What Did Europeans Eat in Ancient Times?

Europe has a rich history, and its food culture is no exception. In ancient times, people relied on locally available ingredients to create their meals. The diets of ancient Europeans were heavily influenced by their geography, climate, and available resources.

Roman Empire
During the Roman Empire, the wealthy enjoyed lavish banquets consisting of exotic meats such as flamingo and ostrich. However, the majority of people in the empire subsisted on a simple diet of bread, porridge, and vegetables. The Romans were also known for their love of sauces made with vinegar and fermented fish.

Medieval Times
In medieval times, Europe was divided into various kingdoms with their own unique food cultures. The nobility enjoyed feasts with roasted meats such as boar and venison while peasants ate mainly vegetables and grains. Spices were highly valued and used to preserve food as well as add flavor.

The Vikings were known for their seafaring lifestyle which heavily influenced their diet. They ate a lot of fish such as salmon, herring, and cod as well as meat from domesticated animals like cows and sheep. They also consumed dairy products like cheese and yogurt.

Common Ingredients

Despite the differences in cuisine across Europe during ancient times, there were some common ingredients that were widely used:

Bread: Bread was a staple in many European diets. It was made from various grains such as wheat, rye or barley.

Cheese: Cheese was also a popular ingredient due to its ability to be easily preserved without refrigeration.

Honey: Honey was used as a sweetener before sugar became widely available.

The Impact of Religion

Religion played a significant role in shaping European food culture during ancient times. For example:

Christianity: During Lent, Christians were required to abstain from meat, which led to the development of fish-based dishes such as fish pie and fish and chips.

Judaism: Jewish dietary laws forbade the consumption of pork, which led to the development of alternative meat dishes like beef brisket.


In conclusion, ancient European cuisine was heavily influenced by geography, climate, religion and available resources. The diets of ancient Europeans may seem simple compared to modern cuisine, but they were a reflection of their times. Today, many traditional European dishes have been adapted and continue to be enjoyed around the world.