A Garum Factory

A Garum Factory

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Museum of the History of Barcelona

The Museum of the History of Barcelona (Catalan: Museu d'Història de Barcelona, MUHBA) is a history museum that conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the historical heritage of the city of Barcelona, from its origins in Roman times until the present day. The museum's headquarters are located on Plaça del Rei, in the Barcelona Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic). It also manages several historic sites all around the city, most of them archaeological sites displaying remains of the ancient Roman city, called Barcino in Latin. Some others date to medieval times, including the Jewish quarter and the medieval royal palace called the Palau Reial Major. The rest are contemporary, among them old industrial buildings and sites related to Antoni Gaudí and the Spanish Civil War.

The museum was inaugurated on 14 April 1943 its principal promoter and first director was the historian Agustí Duran i Sanpere. It belongs to the City Council of Barcelona, as part of the Culture Institute.

Garum, the funky and fishy condiment that rose and fell with the Roman Empire

By Ashlie D. Stevens
Published February 7, 2021 5:35PM (EST)

Garum (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)


What is garum?

Garum was a condiment made from the drippings of fermented fatty fish that was popular in Ancient Rome. Many of the anchovy-based condiments that we use today — including colatura di alici and Worcestershire sauce — can trace their development back to the popularity and flavor profile of garum.

The condiment that fell alongside the Roman Empire

In 2019, an ancient condiment factory was uncovered outside Ashkelon, a city in modern-day southern Israel, while developers were scoping out the site for a planned sports park. The factory, or "cetaria" — which would have been operational during the height of Roman Empire — was used to make garum, an incredibly pungent, fermented fish sauce.

Fish sauce? Maggi? What's your secret weapon ingredient? Tell us in the comments!

When most people hear the term "fish sauce," they think of the condiment that gives many Southeast Asian dishes their signature, unique flavor (and which was likely invented millenia before the establishment of the Roman Empire). But factories like this one dotted Roman territories, Tali Erickson-Gini of the Israel Antiquities Authority told Haaretz's Ruth Schuster in 2019.

"Ancient sources even refer to the production of Jewish garum," she continued. "The discovery of this kind of installation in Ashkelon evinces that the Roman tastes that spread throughout the empire were not confined to dress but also included dietary habits."

Archeologists uncovered fish pools, giant vats and jars used to age and hold sauce. The resulting smell would have apparently been overwhelming enough that there were laws throughout the Empire preventing cetariae from being built too close to urban centers the one discovered in Israel was over two kilometers away from the outskirts of Ashkelon.

Many ancient authors dedicated page space (or, uh, papyrus space?) to ragging on the condiment's odor and the smell of those who ate it. Pliny the Elder called it a "secretion of putrefying matter," Plato called it "putrid garum" and Marcus Valerius Martialis, a first century Roman poet, satirically praises a friend for "maintaining amorous intentions" to his mistress after she'd indulged in six helpings of the sauce.

Despite the odor, garum was immensely popular. "Apicius," a collection of Roman cookery recipes named for the first century gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicious, is filled with references to the condiment (including one for a lamb stew that I recreated for Salon). It was used in everything from grain porridge to olive oil and honey-based sauces. As food bloggers Jody Adams and Ken Rivard put it, "Garum was the ketchup of the gods." Consider it the cult condiment of its time.

Much like modern day olive oil and wine, there were various grades of garum, including kosher garum used by Jews living in the Roman Empire, resulting in wildly different prices.

"According [to] the Roman writers, a good bottle of garum could cost something like $500 of today," Italian archaeologist Claudio Giardino told NPR in 2013. "But you can also have garum for slaves that is extremely cheap. So it is exactly like wine."

The premium garum was made with the whole fish, likely mackerel — as most surviving fermentation jugs from the period are inscribed with that ingredient — and salt. The cheaper stuff was fish blood, guts and salt.

But with the collapse of the Roman Empire came the fall of garum. Taxes on salt became astronomical making garum difficult to produce, and piracy spiked which curtailed the remaining garum trade, according to Giardino.

"The pirates started destroying the cities and the industries nearby the coast," Giardino said. "You could be killed any moment by the pirates without the protection of the Romans."

The once-bustling garum factories eventually became ruins, much like the ones that wouldn't be discovered until developers were looking to break ground on a park some 2000 years later. What didn't disappear, however, was an enduring craving across cultures for the flavor notes present in something like garum: salt, umami and a little fermented funkiness.

The closest modern analogue is likely colatura di alici, which roughly translates in English to "anchovy drippings." It's an amber-colored sauce made by fermenting anchovies — which are traditionally harvested from the Amalfi Coast during the five months between Annunciation and the Feast of Mary Magdalene — in brine. "It is often described as the great-grandfather of Worcestershire sauce," which still contains anchovies on the ingredient list, as Olga Oksman wrote for "The Guardian" in 2015.

"Traditionally aged up to three years in wooden barrels, colatura has a smoothness to round out the fish forward pungency," Alissa Fitzgerald, a personal chef and recipe developer, wrote in an email. "That said, it's potent! Salty and briny and funky, the totality of umami, colatura is a sort of liquid gold."

Which is likely how the Romans would have described garum.

Can I use garum or colatura di alici at home?

Modern versions of garum — which are likely definitely more mild and nuanced than their ancient predecessor — are sold online via Italian specialty stores, alongside colatura di alici.

Fitzgerald has several suggestions for how to use them again.

"Union Square Cafe has a crispy Brussels sprouts and cauliflower side dish tossed in a colatura vinaigrette," she said. "Again, the colatura is potent, so a great way to experiment is to make your favorite vinaigrette just the way you like it, and add a few dashes of colatura at the end. The same goes for any sauce — mother or otherwise. A lobster bisque or cioppino would be great places to experiment. Beurre blanc? Absolutely. Hollandaise? Hands down."

One of the most basic ways to use it in your home kitchen — and my personal favorite— is as an addition to pasta. This is one of my go-to, late-night lazy meals.

Recipe: Bucatini con Colatura di Alici
Serves 4 (or two hungry, maybe slightly tipsy, people)

  • 16 ounces of bucatini
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of colatura
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 3 tablespoons of parsley
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook bucatini according to package instructions. Reserve at least a cup of pasta water, and drain.

2. Meanwhile, whisk olive oil, lemon zest, colatura and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Place the pasta back in the pot or a large skillet, and coat with the olive oil mixture, stirring until combined, over medium heat. Add the pasta water a tablespoon at a time until the pasta becomes glossy with sauce. Fold in the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Brand recommendations

More "Saucy" from our condiment shelf:

Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is a staff writer at Salon, specializing in culture and food.

Travel: Barcino

The modern city of Barcelona, as seen from the forecourt of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Barcelona occupies a fertile plain edged in by mountains on three sides and the sea on the fourth. It was a site that also found favour with the Romans.

