The Unsettling Between-Meal Rituals Of Ancient Romans That Would Never Fly Today

meals in rome
meals in rome - natalia_maroz/Shutterstock

2023 may have been a year of serious confessions regarding the Roman Empire, but really, who can blame the men who admitted to thinking about this ancient epoch on the daily? It was certainly a very different and intriguing time period. And when it came to eating, ancient Romans lived in a hedonistic era where ostrich brains were eaten in plenty and the ill consumed deceased gladiators to treat ailments.

Aside from the Romans' unusual uses for body parts, members of the upper class also took part in large and indulgent feasts for the sheer sake of enjoyment, as well as to put on a production of their social wealth and power. During the banquets, hosts would attempt to outdo each other by seeing who could serve the most eclectic and extravagant dishes, which would last for hours, while guests continuously reveled in a multitude of courses. So, how were they able to devour so much food without getting sick?

Back in those days, inducing vomiting was a customary practice at these feasts. When guests found themselves getting full, they would leave the table, head off to a designated "vomit room," and use a feather to tickle their gag reflexes. After making space for more food, they'd return to the party while slaves cleaned everything up. What's more, they typically never left the banquet to urinate or pass gas, so these bodily functions happened right at the table. Wealthy Romans also did not sit but instead reclined or lounged on sets of three cushioned couches, known as a triclinium, which were arranged together in a U-shape while dining.

Read more: Ina Garten's 12 Best Cleaning Tips For A Mess-Free Kitchen

Men Had The Upper Hand At Feasts

ancient Roman meal
ancient Roman meal - Stefano Bianchetti/Getty Images

If the idea of allowing yourself to let loose at an ancient Roman banquet sounds like a grand time, then it likely would have been in your best interest to be born male back then. While women were allowed to join their husbands at the feasting table later on, they were initially only permitted to kneel at the men's sides — men were the ones given the privilege of lying on their stomachs between courses to unwind.

Oftentimes, while the guys were taking a between-meal rest, women would hold wine up to the men's mouths so they didn't have to lift a finger. Good luck getting your girlfriend to agree to that in this day and age. As if forced vomiting and lying down to eat weren't enough to throw off our appetites, the ancient Romans also ate with their fingers, so when a course was completed, slaves would wash attendees' hands with perfumed water. While scented aqua doesn't sound terrible, the smell of perfume mingling with the lingering scents of dishes like sardines and parrot tongue is rather unsettling.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.