Ancient Roman cuisine, Hadrian

Felicem diem natalem, Hadriane!

Happy 1940th birthday, Hadrian!

Happy 1940th birthday Hadrian! © Carole Raddato
Happy 1940th birthday Hadrian!
© Carole Raddato

For this year’s birthday cake I chose to cook Cato’s recipe for savillum (a kind of cheese cake/bread).

Savillum recipe in Latin (from LacusCurtius):

Cato’s De Agricultura 84: Savillum hoc modo facito. Farinae selibram, casei P. II S una conmisceto quasi libum, mellis P. [a column of three horizontal lines, the middle one of which is shifted to the right. It is an ancient Roman symbol used to represent '¼'.] et ovum unum. Catinum fictile oleo unguito. Ubi omnia bene conmiscueris, in catinum indito, catinum testo operito. Videto ut bene percocas medium, ubi altissimum est. Ubi coctum erit, catinum eximito, melle unguito, papaver infriato, sub testum subde paulisper, postea eximito. Ita pone cum catillo et lingula.


Take ½ pound of flour, 2½ pounds of cheese, and mix together as for the libum; add ¼ pound of honey and 1 egg. Grease an earthenware dish with oil. When you have mixed thoroughly, pour into a dish and cover with a crock. See that you bake the centre thoroughly, for it is deepest there. When it is done, remove the dish, cover with honey, sprinkle with poppy-seed, place back under the crock for a while, then remove from the fire. Serve in the dish, with a spoon.

Ingredients: Savillum, Cato’s De Agricultura 84


  • 200g plain flour
  • 250g ricotta cheese
  • honey
  • 1 egg
  • poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • bay leaves

Add the cheese to the flour and combine the two. Beat the egg and add it to the mixture with a tablespoon of honey. Knead into a dough, adding a little more flour if necessary. Use the olive oil to grease a round pan for cake baking. Add the bay leaves over the oil. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and cover it. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, spread 2 tablespoons of honey over the top of the bread and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Replace it in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Savillum, Cato’s De Agricultura 84
Savillum, Cato’s De Agricultura 84

This savoury cheesecake was served with Conditum Paradoxum, an incredibly sweet and spiced red wine. Cheers Hadrian!

Conditum Paradoxum, the red wine of the ancient Romans.
Conditum Paradoxum, the red wine of the ancient Romans.

2 thoughts on “Felicem diem natalem, Hadriane!”

  1. Reblogged this on Larry Muffin At Home and commented:
    If some of you cringe at your upcoming Birthday, look at it this way, Emperor Hadrian is 1940 years young. Here is an ancient Birthday cake recipe easy to make today, giving you again a flavour of what life was like back then. As for the wine unfortunately not available outside Italy, though in Italy it is still made in the antique method BUT must be cut be adding water to your wine, it is undrinkable otherwise. Back then wine was kept in clay amphoras and took on the earthy flavour of the clay, good but potent.

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