Famous Feasts in History Roman Apicius's Feast

About the famous feast of Roman Apicius, history, menu, and description.


The Occasion: Apicius's legendary banquet, Rome, C. 20 A.D.

The Host: The rich merchant, gourmand, and cookbook author Marcus Gavius Apicius of the reign of Tiberius, whom Pliny called "the greatest spendthrift of all."

The Menu: The meal is legendary, no record of it existing, but as Apicius, who invented pate de foie gras, was so much the epicure as to spray his garden lettuce with mead in the evenings so that it would taste like "green cheesecake" when picked the next morning, it can be safely assumed that all the food at any such feast was exquisitely prepared.

Table Talk: Legend has it that the banquet of banquets cost 100 million sesterces ($15 million), and that it left Apicius a poor man. Having a mere 10 million sesterces left, scarcely enough to maintain him in his accustomed life-style, he poisoned himself. The Roman poet Martial, however, says that Apicius spent 60 million sesterces on various feasts, not 100 million on one. A 16th-century manuscript puts it this way:

Six hundred thousand spent, and but

Ten thousand left to feed his gutt.

Fearing for want of food to dye,

Despairing, he did poyson buy:

Never was known such gluttonye.

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