During the Republic: (And perhaps almost through the
second century BCE) Romans ate mostly vegetables, and dined very
Meals were prepared by the mother or by
female slaves under her direction.
A table was set up in the atrium of the
house. The father, mother, and children sat on stools around the table.
Often the kids waited on their parents.
Table knives and forks were unknown, but
the Romans had spoons like ours today. Before food was served, it was
cut into finger food, and eaten by using your fingers or a spoon.
In the last two centuries of the
Republic, this simple style of living changed a bit. A separate dining
room was designed. In place of benches or stools, there were dining
class Romans (plebeians) might
have a dinner of porridge made of vegetables, or, when they could
afford it, fish, bread, olives, and wine, and meat on occasion.
Since many of the lower class were
citizens, the ancient Romans had a program to help them,
somewhat like a welfare program. The welfare program was called
There was also a separate WIC-type
or school-lunch program (the alimenta), just for kids, which was
instituted, or at least greatly developed in early 2c CE.
In the regular food welfare system,
people were issued welfare stamps, which were little tokens,
called tesserae. How these were issued (remember there was no open
public postal system), and how Romans identified themselves to the
authorities in the first place, we (the authors of this article)
do not know. You showed up with your tokens (tesserae) and
containers, at large government warehouses. You got wheat flour --
or bread already baked from government bakeries, and other
foodstuffs. Meat was distributed on special occasions with special