1st Edition

The Story of Garum Fermented Fish Sauce and Salted Fish in the Ancient World

By Sally Grainger Copyright 2021
    314 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    314 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Story of Garum recounts the convoluted journey of that notorious Roman fish sauce, known as garum, from a smelly Greek fish paste to an expensive luxury at the heart of Roman cuisine and back to obscurity as the Roman empire declines.

    This book is a unique attempt to meld the very disparate disciplines of ancient history, classical literature, archaeology, zooarchaeology, experimental archaeology, ethnographic studies and modern sciences to illuminate this little understood commodity. Currently Roman fish sauce has many identities depending on which discipline engages with it, in what era and at what level. These identities are often contradictory and confused and as yet no one has attempted a holistic approach where fish sauce has been given centre stage. Roman fish sauce, along with oil and wine, formed a triad of commodities which dominated Mediterranean trade and while oil and wine can be understood, fish sauce was until now a mystery.

    Students and specialists in the archaeology of ancient Mediterranean trade whether through amphora studies, shipwrecks or zooarchaeology will find this invaluable. Scholars of ancient history and classics wishing to understand the nuances of Roman dining literature and the wider food history discipline will also benefit from this volume.     

    List of figures

    List of tables

    Preface and acknowledgements


    1. Fish sauce in Classical literature

    2. Fish sauce in the consumption literature: a literary and archaeological chronology.

    3 Fish sauce in culinary, medical and veterinary sources

    4. Fish sauce from Papyri in Greek speaking Egypt.

    5. Fish sauce in the late Roman, Byzantine and medieval world

    6. Fish sauce from an Archaeological perspective

    7. Fermented fish sauce in South East Asia

    8. Modern fish sauce experiments

    9. Fishing in the Mediterranean

    10. The infrastructure of fish sauce manufacture

    11. Fish bones as evidence of sauce

    12. Fish sauce amphorae as functional vessels





    Sally Grainger is an independent scholar with degrees in ancient history and archaeology. She is a food historian, chef and experimental archaeologist. She has worked with many university institutions and museums helping to interpret the foodways of ancient societies. She has published widely in food history, and jointly with Andrew Dalby she wrote the acclaimed Classical Cook Book, and with her husband Dr Christopher Grocock she edited and translated the recipe text known as Apicius. She continues to collaborate with archaeologist in research into the various ways in which ancient fish sauces were made, traded and consumed.

    "A well-written, detailed, and insightful study on fermented fish sauce production and trade in the ancient classical world. Grainger combines her training as an historian and archaeologist along with her experience as a food historian and chef to provide a unique blend of expertise. She challenges some existing interpretations and assumptions about garum (e.g. that garum tasted rotten or bad) and suggests new ways to address the topic.[...]Lastly, while it is primarily written for an academic audience, I would also recommend the book as a good read for anyone with an interest in ancient foodways." - Andrea Yankowski, Ethnoarchaeology