It is one of the delights of visiting new places that you sometimes find an entirely unexpected archaeological site, which gives you an insight that is entirely new. And this is what happened when Andrew Selkirk visited Barcelona and discovered that there is, in fact, a Roman Barcelona.

Barcelona is not normally considered to be a major Roman town. Tarragona, which lies 50 miles to the south, was far more important. It was the capital of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis, the great rival to Narbonne, the capital of southern France. Today, Barcelona likes to think of itself as being the foremost town in Spain, though Madrid does not always agree. Its importance began in the Middle Ages, but increased in the Industrial Revolution when, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it reinvented itself as the capital of culture, and as the very vibrant capital of Catalonia: Catalan is still the major language. Barcelona lies in a superb position at the head of a wonderfully fertile plain, fringed by mountains in the background. There is a splendid view from the low hill of Montjuïc, on which the National Art Museum of Catalonia is magnificently situated.

The museum is based around a very fine collection of Romanesque wall paintings from the 9th to 12th century. There was a flourishing tradition of wall paintings in the little churches of the Pyrenees, triumphantly proclaiming Christianity against the Muslim regions to the south of Spain. By the late 19th century, many of these churches were becoming abandoned and the wall paintings were decaying. So began a major campaign to hack them all off and bring them into the safety of Barcelona, where in 1934 they found a home in the new National Art Museum, which is one of the finest collections of Romanesque art in Europe, and in Barcelona a great rival to the Picasso Museum, founded in 1963.

Barcelona was founded as a colonia c.10 BC, providing it with a privileged urban status as a settlement for military veterans. As this model shows, the new city had an unusual octagonal shape. The area we are focusing on here lies in the top right-hand corner of the model.

But, in fact, the origins of Barcelona go back to Roman times. Pomponius Mela called it a parvum oppidum – essentially a modest town – but it was not all that small: it was founded c.10 BC by Augustus, in the flurry of new towns that he established, as a colonia to provide a settlement for the many troops for whom he had to find a home following the chaos of the civil wars. It was a town of some 10ha (25 acres), built somewhat strangely: not to a rectangular plan but to an octagonal layout. It was surrounded from the beginning by a wall, though this was rebuilt very strongly in the 3rd century with external towers, which ensured its survival down to the 19th century. An inscription of the Augustan period records that a local bigwig constructed ‘walls, towers, and gates’, while the city’s water supply came from one aqueduct of considerable length.

Near the centre was a grand Roman temple, four columns of which still stand hidden away in a minute courtyard. There is a bizarre picture showing how they survived when a house was built around them, and in the corner of the dining room are two vast Roman columns, the bases of which were down in the cellars.

Industrial quarter

However, the real triumph of Roman archaeology is to be found in the north-east corner of the town, where an extensive area has been uncovered under the courtyard of one of the episcopal palaces, and preserved for display. These are not the usual town houses, but something which to my mind is far more interesting: the industrial quarter, a very smelly area where one finds first a fullonica and then tinctoria – that is a laundry and dye-works. This is followed by something even smellier: a factory making the Roman equivalent of Marmite, a fish paste called garum, which all the Roman world thought was absolutely delicious and paid high prices for the best products and finally, an extensive winery. Then in the 5th and 6th centuries most of this industrial area was swept away and replaced by Christian premises: a small church and an extensive part of the bishop’s palace.

The remains of an impressive Roman temple, now built into a house. A fourth column is still standing just to the left of these three.

This was all concealed under the medieval build-up, but preserved beneath the large courtyard of the royal palace and surrounding buildings. There, in the 1930s, the remains were first discovered and the decision was made to preserve them and display them this was the base for a new Museum of the History of Barcelona. In the 1960s, there were further investigations, which continued until the late 1980s, concluding with a total renewal of the exhibition and the installation of a walkway. This was accompanied by a fine report masterminded by Julia Beltrán, also published in an English translation (see ‘Further information’ below), which was of great help when writing this account.

When you enter the Museum, you go down by lift, which, instead of marking floors, gives dates, so the ground floor is 2018, and you descend to the lower floor and arrive in 10 BC. Here you find yourself just inside the city walls, mostly the original Augustine walls at this point, though a fine 3rd-century tower can be explored from the inside. Behind the walls is the intervallum road, though it is not very visible because, in the later period, when law and order were breaking down, people began encroaching on the road. In any case, it is full of services – the Roman drainage system. But it was originally a wide road, such as one might expect to find in a military fort. Then at the far end, you find a fullonica. This was a collection of four rooms, each with a trough containing elaborate drains where the remains of the fulling process can be found — ash, lime, and urine – very good chemicals for cleaning cloths. One of the rooms even had an opus sectile floor, which we often think of as being a rather posh flooring, but here it was used in a very utilitarian way, in a room dedicated to attending the customers.

Next door was the tinctoria, or dye-works. Here they would dye clothes, and the remains of the dyes were recovered: a blue dye using indigotine and Egyptian blue a reddish/brownish dye using haematite and finally an orange-to-yellow dye using saffron.

The gothic courtyard in the Casa Padellàs, which is now home to the Museum of the History of Barcelona.

Next door was the garum factory. The basis of garum consisted of fish offal (eggs, blood, guts, gills, and so on), often mixed with whole small fish, macerated in salt. Its flavour could be varied by adding prawns, sea urchins, oysters, and cockles. Studies of the fish fauna and molluscs at the site found that sea urchins were used as part of the base to make this garum. The garum factory was laid out around an open-air courtyard, where two large tanks were used for salting the fish, and a series of smaller troughs contained the garum paste. The manufacture began with a fishsalting process where alternate layers of cleaned and chopped fish were arranged in tanks with layers of salt. After 20 days, the product was taken out of the tanks and the paste was put into troughs, where it was left in the sun and stirred every day for two to three months. Working with a perishable product such as fish meant cleaning was a constant task in order to avoid the usual problems of a bad smell.

Remains of two of the six dolia or storage vessels, where the garum paste underwent the final stage in its preparation. Behind them, a column belonging to the later church is visible.

To the south-west were three rooms, in which six dolia – huge storage vessels – are preserved, where the final paste was prepared. One large dolium had a drain hole in which a multitude of fish scales, fish bones, and sea urchin spikes had been trapped. The factory operated over a long period of time, as demonstrated by numerous repairs, and it was still producing garum at least as late as the second half of the 5th century AD.

Next to the garum factory was a winery. Most wineries in the Roman world are found in the countryside, but this winery was inside the town near the consumers. An analysis of the waste at the site has found grape pips, yeasts, honey, cinnamon, and other products used in wine-making. In the north-east corner, the must was obtained by treading out the grapes on special platforms known as a calcatorium. Inside the tanks, large quantities of esparto fibres were found, which acted as a filter holding back the skins, pulp, and pips, which were then subjected to mechanical pressing.

