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date: 22 January 2019

Summary and Keywords

The Mediterranean Sea dominated Greco-Roman society in many ways, but none more importantly than as a source of food. Early Punic settlers in the West and later Greeks and Romans, motivated by the need for long-term storage and commercial transportation of highly spoilable marine products, developed methods for salting fish that have persisted, albeit in more technically sophisticated ways, into modern times. Salted fish products took two basic forms, salt-fish (salsamentum, tarichos) and fish sauce (garum, liquamen, allec, muria). The former served as an appetite enhancer during the gustatio; the latter was the primary condiment used in food preparation and consumption. In addition, both products had perceived dietary and therapeutic value.

Ancient literary, epigraphic, papyrological, and archaeological sources show that salt-fish products were produced at family, artisanal, and industrial levels and played a significant role in long-distance trade. Greeks and especially Romans, for whom evidence is more plentiful, established processing centers at places on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, including in some urban areas, that offered sources for fresh water, salt, and fish, particularly pelagic species. Extant remains of fish salteries (cetariae), especially in Spain, North Africa, and the Black Sea, display consistent patterns of vat construction, arrangement, and operation that imply a common origin for the salting process. The most active period of production of and commerce in salted fish occurred between the 1st century bce and the 3rd century ce, with some installations active into the early 6th century ce.

Keywords: allec, cetaria, garum, liquamen, muria, salsamentum, tarichos, umami, Douarnenez, Gades

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