Ruins of a Garum Factory, Baelo Claudia

Baelo Claudia

Baelo Claudia is a Roman ruined city and is located about 17 kilometers northwest of Tarifa in the direction of Cádiz on the Atlantic , right on Playa de Bolonia .

Baelo Claudia was founded around the 2nd century BC, but was only given the nickname Claudia in the 1st century AD under Emperor Claudius . The settlement emerged as a Roman manufacturing town for processing the fish caught, mainly tuna , and for the production of the coveted garum sauce . From here the products were exported to the entire Roman Empire, but above all to Rome. The settlement reached its peak in the two centuries after Christ. Baelo Claudia was abandoned by the Romans in the late 6th - early 7th century due to earthquakes and economic decline.

In 711 the Moors began their campaign of conquest of the Iberian Peninsula from this place and then ruled Andalusia for about 700 years .

You can visit today a. the remains of one of the three aqueducts used to supply the city with water, the well-preserved theater and the extensive basilica with a statue of the Emperor Trajan . The more recent excavation results include the eastern city gate, a bathing complex with hypocaust (underfloor heating) and the garum factory right on the beach.

Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.

Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.

Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.

The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.

During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.

The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.

From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.

The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.

Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.

Garum: the Sauce of the Roman Empire

Garum was a real delight for the Romans, but was only consumed by the upper classes. This sauce was produced in large quantities in Baelo Claudia and was distributed throughout the Empire. It was made of fish entrails (sardines, halibut, bluefin tuna, ….) that were spiced with wine, vinegar, sangre and oil. We do not know what it tasted like, but it probably today would not have as much success.

The ruins have been buried for centuries until the early 20th century when excavations began to bring to light the first remains of the settlement. According to experts, today about 20% of the city has been excavated, so we can get an idea of what this place was in the 2nd century when it was at its peak.

"Garum" factory

The inhabitants of Turdetania (today's Andalusia) build up their ships there out of native timber and they have salt quarries in their country, and not a few streams of salt water and not unimportant, either, is the fish-salting industry that is carried on, not only from this country, but also from the rest of the seaboard outside the Pillars and the product is not inferior to that of the Pontus.
Strabo - The Geography - Book III:2 - translation by H. L. Jones
Garum was a fish sauce which was highly praised by the Romans. The best garum was made from the viscera of tuna, together with the blood, juices, and gills, salted and allowed to ferment for two months. Wine, herbs, and spices also could be added.
Baelo is unique in having its garum facility within the town, because these were usually located at a distance from it, so offensive was the smell. A well preserved garum factory can be seen at Neapolis in Tunisia.

Garum: the bizzarre sauce that tells the story of Ancient Rome.

Probably romans needed a recharge after a rousing chariot race, dining with at least one food seasoned with this popular fermented fish sauce known as garum. The original Roman Garum was not an appetizing condiment. Lets face it: to the average stomach of modern man, there can be few things more disgusting than the thought of a spatter of fermented fish guts over your roast, which is basically what garum was. Even for the entrails-loving Romans, the smell of garum during the process of fermentation was said to be so terrible that the common folk were actually outlawed from making it in their own homes. However, it was beloved by all from the loftiest courts to the lowliest hovels!
So, Garum is a salty sauce of fish entrails used by the Romans. They were really fond of it and used it in many ways. The term is of uncertain origin and is thought to derive from the Greek name “garos” or “garon” (γάρον), a fish used as a condiment in Greece.

From the entrails of the fish the “liquamen” was obtained. Slaves and laborers made the aromatic fish sauce by chopping up whole fish, including their guts, and tossing them into large clay pots with amounts varied of salt. The concoctions were then left to ferment for at least nine months under the hot Mediterranean sun while halophilic, or salt-loving, bacteria from the fish’s guts helped break down the flesh.

