Friday, December 10, 2010

Paulus Feeding his Soldiers in Livy

Today we look at some ancient Roman soldiers' food as described by the historian Livy. In book 44. 35 of his history of Rome, Livy describes the Roman General Aemilius Paulus' preparations for campaign. Paulus orders his praetor to sail ahead with "ten days cooked rations for 1000 men." Not rations to be cooked, but already cooked rations. Interesting! By rations, we can assume he means farro. This is a kind of wheat that is cooked into a porridge (pictures of such coming soon!). Now a boat can carry a great amount of weight, so carrying the cooked wheat will not cause a problem there. Carrying cooked wheat would be much heavier than dry wheat because one would be carrying all the water weight that the grains absorbed as well. And maybe Paulus means that he should cook the stuff when he gets there and just have ten days of food waiting for Paulus' arrival. Either way, what this does mean is that the men would be eating old, cooked farro! Not so appetizing! So, you should boil some farro like pasta and eat it hot and be thankful you are not a Roman soldier!

Also, about Aemilius Paulus, from Livy 45.32, "People kept on repeating Paullus' own dictum that the man who knows how to organize a feast and put on games is the same man who knows how to win a battle!" So, think of which of your friends holds the best dinner parties and know that, if needed, he is the best man you know to follow into battle. Thanks for the advice, Paulus!


Lew said...

Are you trying to volunteer to lead us into a battle? Who are we fighting?

Jake Morton said...

Yes, who are we fighting? I think who this blog would want to fight is Bob's Red Mill Polenta for saying right on the bag "Eat the food of the ancient Roman army!" Hey, Bob and your red mill! Polenta is made from corn and corn did not come to Italy until the 1500s! The Roman army ate Farro! Stop misleading the hordes of people demanding to know what the ancients ate!

Lew said...

Let's get 'em.