Apicius is a collection of Roman cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD and written in a language that is in many ways closer to Vulgar than to Classical Latin.
The name "Apicius" had long been associated with excessively refined love of food, from the habits of an early bearer of the name, Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet and lover of refined luxury who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius. He is sometimes erroneously asserted to be the author of the book that is pseudepigraphically attributed to him.
Apicius is a text to be used in the kitchen. In the earliest printed editions, it was most usually given the overall title De re coquinaria ("On the Subject of Cooking") and attributed to an otherwise unknown Caelius Apicius, an invention based on the fact that one of the two manuscripts is headed with the words "API CAE".
Apicius, De re culinaria (Lyon: Sebastianus Gryphium, 1541)
The text is organized in ten books, in an arrangement similar to that of a modern cookbook:
Epimeles — The Careful Housekeeper
Sarcoptes — The Meat Mincer
Cepuros — The Gardener
Pandecter — Many Ingredients
Ospreon — Pulse
Aeropetes — Birds
Polyteles — The Gourmet
Tetrapus — The Quadruped
Thalassa — The Sea
Halieus — The Fisherman
The foods described in the book are useful for reconstructing the dietary habits of the ancient world around the Mediterranean Basin, since many of the foods identified with that region today—tomatoes, pasta—were not available in antiquity. But the recipes are geared for the wealthiest classes, and a few contain what were exotic ingredients at that time (e.g., flamingo). A sample recipe from Apicius (8.6.2–3) follows:
ALITER HAEDINAM SIVE AGNINAM EXCALDATAM: mittes in caccabum copadia. cepam, coriandrum minutatim succides, teres piper, ligusticum, cuminum, liquamen, oleum, vinum. coques, exinanies in patina, amulo obligas. [Aliter haedinam sive agninam excaldatam] <agnina> a crudo trituram mortario accipere debet, caprina autem cum coquitur accipit trituram.
In a completely different manuscript, there is also a very abbreviated epitome entitled Apici excerpta a Vinidario, a "pocket Apicius" by "an illustrious man" named Vinidarius, made as late as the Carolingian era; it survives in a single 8th-century uncial manuscript. However, despite the title, this booklet is not an excerpt from the Apicius text we have today, as it contains material that is not in the longer Apicius manuscripts. Either some text was lost between the time the excerpt was made and the time the manuscripts were written, or there never was a "standard Apicius" text because the contents changed over time as adapted by readers.
Once manuscripts surfaced, there were two early printed editions of Apicius, in Milan (1498) and Venice (1500). Four more editions in the next four decades reflect the appeal of Apicius. In the long-standard edition of C. T. Schuch (Heidelberg, 1867), the editor added some recipes from the Vinidarius manuscript.
Apicius, De opsoniis et condimentis (Amsterdam: J. Waesbergios), 1709. Frontispiece of the second edition of Martin Lister's privately printed version of Apicius.
Between 1498 (the date of the first printed edition) and 1936 (the date of Joseph Dommers Vehling's translation and bibliography of Apicius), there were 14 editions of the Latin text (plus one possibly apocryphal edition). The work was not widely translated, however; the first translation was into Italian, in 1852, followed in the 20th century by two translations into German and French.
Vehling made the first translation of the book into English under the title Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome. It was published in 1936 and is still in print, having been reprinted in 1977 by Dover Publications. It is now of historical interest only, since Vehling's knowledge of Latin was not always adequate for the difficult task of translation, and several later and more reliable translations now exist.
^The Roman Cookery Book, trans. Flower and Rosenbaum, p. 7.
^The Roman Cookery Book, trans. Flower and Rosenbaum, pp. 188–89.
^About Vinidarius himself nothing is known; he may have been a Goth, in which case his Gothic name may have been Vinithaharjis.
^Apicius: A Critical Edition with an Introduction and an English Translation, ed. Grocok and Grainger, pp. 309–325.
Apicii decem libri qui dicuntur De re coquinaria ed. Mary Ella Milham. Leipzig: Teubner, 1969. [Latin]
The Roman Cookery Book: A Critical Translation of the Art of Cooking By Apicius for Use in the Study and the Kitchen. Trans. Barbara Flower and Elisabeth Rosenbaum. London: Harrap, 1958. [Latin and English]
Apicius: A Critical Edition with an Introduction and an English Translation. Ed. and trans. Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger. Totnes:Prospect Books, 2006. ISBN 1-903018-13-7 [Latin and English]
Apicius. L'art culinaire. Ed. and trans. Jacques André. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1974. [Latin and French]
Apicius. Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome. Trans. Joseph Dommers Vehling. 1936. [English]
The Roman Cookery of Apicius. Trans. John Edwards. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 1984. [English]
Nicole van der Auwera & Ad Meskens, Apicius. De re coquinaria: De romeinse kookkunst. Trans. Nicole van der Auwera and Ad Meskens. Archief- en Bibliotheekwezen in België, Extranummer 63. Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 2001. [Dutch]
Alföldi-Rosenbaum, Elisabeth (1972). "Apicius de re coquinaria and the Vita Heliogabali". In Straub, J., ed., Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium 1970. Bonn, 1972. Pp. 5–18.
Bode, Matthias (1999). Apicius – Anmerkungen zum römischen Kochbuch. St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae Verlag.
Déry, Carol. "The Art of Apicius". In Walker, Harlan, ed. Cooks and Other People: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 1995. Totnes: Prospect Books. Pp. 111–17.
Grainger, Sally (2006). Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today. Totnes: Prospect Books.
Grainger, Sally (2007). "The Myth of Apicius". Gastronomica, 7(2): 71–77.
Mayo, H. (2008). "New York Academy of Medicine MS1 and the textual tradition of Apicius". In Coulson, F. T., & Grotans, A., eds., Classica et Beneventana: Essays Presented to Virginia Brown on the Occasion of her 65th Birthday. Turnhout: Brepols. Pp. 111–135.
Milham, Mary Ella (1950). A Glossarial Index to De re coquinaria of Apicius. Ph.D. thesis, University of Wisconsin.