veal, and steamed mussels. In addition, garum was also employed as a medicine and as a cosmetic. Ancient Romans considered it to be one of the best cures available for many ailments, including dog bites, dysentery, and ulcers.

Umbricius Scaurus put the ancient city of Pompeii on the map by his production of this product. The factories where garum was produced in Pompeii have not been found yet which has led many researchers to believe that the factories lay outside the walls of the city.

Today one can still see a garum factory at the site of Baelo Claudia, in Spain. This Spanish garum was an export to Rome, and gained the town a certain amount of prestige in its day. The garum of Lusitania (present-day Portugal) was equally highly prized in Rome. It was shipped to Rome directly from the harbour of Lacobriga (present-day Lagos).

In 2008, archaeologists used the residue of the last batch of garum in Pompeii to date the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

References

  • Butterworth, Alex and Ray Laurence. Pompeii: The Living City. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2005.
  • McCann, A.M. (1994). "The Roman Port of Cosa",(273 BC), Scientific American, Ancient Cities, pp. 92-99, by Anna Marguerite McCann. Covers: modifying harbor, for Garum Industry, amphora factory, hydraulic concrete, of "Pozzolana mortar" and the 5 piers, of the Cosa harbor, the Lighthouse on pier 5, diagrams, and photographs. Height of Port city: 100 BC. For: Garum Industry at port of Cosa, Italy, 273 BC.

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