Among the Greeks the times and names of meals varied over time. In early times breakfast was taken shortly after sunrise, followed by a main meal (deipnon) at midday and supper in the evening. In Classical Athens two meals—a light lunch and dinner (deipnon) in the evening—appear to have been usual. From the 4th cent. bc onwards an earlier breakfast was again added, or substituted for lunch. For what was eaten, see food and drink.
Among the Romans dinner (cēna) was eaten in the middle of the day in early times, with a light supper in the evening. Eventually an evening cena, often beginning in the late afternoon, became usual. Lunch, consisting of fish or eggs and vegetables together with wine, was eaten towards midday. The day began with a very light breakfast, which might consist of only bread and salt. Cheese and fruit were sometimes added.
The cena, the biggest meal of the day, was eaten after the day's work was finished. It consisted of three parts. The hors d'œuvre, of eggs, shellfish, dormice, and olives, with honeyed wine, was followed by the cena proper, comprising up to seven courses, with one chief item. This might be a whole roasted pig, accompanied by smaller, but substantial courses (e.g. lampreys, turbot, roast veal). The meal ended with dessert, consisting of snails, nuts, shellfish, and fruit. [Apicius] On Cookery (4th cent. ad) describes the meals of the rich, to whom most of our information relates. The appearance of ostriches, peacocks, cranes, etc. on the tables of the rich was largely due to the search for novelty. For peasant fare see e.g. Horace Satires. 2.6.63 f.
Subjects: Medicine and Health — Classical Studies.