According to The Byzantine manual Geōponika: Agricultural pursuits, Vol. II of 10th century, translated from the Greek: “What is called liquamen is thus made: the intestines of fish are thrown into a vessel, and are salted and small fish, especially atherinae, or small mullets, or maenae, or lycostomi, or any small fish, are all salted in the same manner and they are seasoned in the sun, and frequently turned and when they have been seasoned in the heat, the garum is thus taken from them. A small basket of close texture is laid in the vessel filled with the small fish already mentioned, and the garum will flow into the basket and they take up what has been percolated through the basket, which is called liquamen and the remainder of the feculence is made into allec.

Some say it was similar to anchovy paste, others to salted anchovy brine liquid, or to Nuoc Mam, a fish sauce still used in Vietnam. Another similarity could be that with surströmming, a typical dish of Swedish cuisine, prepared by fermentation of Baltic herring (with a really “special” smell).

Apparently the most prized and expensive Garum was the mackerel produced in Carthage Spartaria, today’s Cartagena in Spain. Each port had its own traditional recipe, but by the time of Augustus, Romans considered the best to be garum from Cartagena and Gades in Baetica. This product was called garum sociorum, “garum of the allies”.
The garum of Lusitania (in present-day Portugal) was also highly prized in Rome, and was shipped directly from the harbour of Lacobriga (Lagos). Fossae Marianae in southern Gaul, located on the southern tip of present-day France, served as a distribution hub for Western Europe, including Gaul, Germania, and Roman Britain.
Production of garum was also key to the economy of Pompeii. The factories where garum was produced in Pompeii have not been uncovered, perhaps indicating that they lay outside the walls of the city. However, archeologists were able to use garum remains at this site to more accurately date Vesuvius’s eruption.
The production of garum created such unpleasant smells that factories were generally relegated to the outskirts of cities. The garum had been made entirely of bogues, fish that congregate in the summer months.

Apicio, in the “De re coquinaria”, mentions the Garum in many different dishes. It was such a common dish that it didn’t mention the recipe. It is thanks to Pliny the Elder who prized the “exquisite liquid”, Martial, Petronius, Columella and other authors that we know a few more details about one of the most widespread condiments of the Roman Empire.

Seneca, for example, in a letter to Lucilius, throwing his arrows against food excesses, also rages against the Garum, even though his family was from Baetian Corduba, saying that:
Do you not realize that garum sociorum, that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish, consumes the stomach with its salted putrefaction?
— Seneca, Epistle 95.

And though authentic garum isn’t sold on the market today, one descendant, called in italian “colatura di alici”, remains popular in southern Italy and various chefs have tried their hand at ancient recipes. Ken Albala, a food historian, recreated a garum recipe found in a 10th-century agricultural text. He described the result as “a riot of flavors and textures” and that the fermentation process resulted in a sweet aroma.

5. Roman Necropilis (Cadiz)

The Romans were very careful with their funeral rites. If you want to see one of the recently discovered necropolises, head to Cadiz. The complex comprises a total of 28 tombs from the Roman era dating from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD. The burials carried out through the rite of incineration and internment were done in simple pits, though there are also some uninterred bodies in masonry boxes. If you travel to Cadiz on holiday, do visit this curious site.

Saucy Romans

The Romans liked to eat well, and some of their choices of food are still regarded as wholesome today, particularly the staples of bread, olives and wine. They also had a liking for pungent fish sauces such as liquamen, muria and – the best-known one – garum. The production of these sauces was a by-product of the fish-processing industry, mainly in Roman settlements along the Atlantic coasts of Spain, Portugal and north Africa, where there was an abundant supply of fish. Fish sauce, especially garum, was so popular that it was exported across the Roman empire as an expensive delicacy. Doubtless in far-flung garrisons on the edges of the empire, many ex-patriot Romans found garum a welcome reminder of home comforts back in Italy.

