Fish and Seafood

Authored by: Annalisa Marzano

The Routledge Handbook of Diet and Nutrition in the Roman World

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9780815364344
eBook ISBN: 9781351107334
Adobe ISBN:


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‘At Rome a fish sells for more than a cow!’ These were the words that, according to Plutarch (Quaest. Conv., Cato the Elder (234–149 BC) uttered in condemning the excessive luxury of his own times. Indeed, from references in literary works, such as the comedies of Plautus and Terence, and other available historical information, it is clear that by the mid-Republican period increasing demand for fish and seafood, and the appreciation of the culinary qualities of different kinds of fish, were well established in Rome. The city had acquired a dedicated fish market, the Forum Piscatorium, sometime before 210 BC, when the historian Livy reports the destruction by a fire of this market and other buildings in the Forum area (26.27.2–3). Molluscs are listed alongside other gastronomic delicacies (dormice and exotic birds) in the Lex Aemilia, a sumptuary law, probably dating to 115 BC, attempting to ban certain luxury foods from banquets (Plin., HN 8.57.223; André, 1961, 109).

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