VILLA IVLILLA Food & Drink Breakfast Luncheon Family Supper Special Feasts Spring Feasts Winter Feasts Saturnalia

Food & Drink

Ah! you are a pretty fellow! You make an engagement to come to supper and then never appear. Justice shall be exacted; - you shall reimburse me to the very last penny the expense I went to on your account; no small sum, let me tell you. I had prepared, you must know, a lettuce apiece, three snails, two eggs, and a barley cake, with some sweet wine and snow (the snow most certainly I shall charge to your account, as a rarity that will not keep). Olives, beet-root, gourds, onions, and a thousand other dainties equally sumptuous.

Pliny the Younger to Septitius Clarus

When the patron had clientes and guests to dine, supper became a convivium, or banquet, and took on a greater level of formality, just as today's business and politicial leaders entertain clients for a variety of business reasons.

Clients might not get a square meal but for the benificence of their patronus, and if he was not invited to partake of a particular feast was probably offered a basket of goodies, or sportulae, to carry home. Other dinner guests included artists, writers and poets, aspiring politicians and the ever-present social climbers.

A prescribed number of courses were the rule: the convivium opened with a certain number of appetizers (the gustum, gustatio or promulsis), followed by the main courses (mensa prima or caput cenae) and last a dessert, the mensa secunda, which usually was a sweet or fruit dish.

Sources: A Taste of Ancient Rome , by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa