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Recipe for
In ostreis (Oysters)

In Ostreis (Oysters)

by Apicius, IX, VI

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The Roman Cookery of Apicius
AFAIK, this recipe comes from Edwards and was inserted by original site author (I will say again to PLEASE buy these author's books! By doing so, you will help support them — even for books that are older and might not sell as well anymore... These authors do not do this for money, they do it for love. Please support them!

I'm just arrived from Baiae
An oyster drunk from Lake Lucrine:
But wanton though I am
I can still crave your noble sauce

Martial 13.82

Many different species of fish and shellfish dominated the Roman menu. Oysters in particular were in high demand. It was unthinkable back then to host a grand dinner (or orgy for that matter) without oysters. Oysters were considered the most powerful aphrodisiac available. Additionally, they were thought to give men great prowess on the battlefield.

The Roman conquests of northern European territories also included vast stretches of Atlantic coastline, which were richly populated with the same oyster species as the one back home in the Mediterranean region, the European oyster (Ostrea edulis). Although the Mediterranean Sea does have tides, they are of very low amplitude. It's measured in centimeters or inches compared to meters or feet along the European Atlantic coast. The Romans, on conquering Britain, were thus delighted to see how easy it was to gather vast quantities of oysters on the huge exposed tide-flats of the Atlantic during low tide. Brittany in particular produced copious quantities of oysters which in turn were not only transported to Roman cities and outposts in northern Europe, but also packed in snow and tediously carted across the Alps back to Rome.

Original recipe: In ostreis: piper ligusticum oui uitellum acetum liquamen oleum et uinum. si uolueris et mel addes.

Translation: To oysters which want to be well seasoned add pepper, lovage, yolks, vinegar, broth, oil, and wine; if you wish also add honey.


  • 3-4 oysters per person
  • A pinch of pepper
  • A pinch of ground lovage
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) vinegar
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) wine
  • 1 tsp (5ml) garum
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) honey (optional)


  • Open the oyster shells as near as possible to the time of eating. (Your lcal fishmonger can do them for you or may offer advice on how to open them)
  • They can be served raw or stewed or baked, then covered with the sauce before serving.
  • Mix the pepper and lovage with the egg yolks.
  • Add the vinegar, a drop at a time, to make a smooth mixture.
  • Stir in the olive oil, wine and garum.
  • Honey may be added if desired.
  • Mix all thoroughly together, pour over the oysters and serve.
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