New Oxford Exhibition Shows What—and How—Ancient Romans Ate

A fresco wall panel showing a dinner party with painted message
A fresco wall panel showing a dinner party with painted message
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Until 79 CE, the people of Pompeii, a Roman city located in southern Italy, enjoyed riches such as fine wines, decorations, and foodstuffs. But when Mount Vesuvius erupted, the deadly ash and pumice—14 to 17 feet of it—ravaged the city, entombing its people, animals, and buildings. However, throughout the centuries, archeologists have uncovered some of the people’s lost property, giving scientists a better picture of how the citizens lived right before the catastrophe.

Running from now until January 12, 2020, the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum is showcasing some of these findings in Last Supper in Pompeii, an exhibit focusing on what the Pompeians ate before the volcano erupted. “This major exhibition will tell the story of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii's love affair with food and wine,” the exhibit’s website says.

More than 400 rare objects from Italy will be on display, including frescos (water-colored paintings that appeared on walls), carbonized bread, luxury furnishings, and a triclinium (a formal dining room) inspired by the Greeks. The exhibit also delves into some of the more unusual foods Pompeians consumed. We know they liked dormice baked with honey and poppy seeds. They also ate rabbits stuffed with figs, garum (a fermented mackerel-based fish sauce, also used in ancient Greece), and now-Westernized foods like focaccia bread and pomegranates.

As the Smithsonian writes, the exhibit “traces the wider trajectory of the Roman Empire’s culinary traditions, from delicacies introduced by other cultures to the incorporation of food in religious practices and the tools required to prepare the meals.” Attendees will get a peek inside the homes of the wealthy, and also learn about all of the equipment enslaved cooks used to prepare meals (and how they did so next to latrines).

You can get your tickets to the exhibit here for £12.25, or around $14.80.

Gift a Piece of History With This Customizable New York Times Cover Puzzle

UncommonGoods
UncommonGoods

Finding the perfect present for someone’s birthday, anniversary, or any other significant milestone can be difficult. And while there’s nothing wrong with just settling for the standard gift card, choosing something a little more personal can really help you and your gift stand out. And now, you can tailor your next gift to anyone's specific taste with this customizable 500-piece New York Times cover puzzle, which is available on UncommonGoods for $50.

Tens of thousands of covers—from the paper's debut on September 18, 1851 to the present day—are available to turn into a puzzle, so you have more than 165 years' worth of history to choose from. All you need to do is visit the product page, input your desired date, and select “preview art" to take a look at the cover before you check out. Each puzzle is 19 inches by 13.5 inches and is a faithful recreation of the front page from that day—so don't be surprised when those earlier covers show the paper's original name, the New-York Daily Times.

A New York Times cover puzzle
UncommonGoods

This is a great present for just about anyone, but it will be especially well-received by the history buff in your life. As they work to piece together the puzzle, check out these other gifts, such as library-scented candles, mini notebooks, and more, that the history lover in your life will adore.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

In What Field Was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a Doctor?

Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Martin Luther King Jr. earned a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. He’d previously earned a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary. His dissertation, “A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” examined the two religious philosophers’ views of God in comparison to each other, and to King’s own concept of a "knowable and personal" God.

In 1989, some three decades after King had earned his doctorate, archivists working with The Martin Luther King Papers Project discovered that King’s dissertation suffered from what they called a “problematic use of sources.” King, they learned, had taken a large amount of material verbatim from other scholars and sources and used it in his work without full or proper attribution, and sometimes no attribution at all.

In 1991, a Boston University investigatory committee concluded that King had indeed plagiarized parts of his dissertation, but found that it was “impractical to reach, on the available evidence, any conclusions about Dr. King's reasons for failing to attribute some, but not all, of his sources.” That is, it could have been anything from malicious intent to simple forgetfulness—no one can determine for sure today. They did not recommend a posthumous revocation of his degree, but instead suggested that a letter be attached to the dissertation in the university library noting the passages lacked quotations and citations.

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