Exhibition 'Feeding the Empire: stories about food in Rome and Pompeii'

Exhibition 'Feeding the Empire: stories about food in Rome and Pompeii'

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¿How the romans ate? ¿How they did to load hundreds of tons of supplies from the most remote places in the world? ¿How they kept them for the rest of the year? The answer to all these questions will be available at the exhibition 'Nutrire l’Empire. Storie di alimentazione da Roma a Pompei', Which will offer a portrait of the gastronomic habits of the Romans through remains found in different archaeological sites.

After the Pax RomanaAround the Mediterranean, a kind of 'globalization of consumption' began together with a 'relocation of production' of raw materials. During the Empire, the Romans used to drink a lot of wine from Gaul, Crete, and Cyprus. Rich people used to drink expensive wines from Campania and consumed oil from Andalusia, they also liked Greek honey and especially garum, a dressing from Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, Portugal or even nearby Pompeii. The bread that was consumed daily and was imported, made with the grain that was brought to large ships from Africa and Egypt, was highly appreciated.

The exhibition shows the different solutions that the Romans adopted to secure food supplies, by land transport and especially by maritime transport. In addition to this aspect, the exhibition shows the distribution of food between the different social classes in two symbolic sites: Rome, the largest and most populated ancient city and the Vesuvio area, with attention to Pompeii, Ercolano and Oplontis.

During the period between the reign of Augustus and that of Constantine (27 BC-37 AD) Rome was a city of about a million and inhabitants, the center of an Empire that, according to modern estimates, had a population of between 50 and 60 million inhabitants. No city ever reached such a large size until the industrial revolution.

Feeding a city like Rome, with such a large population, especially with wheat, was the direct responsibility of the emperors.

At the end of the Republic, the wheat consumed in Rome came from Africa, Sicily and Sardinia. The conquest of Egypt changed the situation, from then on, the agricultural policy of Rome changed. During the Empire, a large part of Rome's consumption was covered in practically two thirds by African provinces, which correspond to Tunisia and Algeria today, and the other third was covered by Egypt.

The result was a subcontracted production of wheat and forms of consumption can be considered a form of ‘globalization’ for the first time in history. All this was achieved thanks to an efficient administration of the State that, on the one hand, promoted free trade and, on the other, to save wheat and ensure its transport through the Mediterranean.

The exhibition can be seen at the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome until November 15.

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