Food and drink in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum

Food and drink in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum

Different cities have different ideas about the best kind of bread. However, for the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii It is the round white flour bread made with the grain of the fertile lands of Campania.

Despite all the time that has passed, Pompeii seems full of life. We know that the ancients ate beans, olives, peaches, dates, almonds, sour cherries, wild apples, pears, and walnuts. However, there is also evidence that they were great fish lovers thanks to a mosaic found in Pompeii with a wide variety of octopuses, squid, lobsters, shrimp, eels, sea bass, red mullet, dogfish, rays and a species of snail. Also, the Pompeians were very fond of a salty fish sauce called garum, similar to the Thai fish sauce, for which Pompeii was especially famous.

Aside from the ingredients, the team is also very significant. Much of the food was made in portable terracotta barbecues, where affluent houses had stone plates for cooking (similar to our plates) with the heat generated by a coal fire.

On the other hand, some frescoes faithfully represent the type of gastronomic culture that the ancient Pompeians had, and if there is one thing that is clear, it is that they knew how to have fun at the table. A painting of a private dinner shows a couple sitting on a sofa, both naked from the waist up and covered in rich fabrics below.

Another fresco shows a large party of men sitting on the sofa drinking wine. One of the guests staggers and spills the wine on his feet while a slave holds him. Certainly not all dinners were as sumptuous and decadent as this one, but dining this way was a privilege reserved for the rich. For the poorest Pompeians, the usual thing was to have a quick meal, since the most humble dwellings had no fireplace and cooking at home had its limitations.

But, the population of Pompeii was well nourished? According to him analysis of the 139 skeletons of Herculaneum, a third of the population was anemic. The poorest barely ate meat, leaving their bones lacking in zinc. In addition, skeletons of all kinds show signs of lead poisoning, probably because the wine of the land was dosed with this material to keep it better. However, their strong teeth and bones indicate that the people were better nourished than the equivalent population in modern Naples. All those fruits, nuts, fish, and olive oil really did serve a purpose.

The pity is that this kind of life was suddenly cut short. His was a culture more honest than ours, which recognizes that death is the counterpart of a good party. With the message “memento mori”(Remember that you must die) at the beginning of each feast, they knew that each feast had to come to an end.

This is what the British Museum wants to show us with its new exhibition “Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum”(Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum), which can be seen from March 28 to September 29.

Almost graduated in Advertising and Public Relations. I started to like history in 2nd year of high school thanks to a very good teacher who made us see that we have to know our past to know where the future takes us. Since then I have not had the opportunity to investigate more in all that our history offers us, but now I can take up that concern and share it with you.


Video: Life and Death: Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum preview