is the title of a collection of Roman
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....
cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD and written in a language that is in many ways closer to Vulgar
Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...
than to Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...
The name Apicius
had long been associated with excessively refined love of food, from the habits of an early bearer of the name, Marcus Gavius Apicius
Marcus Gavius Apicius is believed to have been a Roman gourmet and lover of luxury, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius. The Roman cookbook Apicius is often, but incorrectly, attributed to him. He was the subject of On the Luxury of Apicius, a famous work, now...
, a Roman gourmet
Gourmet is a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, which is characterised by elaborate preparations and presentations of large meals of small, often quite rich courses...
and lover of refined luxury who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...
; he is sometimes erroneously asserted to be the author of the book that is pseudepigraphically attributed to him.
is a text to be used in the kitchen. In the earliest printed editions, it was most usually given the overall title De re coquinaria
("On the Subject of Cooking"), and was attributed to an otherwise unknown "Caelius Apicius", an invention based on the fact that one of the two manuscripts is headed with the words "API CAE".
The text is organised in ten books which appear to be arranged in a manner similar to a modern cookbook:
- Epimeles — The Careful Housekeeper
- Sarcoptes — The Meat Mincer
- Cepuros — The Gardener
- Pandecter — Many Ingredients
- Ospreon — Pulse
- Aeropetes — Birds
- Polyteles — The Gourmet
- Tetrapus — The Quadruped
- Thalassa — The Sea
- Halieus — The Fisherman
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...
s described in the book are useful for reconstructing the dietary habits of the ancient world around the Mediterranean basin, since many of the foods identified with that region today—tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...
Pasta is a staple food of traditional Italian cuisine, now of worldwide renown. It takes the form of unleavened dough, made in Italy, mostly of durum wheat , water and sometimes eggs. Pasta comes in a variety of different shapes that serve for both decoration and to act as a carrier for the...
—were not available in antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...
. But, the recipes are geared for the wealthiest classes and a few contain what were exotic ingredients at that time, e.g. flamingo
Flamingos or flamingoes are gregarious wading birds in the genus Phoenicopterus , the only genus in the family Phoenicopteridae...
Here is a sample recipe from Apicius (VIII, vi, 2-3):
- ALITER HAEDINAM SIVE AGNINAM EXCALDATAM: mittes in caccabum copadia. cepam, coriandrum minutatim succides, teres piper, ligusticum, cuminum, liquamen, oleum, vinum. coques, exinanies in patina, amulo obligas. [Aliter haedinam sive agninam excaldatam] a crudo trituram mortario accipere debet, caprina autem cum coquitur accipit trituram.
- HOT KID OR LAMB STEW. Put the pieces of meat into a pan. Finely chop an onion and coriander, pound pepper, lovage, cumin, liquamen
Garum, similar to liquamen, was a type of fermented fish sauce condiment that was an essential flavour in Ancient Roman cooking, the supreme condiment....
, oil, and wine. Cook, turn out into a shallow pan, thicken with cornflour. If you take lamb you should add the contents of the mortar while the meat is still raw, if kid, add it while it is cooking.
In a completely different manuscript, there is also a very abbreviated epitome entitled Apici Excerpta a Vinidario
, a "pocket Apicius" by Vinidarius
, "an illustrious man", made as late as the Carolingian
The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The name "Carolingian", Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the...
era, it survives in a single 8th century uncial
Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters are written in either Greek, Latin, or Gothic.-Development:...
manuscript. However, despite the title, this booklet is not an excerpt from the earlier Apicius manuscript we have today. It contains text that is not in the longer Apicius manuscripts. Either some text was lost between the time the excerpt was made and the time the manuscripts were written, or there never was a "standard Apicius" text, because the contents changed over time as adapted by readers of the text.
Once manuscripts surfaced, there were two early printed editions of Apicius, in Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...
(1498) and Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...
(1500). Four more editions in the next four decades reflect the appeal of Apicius. In the long-standard edition of C. T. Schuch (Heidelberg, 1867), the editor added some recipes from the Vindarius manuscript.
Between 1498 (the date of the first printed edition) and 1936 (the date of Joseph Dommers Vehling's translation and bibliography of Apicius), there were 14 editions of the Latin text (plus one possibly apocryphal edition). The work was not widely translated, however; the first translation was into Italian
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...
, in 1852, followed in the 20th century by two translations into German
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...
Vehling made the first translation of the book into English
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...
under the title Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome
. It was published in 1936. The translation is still in print, having been reprinted in 1977 by Dover Publications
Dover Publications is an American book publisher founded in 1941 by Hayward Cirker and his wife, Blanche. It publishes primarily reissues, books no longer published by their original publishers. These are often, but not always, books in the public domain. The original published editions may be...
. It is now of historical interest only, since Vehling's knowledge of Latin was not always adequate for the difficult task of translation, and several later and more reliable translations now exist (see the bibliography section).
Texts and translations
- Apicius, Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome tr. Joseph Dommers Vehling. 1936. [English]
- Apicius, The Roman cookery book tr. Barbara Flower, Elisabeth Rosenbaum. London: Harrap, 1958. [Latin and English]
- Apicii decem libri qui dicuntur De re coquinaria ed. Mary Ella Milham. Leipzig: Teubner, 1969. [Latin]
- Apicius, L'art culinaire ed. Jacques André. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1974. [Latin and French]
- John Edwards, The Roman cookery of Apicius. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 1984. [English] [Latin and English]
- Nicole van der Auwera & Ad Meskens, `Apicius, De Re Coquinaria-De Romeinse kookkunst´, Archief- en Bibliotheekwezen in België Extranummer 63, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Brussel, 2001.
- Mayo, H. (2008). New York Academy of Medicine MS1 and the textual tradition of Apicius. In Coulson, F. T., & Grotans, A. (Eds.), Classica et Beneventana. Essays Presented to Virginia Brown on the Occasion of her 65th Birthday (pp. 111-135). England: Brepols.
- Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum, "Apicius de re coquinaria and the Vita Heliogabali" in Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium 1970 ed. J. Straub (Bonn, 1972) pp. 5–18.
- Matthias Bode: Apicius – Anmerkungen zum römischen Kochbuch. St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae Verlag 1999.
- Carol Déry, 'The art of Apicius' in Cooks and other people: proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 1995 ed. Harlan Walker (Totnes: Prospect Books, 1996) pp. 111–7.
- Sally Grainger, Cooking Apicius: Roman recipes for today. Totnes: Prospect Books, 2006.
- Grainger, S. (2007). The Myth of Apicius. Gastronomica, 7(2), 71-77.
- Mary Ella Milham, A glossarial index to De re coquinaria of Apicius. Madison, 1952.