The winery, with the dolia where the wine was stored visible in the foreground. Eleven of these vessels were present. They were carefully sunk into the existing floor, and a special resin had been applied to their insides.

The surviving archaeological remains suggest that there may have been two presses: one a lever and counter-weight press, the other a smaller screw press. Once the open-air operations were completed, the wine was moved to a cellar where the final stage took place in dolia: lined up along the walls are 11 dolia, a third of the body of which were buried below floor level. The insides of the dolia had been treated with resins precipitated in lime to provide a container that was better sealed, thereby preventing the wine deteriorating by contact with the air. The average capacity of each of the dolia is 880 litres, meaning that the cellar could store 9,680 litres of wine.

Further information

Julia Beltrán de Heredia Bercero (2002) From Barcino to Barcinona: the archaeological remains of Plaça del Rei in Barcelona, published by the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (ISBN 849-3211346).

An account of Andrew’s visit can also be found at www.travellingthepast.com/spain/roman-barcelona/ (and you can also see his account of the Sagrada Família).

This is an extract of an article featured in issue 101 of Current World Archaeology. Click here for more information about subscribing to the magazine.

Iberians, roughly located in the South and East, and Celts in the North and West of the Iberian Peninsula were the major earliest groups in what is now Spain (a third, so-called Celtiberian culture seems to have developed in the inner part of the Peninsula, where both groups were in contact).

Carthaginians and Greeks also traded with Spain and established their own colonies on the coast. Spain's mineral wealth and access to metals made it an important source of raw material during the early metal ages. Carthage conquered parts of Iberia after the First Punic War. After defeating Carthage in the Second Punic War, the Romans governed all of the Iberian Peninsula for centuries, expanding and diversifying the economy and extending Hispanic trade with the greater Republic and Empire.

While most of western Europe fell into a Dark Age after the decline of the Roman Empire, those kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula that today are known as Spain maintained their economy. [ citation needed ] First, the Visigoths replaced the Roman imperial administrators (an international class at the top echelons). They established themselves as nobility. The kingdom had some degree of centralized power at their capital, which was eventually moved to Toledo from Toulouse. The Roman municipal and provincial governorships continued but the imperial superstructure of diocese and prefecture was of course completely gone as there was no need for it: these had existed to coordinate imperial defense and provide uniform administrative oversight, and symbolized as nothing else, except the professional army, the presence of the Roman. Though it suffered some decline, most Roman law and many physical infrastructures such as roads, bridges, aqueducts, and irrigation systems, was maintained to varying degrees, unlike the complete disintegration that occurred in most other former parts of the western empire with the exception of parts of Italy. Later, when the Moors occupied large parts of the Iberian Peninsula alongside the Catholic kingdoms, they also maintained much of this Roman legacy in fact, as time went on they had Roman infrastructure repaired and extended. Meanwhile, in the countryside, where most people had always lived, life went on much as it had in Roman times, but with improvements due to the repair and extension of irrigation systems, and the introduction of novel crops and agricultural practices from the Islamic world. While trade dwindled in most of the former Roman lands in Europe, trade survived to some degree in Visigothic Spain and flourished under the Moors through the integration of Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain) with the Mediterranean trade of the Islamic world. After 800 years of intermittent warring, the Catholic kingdoms had gradually become more powerful and sophisticated and eventually expelled all the Moors from the Peninsula.

The Crown of Castile, united with the Crown of Aragon, had merchant navies that rivaled that of the Hanseatic League and Venice. Like the rest of late medieval Europe, restrictive guilds closely regulated all aspects of the economy-production, trade, and even transport. The most powerful of these corporations, the mesta, controlled the production of wool, Castile's chief export.

The Reconquista allowed the Catholic Monarchs to divert their attention to exploration. In 1492, Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia, a Valencian) formally approved the division of the unexplored world between kingdoms of what is today Spain and Portugal. New discoveries and conquests came in quick succession.

In 1493, when Christopher Columbus brought 1,500 colonists with him on his second voyage, a royal administrator had already been appointed for what the Catholic kingdoms referred to as the Indies. The Council of the Indies (Consejo de Indias), established in 1524 acted as an advisory board on colonial affairs, and the House of Trade (Casa de Contratación) regulated trade with the colonies.

Gold and silver from the New World Edit

Following the discovery of America and the colonial expansion in the Caribbean and Continental America, valuable agricultural products and mineral resources were introduced into Spain through regular trade routes. New products such as potatoes, tomatoes and corn had a long-lasting impact on the Spanish economy, but more importantly on European demographics. Gold and silver bullion from American mines were used by the Spanish Crown to pay for troops in the Netherlands and Italy, to maintain the emperor's forces in Germany and ships at sea, and to satisfy increasing consumer demand at home. However, the large volumes of precious metals from America led to inflation, which had a negative effect on the poorer part of the population, as goods became overpriced. This also hampered exports, as expensive goods could not compete in international markets. Moreover, the large cash inflows from silver hindered the industrial development in Spain as entrepreneurship seems to be indispensable. [1]

Domestic production was heavily taxed, driving up prices for Aragon and Castile-made goods, but especially in Castile where the tax burden was greater. The sale of titles to entrepreneurs who bought their way up the social ladder (a practice commonly found all over Europe), removing themselves from the productive sector of the economy, provided additional funds.

The overall effect of plague and emigration reduced peninsular Spain's population from over 8 million in the last years of the 16th century to under 7 million by the mid-17th century, with Castile the most severely affected region (85% of the Kingdom's population were in Castile), as an example, in 1500, Castile 6 million, and 1.25 million in the Crown of Aragon which included Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

The Spanish economy diverged from the British economy in terms of GDP during the middle of the seventeenth century. The explanations for this divergence are unclear, but "the divergence comes too late to have any medieval origins, whether cultural or institutional" and "it comes too early. in order for the Napoleonic Invasions to be blamed." [2]

A slow economic recovery began in the last decades of the 17th century under the Habsburgs. Under the Bourbons, government efficiency was improved, especially under Charles III's reign. The Bourbon reforms, however, resulted in no basic changes in the pattern of property holding. The nature of bourgeois class consciousness in Aragon and Castile hindered the creation of a middle-class movement. At the instance of liberal thinkers including Campomanes, various groups known as "Economic Societies of friends of the Country" were formed to promote economic development, new advances in the sciences, and Enlightenment philosophy (see Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del País). However, despite the development of a national bureaucracy in Madrid, the reform movement could not be sustained without the patronage of Charles III, and it did not survive him.

