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Etnos (Pea Soup)

By Dieuches, quoted in Oribasius Medical Compilation

Recipe for
Etnos (Pea Soup)

Yeah, go ahead and click here to buy this book!
Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens.

Yes, this book has a new cover, but I like this one better. Blah, I am so horrible.
AFAIK, this recipe comes from Grant 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!

This bit here, is from the book: Beans: A History by Ken Albala and explains it a bit more: Dried peas are quite difficult to cook without disintegrating, and this is probably another reason for their culinary distinction from beans.

Pea soup was the standard way to serve peas in the ancient world. The Greeks made their pisinon etnos or konkhas, which was considered pretty lowly fare. In Aristophanes’ comedy The Knights, in which a sausage seller is set up as leader of Athens, he serves this very soup: “This is pea-soup, as exquisite as it is fine; Pallas the victorious goddess at Pylos is the one who crushed the peas herself.” The humor here is that like lentil soup, pea soup was considered simple and inelegant, not something a goddess would concern herself with. In this same vein the now lost satire by Timon (as recorded by Athenaeus) mentions the soup “conch.” Here it is preferred to the fine barley cake of Teos and spiced gravy of the Lydians, rather “in the vulgar and squalid conch my Greek poverty finds all its over-flowing luxury.” This was funny to the Greeks because no one in their right mind could prefer pea soup to fine dainties.

The Romans also made a kind of puls or porridge from peas. Like other legumes, peas also lent their name to a Roman family, the powerful Piso clan. Julius Caesar’s wife Calpurnia was a Piso and her father Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, known for his epicurean tastes, quarreled with that other bean-named statesman Cicero, who perhaps had the last word by accusing him of extortion and corrupt administration of Macedonia in the orations De provinciis consularibus and In Pisonem.

Mark Grant says: This soup could be seasoned with olive oil, dill, leeks, pennyroyal, mint, hyssop or pepper. I have chosen just four seasonings for my version, but there is room for further experiment. The fifth-century BC playwright Aristophanes writes of a slave girl preparing for Hercules a banquet comprising gallons of pea soup, loaves of bread, barbecued ox, roast chicken, fish and sweet wine, the joke being the juxtaposition of grand dishes fitting for the great hero such as ox and fish With this humble soup accompanied by bread.

Original recipe:

Translation: 'Thick soup from peas is less flatulence-inducing than that made from broad beans and is easier to digest.'


  • 150g/5 oz dried peas
  • 1 leek
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried dill tops
  • Sea salt


  • Soak the dried peas overnight.
  • Drain, rinse and place them to the pan.
  • Finely slice the leek. Add the olive oil, chopped leek and 2 pints of water to the peas.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour, or until the peas are tender.
  • Season with the sea salt and dill.
  • Put in a blender and process until smooth.
  • Warm gently in the pan before serving.
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