Food in the Ancient World

By Tim Lambert

Food In Ancient Egypt

For most people in ancient Egypt, food was plain and dull. The staple food of the Egyptians was bread and beer. The bread was baked outside and because of the desert sand was often blown into the dough. In time eating bread with grains of sand in it wore down people’s teeth.

In ancient Egypt as in all early civilizations, meat was a luxury and only the rich could afford to eat it frequently. Nevertheless, the Egyptians ate sheep, pigs, cows, and goats but meat often came from ducks and geese. However fish were plentiful in Egypt.

Egyptian food included many vegetables, such as marrows, beans, onions, lentils, leeks, radishes, garlic, and lettuce. They also ate fruit like melons, dates, and figs. Pomegranates were quite expensive and were eaten mainly by the rich. The Egyptians grew herbs and spices and they made cooking oil.

An onion field

Beer was made from crumbled barley bread and barley with water so it was lumpy. It was strained before it was drunk. Even so, it was still lumpy so it had to be drunk through a wooden straw with a filter. Better off Egyptians drank wine.

Food in Ancient Greece

Like Egyptians, ordinary Greeks ate plain food. They lived on a staple diet of bread (made from barley or, if you could afford it, wheat) and goat’s cheese. Meat was a luxury but fish and vegetables were plentiful. Ordinary Greeks ate pulses, onions, garlic, and olives. They also ate hen eggs. Peasants caught small birds to eat. The Greeks also ate fruit such as raisins, apricots, figs, apples, pears, and pomegranates.

Rich Greeks ate many different types of food such as roasted hare, peacock eggs, or iris bulbs in vinegar. Poor people drank mainly water. If they could afford it they added honey to sweeten it. Wine was also a popular drink. Usually, wine was drunk diluted with water.

Roman Food

A Roman dining room was called a triclinium. The Romans ate a breakfast of bread and fruit called the ientaculum. At midday, they ate a meal called the prandium of fish, cold meat, bread, and vegetables. The main meal was called the cena and was eaten in the evening.

The Romans were also very fond of fish sauce called liquamen. They also liked oysters, which were exported from Britain.