Jan Bergeyck (advisor to Philip V) "Disorder I have found here is beyond all imagination". Castile's exchequer still used Roman numerals and there was no proper accounting. [3]

Spain's American colonies took advantage of the postwar chaos to proclaim their independence. By 1825 only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under the Spanish flag in the New World. When Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne in 1813 and expended wealth and manpower in a vain effort to reassert control over the colonies. The move was unpopular among liberal officers assigned to the American wars.

The economy was heavily focused around agricultural goods. The period saw regional industrialization in Catalonia and the Basque Country and the construction of railways in the second half of the nineteenth century helped alleviate some of the isolation of the interior but generally little changed for much of the country as political instability, uprisings and unstable governments slowed or undermined economic progress.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Spain was still mostly rural modern industry existed only in the textile mills around Barcelona in Catalonia and in the metallurgical plants of the Basque provinces. The loss of Cuba and the Philippines benefited the Peninsula by causing capital to return and to be invested in updated domestic industries. But even with the stimulus of World War I, only in Catalonia and in two Basque provinces (Biscay and Gipuzkoa) did the value of manufacturing output in 1920 exceed that of agricultural production. Agricultural productivity was generally low compared with that of other West European countries because of a number of deficiencies: backward technology, lack of large irrigation projects, inadequate rural credit facilities, outmoded landtenure practices, as well as the age old problems of difficult terrain, unreliable climate, isolation and difficult transportation in the rugged interior. Financial institutions were relatively undeveloped. The Bank of Spain (Banco de España) was still privately owned, and its public functions were restricted to currency issuance and the provision of funds for state activities. The state largely limited itself to such traditional activities as defense and the maintenance of order and justice. Road building, education, and a few welfare activities were the only public services that had any appreciable impact on the economy.

A General, Miguel Primo de Rivera, was appointed prime minister by the king after a successful coup d'état and for seven years dissolved parliament and ruled through directorates and the aid of the military until 1930.

Protectionism, the Spanish neutrality during World War I (which allowed the country to trade with all belligerents) and state control of the economy led to a temporary economic recovery. The precipitous economic decline in 1930 undercut support for the government from special-interest groups. Criticism from academics mounted. Bankers expressed disappointment at the state loans that his government had tried to float. An attempt to reform the promotion system cost him the support of the army and, in turn, the support of the king. Primo de Rivera resigned and died shortly afterward in exile.

The republican government substituted the monarchy and inherited the international economic crisis as well. Three different governments ruled during the Second Spanish Republic, failing to execute numerous reforms, including land reform. General strikes were common and the economy stagnated.

During the Spanish Civil War, the country split into two different centralized economies, and the whole economic effort was redirected to the war industry. According to recent research, [4] growth is harmed during civil wars due to the huge contraction on private investment, and such was the case with the Spanish divided economy.

Spain emerged from the civil war with formidable economic problems. Gold and foreign exchange reserves had been virtually wiped out, the massive devastation of war had reduced the productive capacity of both industry and agriculture. To compound the difficulties, even if the wherewithal had existed to purchase imports, the outbreak of World War II rendered many needed supplies unavailable. The end of the war did not improve Spain's plight because of subsequent global shortages of raw materials, and peacetime industrial products. Spain's European neighbours faced formidable post-war reconstruction problems of their own, and, because of their awareness that the Nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War had been achieved with the help of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, they had no inclination to include Spain in any multilateral recovery programs or trade. For a decade following the Civil War's end in 1939, the wrecked and isolated economy remained in a state of severe depression. [5]

Branded an international outcast for its pro-Axis bias during World War II, Spain was not invited to join the Marshall Plan. Francisco Franco's regime sought to provide for Spain's well-being by adopting a policy of economic self-sufficiency. Autarky was not merely a reaction to international isolation it was also rooted in more than half a century of advocacy from domestic economic pressure groups. Furthermore, from 1939 to 1945, Spain's military chiefs genuinely feared an Allied invasion of the Peninsula and, therefore, sought to avert excessive reliance on foreign armaments. [5]

With the war devastation and trade isolation, Spain was much more economically backward in the 1940s than it had been a decade earlier. Inflation soared, economic reconstruction faltered, food was scarce, and, in some years, Spain registered negative growth rates. By the early 1950s, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was barely 40% of the average for West European countries. Then, after a decade of economic stagnation, a tripling of prices, the growth of a black market, and widespread deprivation, gradual improvement began to take place. The regime took its first faltering steps toward abandoning its pretensions of self-sufficiency and towards a transformation of Spain's economic system. Pre-Civil War industrial production levels were regained in the early 1950s, though agricultural output remained below prewar levels until 1958. [5]

A further impetus to economic liberalization came from the September 1953 signing of a mutual defense agreement, the Pact of Madrid, between the United States and Spain. In return for permitting the establishment of United States military bases on Spanish soil, the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower administration provided substantial economic aid to the Franco regime. More than US$1 billion in economic assistance flowed into Spain during the remainder of the decade as a result of the agreement. Between 1953 and 1958, Spain's gross national product (GNP) rose by about 5% per annum. [5]

The years from 1951 to 1956 were marked by much economic progress, but the reforms of the period were implemented irregularly, and were poorly coordinated. One large obstacle to the reform process was the corrupt, inefficient, and bloated bureaucracy. By the mid-1950s, the inflationary spiral had resumed its upward climb, and foreign currency reserves that had stood at US$58 million in 1958 plummeted to US$6 million by mid-1959. The growing demands of the emerging middle class—and of the ever-greater number of tourists—for the amenities of life, particularly for higher nutritional standards, placed heavy demands on imported food and luxury items. At the same time, exports lagged, largely because of high domestic demand and institutional restraints on foreign trade. The peseta fell to an all-time low on the black market, and Spain's foreign currency obligations grew to almost US$60 million. [5]

A debate took place within the regime over strategies for extricating the country from its economic impasse, and Franco finally opted in favor of a group of neoliberals. The group included bankers, industrial executives, some academic economists, and members of the Roman Catholic lay organization, Opus Dei. [5]

During the 1957-59 period, known as the pre-stabilization years, economic planners contented themselves with piecemeal measures such as moderate anti-inflationary stopgaps and increases in Spain's links with the world economy. A combination of external developments and an increasingly aggravated domestic economic crisis, however, forced them to engage in more far-reaching changes. [5]

As the need for a change in economic policy became manifest in the late 1950s, an overhaul of the Council of Ministers in February 1957 brought to the key ministries a group of younger men, most of whom possessed economics training and experience. This reorganization was quickly followed by the establishment of a committee on economic affairs and the Office of Economic Coordination and Planning under the prime minister. [5]

Such administrative changes were important steps in eliminating the chronic rivalries that existed among economic ministries. Other reforms followed, the principal one being the adoption of a corporate tax system that required the confederation of each industrial sector to allocate an appropriate share of the entire industry's tax assessment to each member firm. Chronic tax evasion was consequently made more difficult, and tax collection receipts rose sharply. Together with curbs on government spending, in 1958 this reform created the first government surplus in many years. [5]