Raw materials for a Roman meal

Manufactured taste

Garum was produced on an industrial scale in purpose-built factories. One factory was at the Roman town of Baelo Claudia on the coast of southern Spain. The modern village is called Bolonia and is not far from Tarifa, in the region known as Andalusia. Baelo Claudia functioned as a port, trading with north Africa, and fishing, fish processing and the production of garum were also important for the local economy. Archaeological excavations have revealed the remains of an extensive settlement, and many of these ruins, some partially restored, are open to the public.

Ruins of a garum factory at Baelo Claudia in Spain

To say that garum was a by-product of the fish-processing industry is to ignore the gory details. It was the waste parts of fish, particularly the entrails, but also the heads, tails and other scraps that were used. The actual recipe varied according to the type of fish. Sometimes all the scraps were boiled together, but usually no cooking took place. Instead, the raw ingredients were put in a huge container or tank with salt and left to ferment for several months in the very hot climate. When fermentation was complete, the result was strained and the liquid was packaged for export.

Sauce boats

Like many food items in ancient times, garum was transported in large, thick-walled pottery vessels called in Latin ‘amphorae’ (singular, ‘amphora’). Amphorae shaped like the one shown in this mosaic were commonly used. This mosaic was part of the floor of a shop or office in the ‘Square of Guilds’ in the Roman port of Ostia, near Rome. There are two palm trees on either side of the amphora, which probably advertised that the business imported dates from Mauretania Caesariensis (abbreviated as ‘M.C.’). This Roman province on the north African coast, roughly equivalent to part of modern-day Algeria, also produced garum for which the same type of amphorae were used. Ships and boats loaded with amphorae full of garum sailed from the coasts of southern Spain and north Africa to other ports in the Mediterranean, and some may even have ventured into the Atlantic to sell their cargo in Britain.

Mosaic picture of the type of amphora used to transport garum

The worm in the banquet

The best-quality garum was expensive and seems to have been valued for its powerful flavour. It was added to all kinds of dishes and probably helped to disguise ingredients that were past their best, especially meat. While masking one evil, it may well have spread another. Recent research on the hygiene of Roman Britain has produced some unexpected results. The hot baths introduced into Britain by the Romans appear to have facilitated the increase of intestinal parasites such as whipworm, roundworm and those causing illnesses such as dysentery. Parasite eggs were spread in communal baths where the water was not changed very often. A study of human burials, latrines and fossilised excrement by Dr Piers Mitchell of Cambridge University also found evidence of an increasing spread of fish tapeworm infestations, and it seems likely that this was due to the universal consumption of fish sauces like garum. Cooking the ingredients would have killed off the parasites, but fermenting raw ingredients allowed the parasite eggs to survive in the fish sauce. The problem may well have been compounded by the practice of spreading human excrement on fields as a fertiliser. Dr Mitchell concludes that although Roman sanitation may have done nothing to improve health, at least people smelled better.

Further reading

You can read more about the Romans in several of our books, including Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, Dictionary of Roman Religion and Introduction to the Romans. Details are on our website here.

Garum—The Ketchup of Ancient Rome

When I was young in Ohio, lots of people had Ketchup as permanent fixtures on their kitchen and/or dining room tables. No matter what the meal, Ketchup was there to sweeten it. My mother would not permit us to use Ketchup unless it was with hamburgers, hot dogs or French fries. Unless one of those three foods were being served, Ketchup was in the refrigerator brightening the top shelf.

Ketchup was the American Sauce and came in the distinctive Heinz bottle with its 57 varieties label. (I always wondered “57 varieties of what?”) and it is still America’s preferred condiment and available in all “fast food” as well as some “fine dining” restaurants (if one asks for it). Henry Heinz just liked the “feel” of “57 varieties” and it was close to 60, the number of products he then manufactured.

