What Did Poor Ancient Romans Eat?

Pascal Deloche/Godong/Photononstop/Getty Images

Poor ancient Romans ate porridge or bread made from grains for almost every meal. The staples of the Roman diet consisted of barley, olive oil and wine, and these three foods were eaten by both the rich and the poor. However, as Rome became an empire, the rich began eating more lavish dishes, and their diets began to look different from the diets of the poor.

The Roman government believed in keeping the masses satisfied so it provided free bread to the poor. Most food was boiled as a majority of houses, whether the residents where rich or poor, did not have ovens for roasting.

Romans usually ate breakfast at dawn, and they dined on bread in their bedrooms. However, the rich usually added eggs, cheese, honey, milk or fruit to the meal. Breakfast for the rich was sometimes a wheat pancake with honey and dates. Lunch was usually a simple snack of bread cheese and sometimes meat. The main meal of the day was cena, or dinner.

Rich Romans often had big banquets for dinner that featured exotic foods, rich meats, spicy sauces, sweet desserts and drinks such as mulsum, a sweet mixture of wine and honey. After a banquet, guests would frequently ask to take home leftovers, and that was considered a compliment to the host.