More drastic remedies were required as Spain's isolation from the rest of Western Europe became exacerbated. Neighboring states were in the process of establishing the EC and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA—see Glossary). In the process of liberalizing trade among their members, these organizations found it difficult to establish economic relations with countries wedded to trade quotas and bilateral agreements, such as Spain. [5]

The "Spanish Miracle" Edit

Spanish membership in these groups was not politically possible, but Spain was invited to join a number of other international institutions. In January 1958, Spain became an associate member of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), which became the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in September 1961. In 1959 Spain joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These bodies immediately became involved in helping Spain to abandon the autarkical trade practices that had brought its reserves to such low levels and that were isolating its economy from the rest of Europe. [5]

In December 1958, after seven months of preparation and drafting, aided by IMF, Spain unveiled its Stabilization Plan on June 30, 1959. The plan's objectives were twofold: to take the necessary fiscal and monetary measures required to restrict demand and to contain inflation, while, at the same time, liberalizing foreign trade and encouraging foreign investment. The plan's initial effect was deflationary and recessionary, leading to a drop in real income and to a rise in unemployment during its first year. The resultant economic slump and reduced wages led approximately 500,000 Spanish workers to emigrate in search of better job opportunities in other West European countries. Nonetheless, its main goals were achieved. The plan enabled Spain to avert a possible suspension of payments abroad to foreign banks holding Spanish currency, and by the close of 1959, Spain's foreign exchange account showed a US$100-million surplus. Foreign capital investment grew sevenfold between 1958 and 1960, and the annual influx of tourists began to rise rapidly, bringing in very much needed foreign exchange along remittances from Spanish workers abroad. [5]

As these developments steadily converted Spain's economic structure into one more closely resembling a free-market economy, the country entered the greatest cycle of industrialization and prosperity it had ever known. Foreign aid took the form of US$75 million in drawing rights from the IMF, US$100 million in OEEC credits, US$70 million in commercial credits from the Chase Manhattan Bank and the First National City Bank, US$30 million from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and funds from United States aid programs. Total foreign backing amounted to US$420 million. The principal lubricants of the economic expansion, however, were the hard currency remittances of one million Spanish workers abroad, which are estimated to have offset 17.9% of the total trade deficit from 1962 to 1971 the gigantic increase in tourism that drew more than 20 million visitors per year by the end of the 1960s, accounting by then for 9% of GNP a car industry that grew at a staggering compound rate of 21.7% per year from 1958 to 1972 and direct foreign investment, which between 1960 and 1974 amounted to an impressive US$7.6 billion. More than 40% of this investment came from the United States, almost 17% came from Switzerland, and the Federal Republic of Germany and France each accounted for slightly more than 10%. By 1975 foreign capital represented 12.4% of the total invested in Spain's 500 largest industrial firms. More important than the actual size of the foreign investment was the access it gave Spanish companies to up to date technology. An additional billion dollars came from foreign sources through a variety of loans and credit devices. [5]

To help achieve rapid development, there was massive government investment through key state-owned companies like the national industrial conglomerate Instituto Nacional de Industria, the mass-market car company SEAT in Barcelona, the shipbuilder Empresa Nacional Bazán. With foreign access to the Spanish domestic market restricted by heavy tariffs and quotas, these national companies led the industrialisation of the country, restoring the prosperity of old industrial areas like Barcelona and Bilbao and creating new industrial areas, most notably around Madrid. Although there was considerable economic liberalisation in the period these enterprises remained under state control. [5]

The success of the stabilization program was attributable to a combination of good luck and good management and the impressive development during this period was referred to as the "Spanish miracle". Between 1959 and 1974, Spain had the next fastest economic growth rate after Japan. The boom came to an end with the oil shocks of the 1970s and government instability during the transition back to democracy after Franco's death in 1975. [5]

Franco's death in 1975 and the ensuing transition to democratic rule diverted Spaniards' attention from their economy. The return to democracy coincided with an explosive quadrupling of oil prices, which had an extremely serious effect on the economy because Spain imported 70% of its energy, mostly in the form of Middle Eastern oil. Nonetheless, the interim centrist government of Adolfo Suarez Gonzalez, which had been named to succeed the Franco regime by King Juan Carlos, did little to shore up the economy or even to reduce Spain's dependence on imported oil, although there was little that could be done as the country had little in the way of hydrocarbon deposits. A virtually exclusive preoccupation with the politics of democratization during the politically and socially unstable period when the new constitution was drafted and enacted, absorbed most of Spain's politics and administration at the expense of economic policy. [5]

Because of the failure to adjust to the changed economic environment brought on by the two oil price shocks of the 1970s, Spain quickly confronted plummeting productivity, an explosive increase in wages from 1974 to 1976, a reversal of migration trends as a result of the economic slump throughout Western Europe, and the steady outflow of labor from agricultural areas despite declining job prospects in the cities. All these factors contributed to a sharp rise in the unemployment rate. Government budgetary deficits swelled, as did large social security cost overruns and the huge operating losses incurred by a number of public-sector industries. Energy consumption, meanwhile, remained high. [5]

When the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party government headed by Felipe González took office in late 1982, inflation was running at an annual rate of 16%, the external current account was US$4 billion in arrears, public spending was large, and foreign exchange reserves had become dangerously depleted. In coping with the situation, however, the Gonzalez government had one asset that no previous post-Franco government had enjoyed, namely, a solid parliamentary majority in both houses of the Cortes (Spanish Parliament). With this majority, it was able to undertake unpopular austerity measures that earlier governments had not. [5]

The Socialist government opted for pragmatic, orthodox monetary and fiscal policies, together with a series of vigorous retrenchment measures. In 1983 it unveiled a program that provided a more coherent and long-term approach to the country's economic ills. Renovative structural policies—such as the closing of large, unprofitable state enterprises—helped to correct the relatively poor performance of the economy. The government launched an industrial reconversion program, brought the problem-ridden social security system into better balance, and introduced a more efficient energy-use policy. Labor market flexibility was improved, and private capital investment was encouraged with incentives. [5]

By 1985 the budgetary deficit was brought down to 5% of GNP, and it dropped to 4.5% in 1986. Real wage growth was contained, and it was generally kept below the rate of inflation. Inflation was reduced to 4.5% in 1987, and analysts believed it might decrease to the government's goal of 3% in 1988. [5]

Efforts to modernize and to expand the economy together with a number of factors fostered strong economic growth in the 1980s. Those factors were the continuing fall in oil prices, increased tourism, and a massive upsurge in the inflow of foreign investment. Thus, despite the fact that the economy was being exposed to foreign competition in accordance with EC requirements, the Spanish economy underwent rapid expansion without experiencing balance of payments' constraints. [5]

