Roman Foods (November 2016)

Gobble till you wobble…

Inside this issue: Spoken Latin activities with food vocabulary, a Roman restaurant creation challenge, Roman recipes, the writer Apicius, the word “companion,” and more!

Email us to suggest a topic for a future issue! 


Main Feature: Two New Lesson Plans
Each issue will feature two lesson or activity ideas: one related to the Latin language, and one related to Classical Studies (Greek or Roman culture, mythology, or history). 


IntroductionIn this lesson, students will learn the Latin words for 20 different foods and practice them using two conversational activities.

Background: All of the foods in this activity were available and frequently eaten in Ancient Rome. The Roman diet was largely centered around what is called the “Mediterranean Triad.” Archaeologists use this term to refer to three main staples: grain, olive oil, and grapes (for wine). Students will be interested to learn that many of their own favorite foods, such as chocolate and potatoes, were unknown to the Romans.

ObjectivesStudents will be able to name the Latin words for many foods commonly eaten by the Romans, and to use these words as direct objects in a Latin sentence.



  1. Share with students some background information about Roman foods, and tell them that they will do two activities to practice food vocabulary words.
  2. Activity 1: Students will play the roles of shoppers and merchants in a dialogue:
    • Distribute the cards among the students. Some students will need to take more than one card. Be sure that the students taking multiple cards receive the same type of card (rather than having one merchant card and one buyer card).
    • The “mercātōrēs” will stand in one area of the classroom. They will stay still, while the “ēmptōrēs” will move about.
    • Each student plays the role on his or her card. Students state what they are looking for or what they are selling. In the end, each buyer should find the merchant who has the item(s) he needs.
    • N.B. – Students should not look at each others’ cards. They should say what they have or need. If they just look for the matching card without speaking Latin, then it ruins the game!
  3. Activity 2: Students will play a card game in groups:
    • Explain that this game is similar to the game, “I went to the store, and I bought [food item],” in which individuals aim to recall all previously mentioned items before adding an item to the list. In this version, each group will use cards that contain images of the foods and the Latin words for them.
    • Each group should spread the cards out on the table, face-up and in a grid formation so everyone can see all of the cards.
    • The first player picks up any card and says, “ad tabernam īvī.  _____________ ēmī,”  filling in the blank with the accusative form (singular or plural, depending on the student’s preference).
    • The second player must now state what the first player bought before choosing his own. He states, “[First student’s name] ______________ ēmit.” Now, he chooses a card and also says, “ad tabernam īvī.  _____________ ēmī,”  filling in the blank with the accusative form of the word he chose.
    • The game continues in this way, with each subsequent player stating all previous items before adding his own. Students should be encouraged to give each other hints. For example, a student could first give a clue by holding up his card so that the food picture is visible but covering the Latin word with a hand. If more help is still needed, he could then provide the first letter of the Latin word. It could also be helpful to project a word bank on the wall for all to see and use.
    • After each student has chosen a card, they should go around again as needed until all twenty cards have been chosen. Ask if any students were able to recall all twenty food items in the correct order.
  4. Exit Activity: Give each student a copy of the food words drawing handout. Student should spend a few minutes drawing quick illustrations of the words whose meanings they remember. Then they can fill in the rest with the help of a classmate or the teacher.

Special Concerns: In the card game, younger students do not have to say the entire sentence in Latin. They can just say the Latin word in the Nominative Case.


Introduction: In this lesson, students will design a plan for their own modern restaurant that serves Ancient Roman cuisine.

Background: While many of the Romans’ foods are familiar to us as well (e.g., fruits, vegetables, bread, etc.), some of their dishes strike the modern eater as unusual, if not downright unappetizing. For example, dormice were considered a delicacy and could be served stuffed or rolled in honey! Students will enjoy the challenge of planning a restaurant that serves such exotic foods. 

Objectives: Students will use their knowledge of Roman food and dining to make creative plans for a restaurant.



  1. Be sure that students have some background knowledge about Roman dining. For some excellent online resources, visit:
  2. Pretend that an investment group wants to open an Ancient Rome themed restaurant which will serve ancient Roman dishes. Students can work alone or in groups to prepare a plan for the restaurant.
  3. Students should use the Create Your Own Roman Restaurant worksheet (in the materials above) to make their plans.  Encourage them to be creative and to think about how they might make a modern restaurant serving Ancient Roman foods successful.
  4. Students will then present their plans to the class, and the class (pretending to be the investment group) will vote on the one they like best.


