Thermopolium: The Fast Food Restaurants from the Roman Empire

Fast food – cheap easy food scorned through the wealthier upper classes. Problem? It sometimes seems things never change in our planet. In the ancient Greco-Roman world the fast-food restaurants and snack bars of the day were the thermopolium.

The best spot to determine theromopolia today is at Pompeii and Herculaneum. While grand temples and palaces show the great and mighty reasons for long-gone people and also the elite, they do not say much about the ordinary day-to-day lives of those. Theromopolia tell the storyline of where, how, and what the traditional Romans ate.

Exactly what the Theromopolia Were

Theromopolia were the ancient cook-ships of the Roman and Greek world. The name literally means “a place where something hot comes.” These were the fast-food restaurants that served ready-to-eat food. They're thought to be the forerunners of today's restaurants and their food is often compared to that of modern junk food.

  • Name: Archaeologists Call Them Thermopolia, however they Counseled me Called in Latin Literature popinae, cauponae, hospitia or stabula

The typical thermopolium is made up of a small room attached to (although not accessible from) a house. They had a unique masonry counter right in front and in the counter were earthenware jars accustomed to store dried food.

The remains of nuts have been found in the ones connected to the House of Neptune and Amphitrite in Herculaneum. Some of them were more elegantly decorated with stunning frescoes adorning the walls.

  • Frescoes: The Fancier Thermopolia Were Decorated With Frescoes

Theromopolia In Pompeii

One of the best places for learning about ancient Roman junk food and dining habits is really as always Pompeii (and Herculaneum). According to, there have been 89 thermopolia found in the excavated part of the doomed city.

  • Number Discovered: Around 89 Have been located in Pompeii (From An Estimated 150ish Total)

The city is filled with well-preserved frescoed “fast food” counters and new discoveries are now being unearthed all the time in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The Guardian reports that around 150 approximately of those thermopolia once dotted the city.

Pompeii were built with a population of around 20,000 inhabitants and much of that population might have frequented these establishments. The unique destruction and preservation of Pompeii makes it among the best places to learn about and find out them today. This is not because people used them more in Pompeii than elsewhere in the empire, it's really a product from the unique preservation of the site.

  • Where to determine Them: Well-Preserved Ruins of Thermpolia Have been in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Ostia

The Thermopolium of Assellina is among the most complete types of a thermopolium in Pompeii. Here complete jugs and dishes were found on the counter and a kettle filled with water. People dined on the floor floor while there were guest rooms on the second floor.

The guest rooms upstairs might have been a brothel because of the names of numerous women written included in an election notice outside.

What Food They Served

This establishment would serve meals, snacks, and drinks. These drinks will not have included coffee – as coffee only appeared a few hundred years ago, would not have included tea – which comes from China, nor would the drinks have included hot cocoa – as chocolate originates from Mesoamerica.

The typical menus in these places might have included coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils, and spicy wine. Most of them might have specialized in 2 or 3 items (like wine, lentils, meats, or cheese).

  • Wine: They Served Mulled Spiced Wine (Calida) From Earthenware Jars Within the Counter
  • Ketchup: The Ubiquitous Ketchup of the Roman World Would be a Sauce Made of Fish Guts – Yum?
  • Healthy: The Food (Despite the fact that Fast Food) Was Still Healthy – It Was a Takeout Mediterranean Diet

Who Frequented The Theromopolia

These places were mostly used by people who lived in small apartments without a kitchen of their own. They were generally only frequented through the lower classes.

  • Lower Classes: Most People Of the Lower Classes Did not have a Kitchen And So Had To Dine Out

They were also sometimes the haunts from the more socially disreputable sort. Plautus speaks of effeminate Greeks and thieving slaves frequenting them (Curculio, II.iii.288ff; Trinummus, IV.3.1013).

As they were usually the domains of criminals and heavy drinkers, Dio even recorded that Emperor Claudius even ordered them to shut one time. It was in an apparent attempt to cut down on crime.

  • Criminals: Often Criminals And high Drinkers Would Frequent Them

Another rich archeological Roman website is the old Roman Fort Vindolanda in northern England. Here archeologists have discovered even more about Roman day-to-day realistic if they wore underwear and that they cheated with weighted dice.

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