In the words of the OECD's 1987-88 survey of the Spanish economy, "following a protracted period of sluggish growth with slow progress in winding down inflation during the late 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, the Spanish economy has entered a phase of vigorous expansion of output and employment accompanied by a marked slowdown of inflation." [7] In 1981 Spain's GDP growth rate had reached a nadir by registering a rate of negative 0.2% it then gradually resumed its slow upward ascent with increases of 1.2% in 1982, 1.8% in 1983, 1.9% in 1984, and 2.1% in 1985. The following year, however, Spain's real GDP began to grow strongly, registering a growth rate of 3.3% in 1986 and 5.5% in 1987. Although these growth rates were less than those of the economic miracle years, they were among the strongest of the OECD. Analysts projected a rise of 3.8% in 1988 and of 3.5% in 1989, a slight decline but still roughly double the EC average. They expected that declining interest rates and the government's stimulative budget would help sustain economic expansion. Industrial output, which rose by 3.1% in 1986 and by 5.2% in 1987, was also expected to maintain its expansive rate, growing by 3.8% in 1988 and by 3.7% in 1989. [5]

A prime force generating rapid economic growth was increased domestic demand, which grew by a steep 6% in 1986 and by 4.8% in 1987, in both years exceeding official projections. During 1988 and 1989, analysts expected demand to remain strong, though at slightly lower levels. Much of the large increase in demand was met in 1987 by an estimated 20% jump in real terms in imports of goods and services. [5]

In the mid-1980s, Spain achieved a strong level of economic performance while simultaneously lowering its rate of inflation to within two points of the EC average. However, its export performance, though increasing, raised concerns over the existing imbalance between import and export growth. [5]

After Franco's death in 1975, the country returned to democracy in the form of a constitutional monarchy in 1978, with elections being held in 1977 and with the constitution being ratified in 1978. The move to democracy saw Spain become more involved with the European integration.

Felipe Gonzalez became prime minister when his Socialist Party won the 1982 elections. He enacted a number of liberal reforms, increasing civil liberties and implementing universal free education for those 16 and younger. He also lobbied successfully for Spain to join the European Economic Community (EEC) and to remain part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The European Union at the time Spain joined, in 1986, existed primarily as a trading union - the EEC, and better trade links were vital to the fragile Spanish economy. Unemployment was high, about 18 percent, and the Spanish GDP was 71 percent of the EU average. The single market and European funding offered a chance to bring the Spanish economy up to the standards of the rest of Western Europe, along with the support of Spain's wealthier neighbors. There was the promise of lucrative deals with influential countries such as Germany, France and the UK.

Although the Spanish Miracle years (1959–1974) witnessed unprecedented improvements in infrastructure and social services, Spain still lagged behind most of Western Europe. Education was limited, women were largely excluded from the workforce, health care was largely private and unevenly distributed and the country's infrastructure was relatively poor. In 1985, Spain had only 2,100 km (1,300 mi) of motorways. Since the end of the economic miracle in 1974, the country's economy had been stagnant. Joining the European Economic Community was perceived by most of the population as a way to restart the process of modernization and improvement of the population's average purchasing power.

Spain joined the European Economic Community, as the European Union was then known, in January 1986 at the same time as neighbor Portugal. Membership ushered the country into opening its economy, modernizing its industrial base and revising economic legislation to open its previously protected markets to foreign competition. With help of EU funds (Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds, European Regional Development Fund, etc.) Spain greatly improved infrastructures, increased GDP growth, reduced the public debt to GDP ratio. Spain has been a driving force in the European community ever since. The country was a leading proponent of the EU single currency, the euro, long before it had been put into circulation. Together with the other founding euro members, it adopted the new physical currency on January 1, 2002. On that date Spain terminated its historic peseta currency and replaced it with the euro, which has become its national currency shared the rest of the Eurozone. This culminated a fast process of economic modernization even though the strength of the euro since its adoption has raised concerns regarding the fact that Spanish exports outside the European Union are being priced out of the range of foreign buyers, with the country losing monetary sovereignty in favour of the European Central Bank, which must look after several different -often opposed- national interests.

In the early 1990s Spain, like most other countries, was hit by the early 1990s recession. which coincided with the end of the construction push put in place for the Barcelona Olympics.

The country was confronted with very high unemployment, entrenched by its then rigid labour market. However the economy began to recover during the first José María Aznar administration (1996-2000), driven by a return of consumer confidence, increased private consumption and liberalization and deregulation reforms aiming to reduce the State's role in the market place. Unemployment at 7.6% (October 2006), represented a significant improvement from the 1980s levels and a better rate than the one of Germany or France at the time. Devaluations of the peseta during the 1990s made Spanish exports more competitive. By the late 1990s economic growth was strong, employment grew strongly, although unemployment remained high, as people returned to the job market and confidence in the economy returned. The last years of the 1990s saw property values begin to increase.

The Spanish economy was being credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU (namely France, Germany and Italy) in the late 1990s and at the beginning of the 21st century. In 1995 Spain started an impressive economic cycle marked by an outstanding economic growth, with figures around 3%, often well over this rate. [8]

Growth in the decade prior to 2008 steadily closed the economic gap between Spain and its leading partners in the EU. For a moment, the Spanish economy was regarded as one of the most dynamic within the EU, even able to replace the leading role of much larger economies like the ones of France and Germany, thus subsequently attracting significant amounts of native and foreign investment. [9] Also, during the period spanning from the mid 1980s through the mid 2000s, Spain was second only to France in being the most successful OECD country in terms of reduced income inequality over this period. [10] Spain also made great strides in integrating women into the workforce. From a position where the role of Spanish women in the labour market in the early 1970s was similar to that prevailing in the major European countries in the 1930s, by the 1990s Spain had achieved a modern European profile in terms of economic participation by women. [11]

Spain joined the Eurozone in 1999. Interest rates dropped and the property boom accelerated. By 2006 property prices had doubled from a decade earlier. During this time construction of apartments and houses increased at a record rate and immigration into Spain increased into the hundreds of thousands a year as Spain created more new jobs than the rest of Eurozone combined. [ citation needed ] Along with the property boom, there was a rapid expansion of service industry jobs.

Convergence with the European Union Edit

Due to its own economic development and the EU enlargements up to 27 members (2007), Spain as a whole exceeded (105%) the average of the EU GDP in 2006 placing it ahead of Italy (103% for 2006). As for the extremes within Spain, three regions in 2005 were included in the leading EU group exceeding 125% of the GDP average level (Madrid, Navarre and the Basque Autonomous Community) and one was at the 85% level (Extremadura). [12] These same regions were on the brink of full employment by then.

