And then this from the esteemed Dr. Willburger on Twitter:
“Roman flask in the form of a fish was found in La Dent, Meyzieu, Rhône, France. The neck is in the place of the dorsal fin. We don’t know what the flask was used for, maybe the shape relates to the content (garum – fish sauce), maybe it was used to hold oil or perfume.” It’s from the Third Century (that is, between AD 200 and 300), she adds.
Those were rough years for the Roman Empire. The “Crisis of the Third Century” saw invasions from Germany and points east that were incredibly destructive. By the time Roman arms were able to restore order towards the end of the century, great swathes of the Gaul and the Balkans had been laid waste, you can just imagine how many fine pieces like this were shattered. So it’s nice to see this one quite intact.
Oh—that garum, or fish sauce. The Romans empire-wide were mad about garum. They produced it on a nearly industrial level, in huge vats on sites that could cover acres, basically fish sauce factories. The stink of rotting fish must have been astonishing. It was poured into shipping containers and sent via sea or river all o er the 3mpire, and nearly every wreck of a Roman vessel discovered lying on the sea bottom is full of jars of the stuff. I’d always thought garum must’ve been the most revolting thing imaginable till it occurred to me my beloved bottle of Worchester Sauce is a nineteenth century English recipe for garum. When I sauté a mess of veggies (always lots of green onions) in olive oil splashed liberally with Worchester sauce I’m preparing a simple meal almost as old as Western Civilization itself, right down to the bread torn from the loaf and glass of red wine.