COOL CLASSES: “What Does Ancient Rome Taste Like”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Robert Santucci delves into Roman eating and explores humanity’s relationship with its food.

Class name: “What Does Ancient Rome Taste Like”

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Robert Santucci

Says Santucci about his class:
How did the ancient Romans eat and why does it matter? Even the mere mention of Rome tends to evoke images of reclining emperors being fed grapes, whole boars’ heads on silver plates, and overstuffed banqueters vomiting in order to eat more. What is it about Rome that encourages such a food-rich reception? How did the Romans see their own eating habits? How do intersectional concerns like gender, race, and social class impact Roman eating, and vice versa? What can an examination of comparative material and later traditions help illuminate about Roman eating? In “What Does Ancient Rome Taste Like?” we tackle these questions (and many others) as we seek to understand why Roman eating was, and still is, a big deal for our understanding of not only an ancient culture but also humanity’s relationship with its food.

Santucci on why he wanted to teach this class:
I created this course myself. It pertains to my dissertation research (on food and eating in the texts of the Roman philosopher Seneca) but takes a much wider and longer view of food and eating, not just in Rome but also in modern media. I believe that food and eating connect cultures to each other, so even something like a clip from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King can tell us something about Roman eating.

Santucci on what makes this class unique to his department:
This is the only course on food and eating in ancient Rome being offered here this term, but even more interestingly my course puts a different spin on this topic (which is a commonly taught one at many colleges). Many courses on food and eating in antiquity look at positivistic factors such as the different kinds of wheat available to different people at different times throughout the Roman world. While this is a valuable exercise, my approach is more theoretical. My students read different kinds of theory, such as gastronomical and anthropological approaches, to try to understand what the act of eating meant to the Romans.

Learn more about other courses offered by the Department of Classics