According to the growth rates post 2006, noticeable progress from these figures happened until early 2008, when the Spanish economy was heavily affected by the puncturing of its property bubble by the global financial crisis. [13]

In this regard, according to Eurostat's estimates for 2007 GDP per capita for the EU-27. Spain happened to stay by that time at 107% of the level, well above Italy who was still above the average (101%), and catching up with countries like France (111%). [14]

In 2008, the shockwaves of the global financial crisis punctured the Spanish property bubble, causing a property crash. Construction collapsed and unemployment began to rise. The property crash led to a collapse of credit as banks hit by bad debts cut back lending, causing a recession. As the economy shrank, government revenue collapsed and government debt began to climb rapidly. By the 2010 the country faced severe financial problems and got caught up in the European sovereign debt crisis.

In 2012, unemployment rose to a record high of 25 percent. [16] On 25 May 2012, Bankia, at that time the fourth largest bank of Spain with 12 million customers, requested a bailout of €19 billion, the largest bank bailout in the nation's history. [17] [18] The new management, led by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri reported losses before taxes of 4.3 billion euros (2.98 billion euros taking into account a fiscal credit) compared to a profit of 328 million euros reported when Rodrigo Rato was at the head of Bankia until May 9, 2012. [19] On June 9, 2012, Spain asked Eurozone governments for a bailout worth as much as 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to rescue its banking system as the country became the biggest euro economy until that date, after Ireland, Greece and Portugal, to seek international aid due to its weaknesses amid the European sovereign debt crisis. [20] A Eurozone official told Reuters in July 2012 that Spain conceded for the first time at a meeting between Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble, it might need a bailout worth 300 billion euros if its borrowing costs remained unsustainably high. On August 23, 2012, Reuters reported that Spain was negotiating with euro zone partners over conditions for aid to bring down its borrowing costs. [21]

After serious austerity measures and major reforms into the economy Spain exited recession in 2013 and its economy is growing once more at a rate of 2.5 in 2015 and it is only expected to improve over the coming years. Although jobs are starting to be created the unemployment still stands at 22.6% in April 2015. [22]

In 2014, after years of economic recession, Spain grew up a 1,4%, [23] accelerating to 3.4% in 2015 and 3.3% in 2016 [24] [25] and moderating by 3.1% in 2017. [26] [27] Experts say that the economy will moderate in 2018 to stable growth of between 2.5% and 3%. In addition to this, the unemployment rate has been reduced during the years of recovery, standing at 16.55% in 2017. [28]

The ‘Ketchup’ of Ancient Rome is Showing up Again in Modern Kitchens

An ancient condiment is now being used by modern chefs to create delicious contemporary dishes, according to The Guardian. The ancient Roman sauce garum was used in the ancient world to flavor all kinds of foods and was so popular across the Empire that numerous factories were constructed around the Mediterranean to ensure a ready supply.

We know a lot about Roman cuisine from Marcus Gavius Apicius’ 1st-century cookbook On the Subject of Cooking, where he describes a large number of popular ancient recipes that call for garum.

However, many modern chefs are only now rediscovering this ancient ingredient, known as colatura di alici in present-day Italy, and are using it to add a distinctive, unusual flavor to their contemporary cuisine.

This is a picture from the Apicius handwriting (ca. 900 A.C) of the Fulda monastery in Germany, which was acquired in 1929 by the New York Academy of Medicine. Photo by Bonho1962 CC BY-SA 3.0

Zingerman’s Delicatessen, in Michigan, is credited with introducing colatura to the United States, according to The Guardian. Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the business, first discovered colatura on a trip to Italy’s Amalfi coast nearly 20 years ago. He began to import it and it soon became a bestseller, and is now highly sought after by chefs keen to add a unique twist to their conventional dishes.

However, few people in the United States are aware of the ancient origins of colatura. Used in the Mediterranean world over 2000 years ago, colatura, or garum, could also be dubbed the ‘Roman ketchup’, as it was so popular that people would add it to any dish.

Garum amphora from Pompeii Photo by Claus Ableiter CC BY-SA 3.0

It was first developed in Phoenician and Greek cuisine, and traces have been found in amphorae dating back to at least the 5th century BC. The Romans were not the first people to use garum in their cooking, but along with many other commodities, they successfully popularized it across the Mediterranean world.

According to The Guardian, garum was made using fermented fish guts, in a process not unlike that used to create fish sauce in contemporary Thai or Vietnamese cuisine.

Mosaic depicting a “Flower of Garum” jug with a titulus reading “from the workshop of [the garum importer Aulus Umbricius] Scaurus Photo by Claus Ableiter -CC BY-SA 3.0

Furthermore, garum was not only known for its delicious flavor and pungent odor. According to National Geographic, it was also thought to have medicinal properties, stimulating appetite, helping wounds to heal, and even curing stomach ailments.

The Roman taste for garum soon required an extensive infrastructure to meet demand, and specially designed factories known as cetariae sprang up around the Mediterranean.

Ancient Roman garum factory in Portugal Igiul – CC BY 3.0

These factories were constructed next to fishing ports, and were the site for the salting and distribution of fish caught along the coast. Mackerel, cod, whitebait and other types of fish were all brought here for cleaning, gutting and salting, in order to preserve them for as long as possible.

The garum was produced from the guts of these fish. They would be placed in huge vats, layered with salt and herbs, and left to ferment in the warm sunshine. This process required a delicate balance of salt to fish, in order to produce the perfect tangy flavor. After several months, the contents of the vat would be strained, and the garum extracted.

Archaeologists have found many garum factories in North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, and thousands of amphorae containing traces of garum across the former Roman world. These remains are a testimony to the vitality of Roman trading networks, and the high demand for this commodity in the ancient world.

Today, as modern chefs rediscover this ‘tasty’ ancient condiment, garum continues to travel long distances, from the Amalfi coastal town of Cetara where it is still made in traditional chestnut vats, all the way to North America. This is one condiment that certainly isn’t going out of fashion.


There is evidence to suggest that the consumption of mustard seeds goes back as far as 3000BC, though our ancestors ate a far greater variety than we do today, and the earliest mentions come from Ancient Sumerian texts, where they were ground and mixed with unripe grape juice (1). Mustard was also consumed by the Ancient Egyptians, though likely only by elites, and it was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, who was likely buried sometime in the 1324BC (2).

The Greeks used it as both a spice and medicine, though there’s little evidence to suggest it has any medicinal benefits. Once Rome came to dominate the Mediterranean, they too came to come to enjoy mustard (3) and it became a popular condiment throughout the ever-expanding Roman Empire. The various types of mustard seeds are particularly resilient to numerous weather types, soil types and are largely pest resilient too, making them the ideal crop to export (1)

Along with grapes, mustard plants found fertile soil in northern France (then Gaul) and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, mustard remained as a popular addition to many meals. Monks in what became France kept the tradition of mustard making alive, and by the 9th century, a great many monasteries across France were producing mustard as a major source of revenue (3). They also give mustard one of its most accurate descriptions, calling it ‘mustum ardens’ (1), which means ‘burning wine’ and over time this evolved through Middle English into our modern word ‘mustard’ (4).

