Sunday, 20 April 2008
Did Romans eat bananas?
posted by kathy
Sometimes conversation after Meeting takes odd turns. I can't recall what sparked the question, but we found ourselves challenged by the query, "Did Romans eat bananas?" Some time later we moved to Bible fruits and the identity of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden. The fruit is never named. I said, sweepingly, that apples are not mentioned in the Bible but of course I was wrong. They occur in the Song of Songs, in the lovely line, "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love." ( Song of Solomon 2-5, for those who like careful referencing.) It's not a matter of theology or accuracy, but on aesthetic grounds I prefer the Authorised Version.
The question of Romans and bananas has stayed with me. Fortunately there are websites to answer such questions. The Roman Food site gives lists of what Romans did and did not eat. I'm afraid that bananas are listed with coffee and chocolate as food that the Romans definitely never tasted. They did, however, eat dormice, although the Senate made an attempt to ban this in 115 B.C. Because fruit - and later vegetables - were the focus of our conversation, we failed Mary Beard's dormouse test.
I haven't anything further to add about the fruit of the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden but I can't agree with Christine's suggestion. I know there's no justification for the idea of an apple but a seedless grape is just too small. A pomegranate, perhaps?