I was shocked to discover the word “ketchup” originated in the far East from the Chinese word koechiap meaning “brine of fish.” Shocked because a “brine of fish” was GARUM, the everyday condiment of ancient Rome consumed and eaten with everything daily by Romans, Christians, Greeks and all at that time in history. Plus that putrefying fish sauce, tasting fishy and salty, seems to have been universally used as a condiment throughout the ancient world and even in our modern world.

Here’s an ancient recipe for Garum. Make it and see if you like it or if you can stand the smell of making it:

Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid (garum also called liquamen in ancient Rome).

Fish used in making Garum

Our Garum, Ketchup, has no fish component. Plus it is not smelly like Garum. But it has become the universal red sauce of the western world. The reason is: tomatoes. The tomato is indigenous to the Americas, The rest of the world did not know about the tomato (or the potato) until the discovery of the Americas in the 15th century.

The first man to compose a recipe for a tomato condiment was the horticulturalist James Mease in 1812. Fast forward to 1876 when Dr, Harvey Wiley partnered with a Pittsburgh man named Henry J. Heinz to make another tomato-based condiment. Thirty years later Heinz was selling 5 million bottles of Ketchup. Today Heinz sells 650 million bottles around the world and it sells 11 billion single-serve packets to the fast-foods industry.

Gram bottle mosaic Martial (c. 40 BC – 101 AD)

It would be impossible to estimate how many small, medium and large amphorae (jars) of Garum were made and consumed in the ancient world. Garum did not have 57 varieties but there were many varieties and prices for different Garums. The highest quality of a Garum could cost up to c. $500. USD for the very wealthy.

Martial (c. 40 BC-c. 101 AD) comments on the “expensive” high-grade Garum he is sending to a friend: “Accept this exquisite sauce made from the first blood of the expiring mackerel an expensive present.” Martial Epigrams 13:102.

Garum was The Sauce for slaves as well as soldiers, so Garum could be very cheap. The Stoic philosopher Seneca (4 BC-65 AD) was one of several Roman writers who did not like Garum: “Do you not realize that garum sociorum, that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish, consumes the stomach with its salted putrefaction?” Epistle 95

And Pliny the Elder, (23-79 AD) the Roman naturalist and author, did not like Garum either: “Furthermore, there is another type of choice fluid, called garum, produced from the guts of fish and anything else which would have been discarded, steeped in salt – in other words it is the fermentation of decaying matter.” Natural History 31.93

Ancient Roman mosaic sign—“Beware of Dog” Modern parody of sign—“Beware of Garum”

Garum was made from a paste that came from the unwanted intestines and the blood of the fishermen’s daily catch.

So there was a close relationship between the fishing industry and the Garum industry. Harborside, the manufacturers of Garum would pick the particular pieces they wanted from certain fish (mackerel yielded the best taste apparently) and the quality of Garum started there. Those particular parts were macerated into a paste in the Garum factory. Salt was added to kill bacteria and enhance flavor. Then the mash was left outside to ferment in the sun for up to 3 months. That is the basic Garum recipe. For higher quality and taste a mixture of aromatic herbs could be added or wine could be added or oils or whatever grade and taste of Garum was required from that factory. The importance of fermentation cannot be over-stated.

Ruins of a Garum factory in Baelo Claudia in Spain

Because of the putrid smells coming from Garum factories, they were typically located outside cities. Pompeii was known for its high-grade Garum, but no factories have been found close to the city—yet. Over fifty fish sauce bottles have been found in or around Pompeii. One from Pompeii was even found in southern France with the inscription: “Finest fish sauce from Umbricia Fortunata, belonging to Veturinus Iulianus.”

In case one wants to taste and savor Garum, one can make the trek to the tiny city of Cetara (c. 2,000 people) in southern Italy where one can buy a bottle of REAL GARUM: Colatura di Alici de Cetara meaning “anchovy sauce from Cetera.”—Sandra Sweeny Silver

Porto di Cetera on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

It’s good to talk – isn’t it?