Today there are dozens of mustards varies across the world and the condiment remains as popular as ever, particularly when paired with meat or when adding flavour to dishes.


Christian missionaries have taught people in Papua, New Guinea who had many gods before their conversion to recite the Hebrew Shema announcing only ONE GOD. Watch the video below.




1. There were only 8 people in Noah’s Ark. T/F

2. Jonah was in the belly of the “whale” 4 days. T/F

3. The meaning in Hebrew of the word “day” always means a 24 hour period of time. T/F

4. All the names for our week days come from Roman and Norse/Anglo-Saxon gods. T/F

5. Jesus sent out 70 Disciples to preach His Good News.

Remains of garum factory was discovered in Israel

In Ashkelon (western part of Israel) the remains of the Roman factory of garum – the famous sauce of the Romans from fermented fish remains – were found.

The building was outside the structures of the ancient city, probably because of the stench that hovered in this place. So far, few preserved garum sauce factories have been found.

IMPERIUM ROMANUM needs your support!

Your financial help is needed, in order to maintain and develop the website. Even the smallest amounts will allow me to pay for further corrections, improvements on the site and pay the server. I believe that I can count on a wide support that will allow me to devote myself more to my work and passion, to maximize the improvement of the website and to present history of ancient Romans in an interesting form.

News from world of ancient Rome

If you want to be up to date with news and discoveries from the world of ancient Rome, subscribe to the newsletter.

I encourage you to buy interesting books about the history of ancient Rome and antiquity.

Ancient city of Neapolis the ‘largest centre’ for garum making in Roman empire

Excavations in Neapolis, Tunisia have found 100 tanks of garum. (University of Sassari).

Fermented fish sauce, also known as garum, was the source of huge wealth for some of the local inhabitants living in the ancient Roman city of Neapolis.

An extensive underwater network of ruins near the Tunisian city of Nabeul was excavated in 2017 and found 100 tanks used to make garum, a fish-based fermented sauce, which was used throughout the Roman world.

A joint Tunisian-Italian archaeological expedition has been working at Neapolis since 2010. The latest mission in the summer of 2017 yielded more evidence from the 20 hectares submerged site.

“It’s a major discovery,” Mounir Fantar, the head of a Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission which made the find off the coast of Nabeul, told AFP.

Location of Neoplis (Google maps)

“This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major centre for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest centre in the Roman world,” said Fantar.

“Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum.”

Besides more than 100 tanks of garum, the excavation also found a sophisticated street system and the remains of large villas, pointing to the wealth of the inhabitants of Neapolis, a Roman colony.

A lucrative business
Judging by the size and scale of the largest villas excavated in Neapolis, producing garum was a money-making business. There’s scant evidence for specific prices of garum, although Seneca, the stoic philosopher disapprovingly hints at its high price. “Do you not realise that garum sociorum, that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish, consumes the stomach with its salted putrefaction?”

Pliny the Elder said that an amphora of garum was worth 4,000 sesterces. He added that no other liquid except perfumes was more expensive, even to families of the nobility. Lawyers could earn 4,000 sesterces for pleading a case at the top of the legal profession, which gives some indication of how costly the best garum was.

There were different qualities of garum, also called liquamen, so the best quality garum might have been viewed like today’s premium caviar. An edict from Diocletion, dating to 301 AD states two different prices for the first liquamen and the second liquamen, perhaps indicating a difference in quality.

Remains of the garum factory. Neapolis, Tunisia. (Image: Mahdi Jwini)

Pompeii was another major centre for garum manufacturing. The house of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus, a freedman and producer of garum was one of the wealthiest. Aulus Umbricius decorated his villa with mosaics of urceus, the one-handed vessel made for containing garum. One urceus discovered bears the description “G(ari) F(los) SCOM(bri) “Flower of Garum (The very best of Garum), from mackerel”, together with his name as producer.

The garum factory and the jars containing the fish sauce have not yet been excavated, so future archaelogists will have more to discover about the taste and consistency.

Garum factories throughout the empire
Production centres for garum have been found throughout the Roman empire. The ruins of a garum factory were discovered at the Baetian site of Baelo Claudia (in present-day Tarifa) and Carteia (San Roque). Other sites include a large garum factory at Gades (Cadiz) and at Málaga under the Picasso museum.

The garum of Lusitania (in present-day Portugal) was also highly prized in Rome, and was shipped directly from the harbour of Lacobriga (Lagos). A former Roman garum factory can be visited in the Baixa area of central Lisbon.

The latest garum factory to be discovered was in 2019 during excavations near Ashkelon, a coastal city in Israel.

“I think of it as a condiment, but it went well beyond that,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel. “It’s hard for us to imagine. It was far more common than ketchup.”

Fish pools were uncovered as well as huge jars used for storing the garum, as well as a large receptacle for holding the strained liquid.

“Historical sources refer to the production of special fish sauce, that was used as a basic condiment for food in the Roman and Byzantine eras throughout the Mediterranean basin,” Erickson-Gini said. “They report that the accompanying strong odours during its production required its being distanced from urban areas and this was found to be the case since the installations were discovered approximately 2km from ancient Ashkelon.”

Garum amphora from the villa of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus, (Claus Ableiter)

What did garum taste like?
Even the ancient world seemed to be divided on whether it was ambrosia from the gods or a foul-smelling condiment.

Pliny the Elder spoke of garum that was “blended to the colour of old honey wine’ and tasted “so pleasant it can be drunk.”

A surviving fragment of Plato Comicus spoke of “putrid garum”.

Martial wrote epigrams about it. “Accept this exquisite sauce made from the first blood of the expiring mackerel an expensive present.”

But he also wrote of an inferior quality of garum. “I am, I confess it, the offspring of the tunny-fish of Antipolis had I been that of a mackerel, I should not have been sent to you.”

It’s thought that the nearest modern-day equivalent to garum is a Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce.

How garum was made
From ancient texts such as from Pliny the Elder, it was made by the fermentation in brine of the intestines of fish such as tuna, eel, anchovies, and mackerel.

The finished product could be fairly mild and subtle, and was mixed with salt, spices, wine, vinegar, pepper, oil, and water.

Ancient Garum Recipe
Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart capacity

Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high

Repeat these layers until the container is filled

Let it rest for seven days in the sun.

Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.

Source: Gargilius Martialis, De medicina et de virtute herbarum, (3 rd century AD) reprinted from A Taste of Ancient Rome

Watch the video: The Story of Garum: Roman Fish Sauce in a Modern Context. Fermentology 2021