Missing details of an Ancient World in Second LIfe (Part. 2) - "Tota Pomarium Videatur"

Salvete Omnes.
As announced in the previous post, we're already talking about historical mistakes findable on ancient lands of Second Life.
In this chapter we'll discuss about a very less considered aspect: food sold into ancient Roman markets. Venturing in any of theese land's markets, it's possible to see how offered products are almost the

... Have you ever wondered if products exposed in those markets are appropriate to the historical environment surrounding it?
There's to know that a significant part of the ancient Greeks and Romans' nourishment consisted of vegetables, roots, but also wild or cultivated fruits. Fruits were a great asset in the empire, and were consumed both local and foreign resources.
As you have seen in previous pictures, these stalls are full of fruits and vegetables; some of these foods, however, were not yet known by the Romans. Let us examine a few.

- TOMATO: a native fruit from Mexico and the high valleys of the Peruvian Andes, whose name comes from "Nahuatl" (Aztecs language) and it's pronounced "tomatl or jitomate",  arrives in Europe with the return to Spain of Christopher Columbus from the Americas. At first, it's considered poisonous so it's used as an ornamental plant; in the Sixteenth century it's used for the first time in kitchen in Italy.            - CORN, whose name comes from the language spoken by the Indians from Haiti, was cultivated for a long time on the new continent. About a thousand years B.C. Hopi's ancestors (southwest of the USA) grew of considerable corn's extensions, with which they obtain a paste used to prepare the "Tortillas". It was in fact the staple food of millions of American Natives, as well as most of them attributed it a divine origin. Starting from 1600, corn gradually replaced millet's cultivations in southern Europe; it's first used as basical feeding for animals, and the first using it in the kitchen are Basque people.
Avocados fruits
- AVOCADO, cultivated and consumed in Mexico since 5000 B.C. by the Aztecs, who called him "ahuacatl" (hence the Spanish "aguacate" or the Portuguese "abacate"). The fruit's transplant in the old continent, tried in the second half of the sixteenth century, near Rome, will prove a failure. We must wait the early 20thy century to let the avocado find its stable place in Europe.    - The PEPPER, perennial herb, is native to Central America. It was used to accompany meat dishes with red beans and corn, but was also used as an aromatic drug: the "chili", discovered by Columbus and the Spaniards and brought to Spain in the mid-sixteenth century, where it was used to enhance tomatoe's flavor. Then it's brought to Italy where it is called "coral horn", and very quickly to the rest of Europe, obtaining a spectacular success in Hungary, where it's setted up a sweeter mix: the famous "Paprika". 
- The POTATO, an herbaceous perennial plant, coming from central - southern America and imported for the first time in Europe in 1533, after Columbus' discoveries. From 1600 it becomes a common culture throughout Europe and it's used mostly for livestock nutrition. During the 1700s, known its high nutritional properties, it is consumed by all Europeans.

 In addition to pre Colombian food, we may also find kinds of products imported from Asia or Africa, not yet known by the Romans. Below we analyze some:
- The EGGPLANTS, native from India. They grown in Southeast Asia since prehistorical times and were introduced in Europe by Arabs in the early 4th century A.D.

