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One of the best things about Rome in ancient times was the food and drink they brought with them from the rich valleys and potent soil of Italy…
FOOD AND WINE – THE GLADIATORIAL FEAST
Watching the fire, Phaedra’s eyes became heavy, and she must have dozed off because the next thing she knew Bahar was touching her shoulder. She woke up to stare at Adrastos sitting across the fire from her.
Bahar handed her a wooden bowl filled with such amazing aromas she had to breath deep. Taking a spoonful, she touched it carefully to her tongue. A rich savory explosion went off in her mouth. Nothing had ever tasted so good. She lifted her eyes to the Greek who was smiling.
“It is one thing I do very well,” he bellowed light heartedly lifting an index finger. “A lifetime living out of doors and an intimate knowledge of herbs have taught me much about cooking.” The Gladiator Prince, Chapter XIII
Interestingly enough, the Celts had a very limited diet which included staples of wheat (bread), mutton (sheep), wild apples (crabapples), and what few herbs they could find in the woods. The Romans didn’t so much conquer the British Celts as feed them. That’s right; the scattered kings of Brettaniai Albion of the time negotiated peacefully with the conquering nation for amphorae of good wine, fresh vegetables, sweet fruit, and exotic herbs.
Our hero Thane would have been one of the more elite of the Celtic tribes; he was nephew to a very powerful king from the Trinovantes, living with his uncle and cousins. He would have hunted for his meat; wild boar, deer, and bear, but the Celts considered it sacrilegious to kill and eat hares or chicken. Fruits and vegetables would have been very rare (tubers mostly, berries, crab apples) and their herbs consisted of Nettle, Elder, Plantain, Yarrow, none of them exactly culinary worthy. The Romans, in addition to wine brought over garlic, onions, leeks (which is now a British national symbol), Rosemary, Thyme, Bay, Basil, and Savory Mint. In addition they introduced cheeses in huge varieties (Celts used goat cheese almost exclusively), chestnuts, walnuts, real apples, grapes, mulberries, cherries, eggs, and tons of vegetables the Brits had never seen or tasted.
Thane’s meal as a gladiator would have been pretty comparable to a Roman soldier’s diet; light meals of bread with cheese or no morning meal except water. A lunch could consist of a thick porridge of grain and cut up fruit, a drink made of wine, water and herbs called calda, and dried bacon or boiled meat from the night before. The evening meal might consist of fish, vegetables, more bread and mulsum (a honeyed wine). Gladiators, like soldiers, were fed very well and they needed it; both groups of men drilled and worked 12-16 hours every day including weekends.
Small wonder these were probably the fittest men in history. They were treated well, well fed, and lived twenty years longer than most of their contemporaries. Unless a gladius caught them unawares on the sand or a screaming Celt skewered them with a spear during battle. Then… not so much… :o)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Somewhere between thirty and dust...red hair, blue eyes...six kids, one slightly used husband, and any number of pets from time to time... wanttabe hippy... wanttheirmoney yuppie...pro musician and actress for 20 Years... native Oregonian... lover of music, beauty, and all things green. Willing slave to the venerable muse. Minnette currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, having replaced the children with one dog. The dog, Pierre, pretty much runs the show.