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What Did Ancient Romans Eat? New Novel Serves Up Meals And Intrigue

In ancient Rome, food was a bargaining chip for position for slaves and nobles alike. At the center of Feast Of Sorrow is real-life nobleman Apicius, who inspired the oldest surviving cookbook.
Fortified dwelling and open air banquet, detail from a mosaic portraying a Nilotic landscape from El Alia, Tunisia. Roman Civilisation, 2nd century. Musée National Du Bardo (Archaeological Museum) Source: DeAgostini/Getty Images

"Marcus Gavius Apicius purchased me on a day hot enough to fry sausage on the market stones."

So begins the tale of Thrasius, the fictional narrator of Feast of Sorrow. Released this week, the novel is based on the real life of ancient Roman noble Marcus Gavius Apicius, who is thought to have inspired and contributed to the world's oldest surviving cookbook, a ten-volume collection titled Apicius.

But it is Crystal King's Feast of Sorrow that brings readers into the kitchens of ancient Rome, where nobles and slaves jockeyed for position by using food as bargaining chips for personal and professional advancement — whether it's the radishes that Thrasius carves into roses for his lady love and fellow slave, Passia, or the pig-shaped pastries stuffed with

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