- The BANANA, contrary to what might be tought, has origins in the highlands of 'South-East Asia, in Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Philippines territories. Recent archaeological studies supports the existence of the first wild specimens of this fruit date back to 5000 BC. The first organized banana's crops dates back to 200 A.D. in China territories. In 650 A.D. Islamic conquerors exported this fruit in Palestine; later, Arab merchants brought it to almost the whole Africa. Around 1500, banana plant was introduced from Africa to the Caribbean and Central America by portugueses, then imported (only at that time) in Europe.
- The WATERMELON seems to have origins in the Kalahari desert. There are reports of first crops thanks to some Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to 5000 years ago, when the fruit was often placed in pharaohs tombs as a means of sustenance for the afterlife. In the 10th century A.D. watermelon was cultivated in China and it was introduced in Europe only in the 13th century, with the Moors invasion.
Egyptians used to place watermelons into pharaoes tombs in the way they could be fed of it in the afterlife
 So, what did ancient Romans eat?
As anybody, Romans were looking for new importing foods from every side of the world, experimenting and inventing new recipes with new ingredients. They also sought to graft and improve kinds of fruit trees, always inventing new varieties which unfortunately has been largely lost.Food for the Romans wasn't just a curiosity but a passion. There was any Roman taking care of his profession only. A great general could be a writer like Pliny, or an art collector as Maecenas, or an architect as Agrippa, or grafting fruit to invent a new product, which moreover would bear his name; for example Pliny the Younger mentions a pira (pear) Dolabelliana, (which has belonged to Publius Cornelius Dolabella 69-43 BC), or the pira Decimiana (perhaps of a certain Decinianus of the gens Claudia) or even the mala Mattiana, whose name comes from the botanical Caius Matius Calvena, known for his friendship with Julius Caesar and Cicero. The meat was rare food, at least for the poor class but also for the middle class. 
Below is a list of the most consumed foods by the Romans.
- BERRIES, considered fruits by the Romans. They include:
The ROSE (ie its rosehip), considered nutritious and healing (as rich of C vitamin). From it were obtained sauces for salty foods, sweets or velvety to eat alone or to garnishing cakes, or dissolved in water with other flower essences to make fresh drinks; the petals, however, combined with honey and other essences could become a fine food.
The BLACKBERRY (Rubus), used with honey and essences for bittersweet kitchens;
The RASPBERRY (Rubus), similar to blackberry as flavor but more acidic, was very used for fresheners or to stuff roasted sprayed with red and full-bodied wines;
The WILD PRUGNOLO or PRUNO (prunus), a spontaneous thorny plant of Europe, Asia, and North Africa; its sour taste and aromatic fruits were much appreciated by the Romans when eaten fresh or cooked with honey; by the same fruits was made a full of tannin vinegar (used instead of lemon, which was known but used as a medicine) that gave a sour taste to the foods;
The STRAWBERRY (Fragaria), particularly suitable for volcanic territories (as the Italic soil was), was much appreciated by the Romans; wealthy people owned it in crops, however it was not so difficult to find it in the undergrowth;
The PINE (Pinus), or the Pine berries (from whose white bark was also extracted a little tasty but nutritious meal), which were first used as dry fruit, to flavor meat or fish, or were mixed with honey or boiling molasses to make cakes;
the ACORN, the oak's fruit, from which was made a flour, after having purified it from tannin;
 The CORNIOLA (corna), a red cherry-like fruit, from the aromatic, harsh and bitter flavor; it was first used to feed pigs, then he came introduced in Roman cooking; marinated in salt water for a certain period and seasoned with bay leaves and fennel seeds, was used to season the game's filling or red meat in general, or to prepare bitter-sweet sauces, or more was made a syrup diluted with water and served as a sorbet, to prepare the diners' stomach to the new dishes. It was also used as an ingredient to prepare puddings, uniting him to less acidic fruits such as pears, apples, and elder;
JUNIPER berries, similar to plums for their small rounded appearance, they were collected in autumn and left to dry in a ventilated place to then collect them in pots and use them throughout the year; They were used in roasts and in very tasty and spicy fillings, with fennel and thyme, and were good for strong and dry red wines;The CHASTE TREE (Vitex agnus-castus), a plant that usually grows on all Mediterranean and West Asia coasts, until Persia. Its bitter tasted fruits were eaten by Roman gourmets, combined with jujube or honey, or were used in desserts and soups, for its slightly spicy flavor.

- The DRY FRUIT, among which we list:
  The WALNUT (Juglans regia), plans of the Eastern Mediterranean, also known to the 
  Greeks;  the Romans cultivated it since the time of kings, using it in different ways like  
  throwing nuts during weddings or in the secret rites of Diana Caria monastery's priestess
  in Benevento, where the walnut tree's fruit was sacred. Varro, Pliny and Dioscorides talked 
  about walnuts.
  The ALMOND (amygdala), native to the Western temperate Asia, eaten by Greeks and 
  Romans, both sweet and bitter, it was believed that eaten before drinking wine could 
  prevent the thrill; used in different traditional Mediterranean kitchens like those of Sicily  
  and Puglia,  it accompanied sweet and savory dishes, or was served along with luscious 
  The PISTACHIOS (pistacia), came from the East, were mixed with some Roman kitchen 
- FLESHY FRUIT, among which we mention:
  The FIG (ficus), native from Caria in Asia Minor; much appreciated if eaten cool or dry, 
  it formed the most used occasional nourishment during the day; especially in Campania, 
  the Romans were very fond of eating bread and figs; it was considered also sacred,  
  because when unriped it produced a liquid similar to milk, so sacred to the goddess 
  Rumina, ancient pre-Roman and Roman goddess;
  the APPLE (malum), not a fruit but a knob, where the real fruit is the core, while the
  edible part is the core's receptacle; Romans ate it both raw and cooked, sweetened with  
  honey or molasses; It was mainly used by lower classes for the ease in cultivating and 
  storing it;
Malum Cotoneum
  The APPLE QUINCE (malum     
  cotoneum), considered by 
  Romans a sacred fruit to  
  Aphrodite;  there were  
  different qualities but few 
  were  suitable to be eaten raw;
  they were generally boiled  
  with honey or molasses and  
  combined with almonds and 
  walnuts, or was made  a kind 
  of jam which were
  manifactured sweets and  
  THE MALUM MUSTERIUM, made from a 
  quince graft with common apple, obtaining a
  variety very appreciated by the Romans; tasting slightly sour but compact, it had the
  advantage to keeping for a long time so was used as dried fruit or as an interlude or to
  manufacture sweets;
  The PEAR (pirum), present among the Romans in several different quality; such as the 
  apple, it  was eaten raw and cooked and was useful to make special dishes; pears could 
  be well preserved and dried in the sun and eaten boiled in wine.
  The MEDLAR (Mespilus germanica), known by the Romans after the Cato period and were 

