Publication in: Fall 2023 Issue

You Are What You Eat: Food as Morality in Late Republican and Early Imperial Roman Writing
Claudia Sturgell
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Faculty Mentor(s):
Lora Holland Goldthwaite
Abstract / Summary:
The scholarship on food consumption by the Roman elites has largely focused on what they ate and how it was prepared. An important but largely unexplored aspect of this topic is the way the Roman aristocracy moralized their consumption of certain foods. These foods often included mullet, tuna, and other types of seafood due to their status as luxury items, and certain foods that were thought to be detrimental to physical and mental health when combined together. This paper explores the relationship between food consumption and morality in Horace, Seneca, Juvenal, Petronius, and Pliny the Younger and compares their approaches, as well as archeological evidence regarding Roman diets and sustainable practices. This paper argues that these Latin aristocratic authors feared that the overconsumption of luxurious foods would lead to stagnation, decadence, physical deterioration, and the rejection of the old Roman Republican values of self-discipline, simplicity, and self-sufficiency.
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