Online Resource:
Each issue will feature a new or popular online resource that could prove useful for Latin and Classical Studies instruction. We aim to stay current so that you can wow your students with how “with-it” you are when it comes to technology!

Pass the Garum: Eat like the Ancients

If you would like to try eating as the Romans did, then the “Pass the Garum” blog is a great place to start!  The author experiments with various ancient Roman recipes and provides measurements and instructions so that you can make them, too.


Famous Roman: Marcus Gavius Apicius
Each issue will feature a famous individual or group from Greek or Roman history whom you may wish to explore with your students.

Our only surviving cookbook in Latin (De Re Coquinaria) is attributed (perhaps falsely) to a man named Marcius Gavius Apicius, who lived sometime in the 1st century A.D.  Not much is known about this Apicius, but he had the reputation of being a lover of good food.  Even today, there is a world-famous cooking and hospitality school named after him. The cookbook that is attributed to Apicius contains a treasure-trove of information about Roman food which includes actual recipes. You can try to make some of the recipes directly from an Apicius recipe, but because the recipes do not include specific measurements of ingredients, it can be difficult to end up with an edible final creation.  Luckily, many people have tested the recipes of Apicius and have modified them with modern measurements and ingredients.

The text of Apicius is available from Gutenberg Project or at

Apicius International School of Hospitality:


Random Find: a modern garum and Roman coin replicas
Many items being sold today do not directly connect to Latin and Classical Studies, but with a little effort, we can adapt them to serve our purposes. This section explores these types of objects. 

We have two random finds to share this month. The first may not be as appealing to everyone, which is the reason we have provided a second!

1. A modern garum

Have you ever wanted to find out what the Romans’ fish sauce tasted like?  Now you can!  For around $15, you can order a bottle of the modern-day version, colatura di alici.

2. Roman coin replicas

This set of five true-to-size replica Roman coins is a great addition to the Latin classroom. Perhaps after viewing them, students could attempt to make their own replicas out of clay and then use them in the In Tabernā dialogue in Lesson 1 above.


Featured Words: companion
Each issue will feature a challenging English word that we encourage you and your students to explore together. The English word will always come from one or more Latin words. 

breadThe next time you eat bread, think of a close pal!  Our English word companion” is derived from the Latin word “pānis,” which means “bread.”  Share that fun fact with your students, and the wheels in their heads will start spinning. Give them a little extra information by explaining that the “com-” prefix in “companion” is from the Latin word “cum,” meaning “with,” and they should be on their way to deducing that a companion is literally someone with whom one breaks bread (or food in general).

Encourage students to think of other connections to “pānis” as well. For instance, ask them to name a restaurant known for its bread and baked goods (Panera).  They might also mention Panem, the name of the fictional nation in The Hunger Games series. Panem is short for pānem et circensēs, a phrase coined by the Roman author Juvenal to describe the way the people of Rome were kept controlled and content by means of free bread and entertainment. Ask students if they can guess why Suzanne Collins chose to use that name for the setting of The Hunger Games.


Additional Resources:

Ascanius offers two publications which are useful for learning about Roman foods:

  • The Exploring the Roman World workbook includes fun, engaging activities to introduce students in grades 1-7 to the Latin language, Roman culture, and mythology. The pages are full of pictures, readable text, interesting and educational worksheets, and ideas for hands-on activities. The section dedicated to food terms includes a crossword puzzle, a matching game, a cut-and-paste activity, and a Latin sentence illustrating worksheet.
  • Vocabula Picta, our Latin picture dictionary, contains several pages of food, cooking, and dining terms. This is a great resource for exploring Latin words for the foods of today!

Remember, as an Ascanius member, you receive a 10% discount on our publications!

Also, if you are interested in trying out some Roman recipes or perhaps even holding a class banquet with Roman foods, you might check out these cookbooks:

A Taste of Ancient Rome, by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa

Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today, by Sally Grainger

Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens, by Mark Grant

The Classical Cookbook, by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger
*The Ascanius staff once used this one for a Roman banquet at LatinSummer, and the recipes worked well!