Evidence has been found for spices in Mediterranean cooking as far back as 6,000 years ago. A fragment of a cooking pot, such as this image, reveals the use of spices in cuisine for thousands of years (Stromberg). This exhibit focuses on the use of spices in ancient Rome by exploring what spices were used, how recipies used spices, and examining evidence of how spices were prepared.
Regarding the purpose of spices in Ancient Rome, Romans used spices within the household either to disguise the taste of food or perhaps ensure that guests were made aware of the time and money spent by the host on the meal (Woodman). Not only were spices used to enhance flavor or to display wealth, but also for medicinal practices. Some of the most commly used spices were pepper, thyme, bay leaf, basil, silphium, fennel, savory mint, parsley, dill, ginger, cumin, and saffron (Woodman). By looking at ancient Roman recipies, one can determine the use of these spices.
Much of our knowledge of Roman recipes comes from Apicius, the Roman Cookbook. This cookbook describes not only ancient Roman recipes, but also the care of the household, agriculture, and medicinal foods (University of Missouri). The purpose of the recipe, whether medicinal or cuisine, dictate what kinds of spices were used. However, these recipes do not indicate whether or not the spices were fresh, dried, leaves, or seeds (Grout). Nevertheless most anthropologists find it most likely that ancient Romans ground their spices in order to save time (Vehling 44).
Evidence of spice use can be found within literature and artifacts. Objects and textual resources describe dining and spice usage in ancient Rome. Apicius is one of the most important sources demonstrating the uses of spice. Excavating sites, including ancient Roman homes, display how a kitchen would have appeared. All these pieces of evidence display how spices played a large role in the daily lives of the ancient Romans.