In days long past, while working as archaeologists in London and Surrey, we were regularly asked to give talks, sometimes as the main entertainment or as part of a programme of talks with several speakers. Rather than simply describe our discoveries, we had to illustrate them with 35mm slides, so there was a lot to prepare, especially if we had to take our own projector equipment, such as screen, projector, projector stand and extension leads. The talks were hosted mainly by local and county archaeology societies, most of whose members enjoyed archaeology as a hobby and quite often worked as volunteers on excavations. Because archaeologists were public servants (and therefore poorly paid!), we were expected to give talks as part of the job, usually with no remuneration, but we did enjoy doing them. The most memorable one was to a packed hall somewhere in the City of London, and afterwards they took us off to an old pub, leading us down dark alleyways and pointing out parts of the city that we never knew existed. That was quite magical.

A comedy of errors

Most people’s first efforts at public speaking are nerve-racking and not quite up to standard, and we were no exception. Over time, we hope that we showed improvement. We certainly became aware of the failings of other speakers and what errors to avoid. We also encountered a good number of poor organisers, who had perhaps been roped into the role of arranging a programme of talks for their society without realising what was involved. Keeping their members happy was more important than the welfare of individual speakers. The Council for British Archaeology agreed with our idea for a booklet to act as an aide-memoire for speakers and organisers to help raise standards, which they published in their ‘practical handbooks’ series as Talking Archaeology (ISBN 090678087X). If we were writing it today, we might not be so didactic and patronising – and yet everything really needed to be said.

The booklet was 42 pages in length, and it was enlivened by ten wonderful cartoons by Bill Tidy. This brilliant cartoonist has over the years illustrated many Council for British Archaeology publications, but he is best known for cartoon strips such as ‘The Fosdyke Saga’ that ran in the Daily Mirror. His autobiography is well worth reading. Published in 1995, it is called Is There Any News of the Iceberg? An Illustrated Autobiography.

A cartoon review

Once Talking Archaeology was published, we were not asked to give any talks for a few years. This may be a coincidence or was possibly because we had by then moved away from London. The handbook has been out-of-print for a few years now, and we suspect it had no effect on the performance of speakers or the organisation of lecture programmes within societies. Sorting through paperwork recently, we came across a review by Richard J. Brewer in volume 25 of the journal Post-Medieval Archaeology. This is the only review we have ever had that was illustrated with a cartoon. It was drawn by Tom Daly of the National Museum of Wales and is reproduced here, showing an audience of one man and his dog, a hapless speaker causing chaos and two organisers consulting our book. The cartoon reflected Richard Brewer’s own experience of being at a seminar that was scheduled to last two hours but came to a halt after 25 minutes – and in that short time the speaker managed to knock over the lectern, scattering his notes, and also bring the projector tumbling to the floor.

Cartoon from a review in Post-Medieval Archaeology vol. 25

Our forthcoming talks

Nowadays, we mainly give talks that are connected to the themes of our books. Most of these talks are to literary festivals, libraries and bookstores, but we always consider other venues. As we are busy writing, it is likely that the only talks we will do in 2016 are the ones given here. Two of them are in our own local area of Exeter in Devon. One talk is ‘Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England’ for the U3A on Thursday 27th October at the Mint Methodist Church, Fore Street, Exeter, EX4 3AT at 10am (the talk starts at 11am). You will need to be part of this organisation to attend, but this gives you plenty of notice. Before that one, we are giving two other talks on ‘Jack Tar: Life in Nelson’s Navy’. The first one is on Monday 25th April at the village hall in Whitestone, near Exeter (address: Merrymeet, Whitestone, EX4 2JS), starting around 7.30pm, free for the social club members, £2 for guests. The other talk is on Wednesday 18th May at the library in Denmark Street, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG40 2BB, at 2.30pm. A large car park is close by. Tickets will be available nearer the time from the library.

Watch the video: Baelo Claudia, una ciudad romana en Hispania. Industria de salazones. (January 2022).