  native from Germany and not Japan; differently than japaneses, those eaten by the 
  Romans  were sour and hard, in fact before being eaten they were sweetened by storing 
  them in a dry and well ventilated area;
The SORBS, mentioned by Hippocrates as an astringent medicine; their pulp was dried and sometimes mixed with 
wheat flour, to  make bread or tasty buns;
PEACH (persicum), native to China, spread throughout the Mediterranean hollow thanks to Alexander the Great and arrived in Rome in the 1st century D.C., it was first a reserved fruit for the riches, then it was spread out to all the tables;
The APRICOT (Prunus), originally from northeastern China to the Russian border and discovered by Alexander the Great in his travels in Persia, were the Romans who brang it not only in Italy but also in Greece, between 70-60 B.C.; often it was dried in the sun to enjoy it in those long periods when production was off;
The POMEGRANATE, considered native from South West Asia, has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times and was spread by Phoenicians and Greeks in their colonies;
Lotus (Jujube)
The JUJUBES (lotus), native to Asia but already present in Italy since the time of Romans, were eaten fresh or withered, the withered one was often drowned in wine (making the so-called jujube' stock);
The PLUM (cereal prunum), known in many varieties, was anciently used and widely practiced; Greek doctors suggested to cook it with honey, for its laxative properties;
CHERRY (Prunus avium), whose first trees were imported to Rome in 72 B.C. by Lucius Licinius Lucullus after the firm of Mithridates;
The DATE (palmulae), used as exotic fruit imported from abroad;
The OLIVE rarely eaten fresh as a dessert fruit, while at times was eaten the fruit of persea, which was a plant still not well identified;

The CAROB, initially considered harmful for health, fell within recipts of some sweets where it was combined as powder with honey and crushed nuts, drawing an exquisite flavor;
The GRAPE, for the ancients one of the main dessert fruit; there were several varieties and were very appreciated both fresh and dried;
The ELDER, eaten as a fruit but with a special treatment;
The ARBUTUS, not so used in Rome except to make sauces and desserts; 
The CHESTNUT, known under different names, was eaten boiled, roasted, dried, cooked with fennel or in puree or soup; chestnuts also drew the flour;

And last, but not least, we find the CUCURBITS, including PUMPKIN, the CUCUMBER and POPON, native from Iran and used since the 5th century. B.C.

However, there is a fruit which recent discoveries has created a light "quid pro quo" (misunderstandings). In the Museum of Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome, you can make an incredible discovery: at the second-floor, in the classic world's  frescoes, mosaics and stucco's gallery, there is a mosaic dated to the early 1st century A.D., showing a fruit basket containing from left, some figs, quince, a bunch of black grapes, pomegranates and an impossible food: a pineapple. The presence of this fruit has left speechless, because the Pineapple sativus plants, which belongs to the bromeliad family, arrived in the old Continent only after the Christopher Columbus' voyages. So before the American discovery, Romans could not know this tropical fruit.

Actually it is not the first time a similar figure may be seen on a Roman work; a fresco found in the ephebe house in Pompeii shows a pineapple and a Roman statue, preserved in Geneva, representing a child holding a pineapple for its crest.

Everything suggests that Romans knew this fruit since the 1st century A.D. and this mystery has pioneered several hypotheses, including one that Romans could have arrived in America. Myth bustered right away, as the innumerable sources doesn't minimally referr to the New Continent, as it is certain their logistic capabilities would not allow them to reach so far places and above all beign able to stow fresh food for too long periods. It 's more likely that Romans have imported this fruit from West Africa, where pineapple was grown.So, let's hope this "virtual excursus" between the Roman food has made clear about ancients culinary habits. For a virtual roleplay land where knowing how to role play is the main pourpose, a touch of authenticity in these things would not hurt, indeed the game would result more interesting; in this sense builders and marketplace sellers play a main role, as people trust them and their creations to make spectacular and also authentic backgrounds. 
I wish you all a nice Ancient SL and see you to the next post!

 Hermes (a.k.a. Tonio Renfold).


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