A Roman Ientaculum

I’ve recreated what an authentic Roman breakfast, or ientaculum, could have looked like. Read on to discover what they included and how you can prepare one yourself.

A photo of the Roman breakfast I prepared.

As I’ve honed my classical cooking skills, I decided it would be fun to reconstruct a Roman breakfast, or ientaculum. Even though this is my first stab at making an entire meal, it really was simple. I baked a small loaf of libum, sliced some cheese and a pear, and got a handful of figs, and arranged them artfully on a plate — at least I attempted to. Below is a more complete list of some foods you might expect to find on a wealthy family’s table for breakfast:

  • Bread or some sort of cake, with oil or honey
  • Walnuts, almonds, or other nuts
  • Fruit (apricots, plums, figs, pears, dates, etc.)
  • Cheese, either hard or soft
  • Watered-down wine

A poorer, more typical ientaculum might just include bread and wine, but I wanted to go the whole nine yards. Also, much like today, breakfast wasn’t always eaten sitting down at home. Men leaving for work or boys going to school could grab a small meal at one of the many bakeries, cheesemongers, or popinae as they would pass through the forum. The food could then be eaten while walking, carried in the folds (sinus) of the toga, or stuffed in a leather satchel (loculus).

In the future, I hope to recreate and write more in depth about the other Roman meals, so stay tuned! But for the time being, take a look at this post for an overview of how the ancients dined.

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