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Antique Garum factory in Baelo Claudia in what is now Spain
One of four mosaics that adorned the corners of the atrium of the villa of the famous Garum producer Aulus Umbricius Scaurus in Pompeii . The jug shown here ( urceus ) stood for the best of the four varieties that mackerel dunk: G (ari) F (los) SCOM (bri) SCAURI
Vessels for storing garum ( urcei ) from Pompeii
Fish-shaped glass ampoules containing garum ( Mediterranean , 1st century AD)
Basin of a Garum factory in Setúbal , Portugal

Garum (also: Liquamen ) was the standard spice in ancient Roman cuisine . This seasoning sauce was used for salty and sweet dishes, about the same frequency as fish sauce and soy sauce are used in Asian cuisine today.

The garum of antiquity was also used in late antiquity (evidenced by a document from Chlotarius III for the 7th century), but its use can still be assumed for the entire Middle Ages based on glossaries .


Garum enjoyed great popularity in Roman cuisine. The origin is suspected either in Greece or Carthage . The written sources speak for a Greek origin. The name Garum is derived from Garos from the Greek word Gauros (Γαύρος) for the European anchovy ( Engraulis encrasicolus ), which was originally used for the production of Garum (Pliny: [garum] olim conficiebatur ex pisce quem Graeci garon vocabant ). But the Phoenicians also knew such sauces. For a North African origin, the evidence for production is mainly available in the former Punic areas of Portugal (on the Tróia peninsula ), Spain and North Africa. In addition, the earliest evidence of Garum is from a time when these areas became Roman provinces . The earliest mention in Latin of Varro is in de lingua latina .


Garum was a liquid that was created by mixing fish such as tuna , European anchovy , eel , mackerel and others, including their entrails, with brine and exposing them to the sun for months in open tanks. The fish protein was broken down by the enzymes contained in the intestines . If the temperature is kept constant at approx. 40 ° C, the fermentation is completed after approx. One week. This mixture was then squeezed out and filtered several times until a clear, amber colored liquid was obtained. The set that remained was called allec . While the end product has a fine, characteristic odor, the odor nuisance during production was considerable, which is why the production facilities for Garum were located outside the locality. The manufacturing process is described in several ancient sources.


Garum is used as a generic term for different types of fish pastes in different price ranges , such as Salsamenta , Liquamen , Muria or Hallex . The garum, which was made from salted tuna from Byzantium , was considered an exquisite luxury item . In contrast, Hallex, as a cheap product, was characterized by the fact that any type of fish or the fish waste that arose in the production of high-quality garum could be used for its production.

For the Romans it was a common spice in general and upscale cuisine. In the Roman cookbook De re coquinaria from the 1st century, garum is required for most recipes. Mixed with wine ( oenogarum ), vinegar ( oxygarum ), pepper and other spices ( garum piperatum ), cooking oil ( oleogarum ) or water ( hydrogarum ), garum was used to refine many dishes. In addition, Garum was used in medicine as a remedy for numerous ailments such as dog bites , ulcers , intestinal flu and diarrhea .

The variations mentioned by Apicius are as good as not documented as labels for the amphorae used for transport ( tituli picti ). On the other hand, there are more frequent additions to purity ( per se or castum ). Other terms name the degree of maturity ( flos - "the flower", rarely vetus - "matured, old"), quality ( optimum , primum , secundum ), or the fish from which it was made ( scombri ). Almost a branded product in today's sense is the garum sociorum , which is often found in the finds , which probably comes from the area of Carthago Nova (today Cartagena on the Spanish Mediterranean coast) and was sold by a company.

The term liquamen did not appear until the 1st century AD and has probably later replaced the term garum. On fish sauce containers from Pompeii, the garum still dominates in a ratio of 2: 1. In late ancient sources such as Diocletian's edict of maximum prices , only liquamen can be found, as is the cookbook by Apicius, the final form of which did not emerge until the end of the 4th century.

Allec (also Halles or Allex ) refers to the solids that remain when the liquid is sieved off . According to the description of the fish sauces at Pliny, this too should have become a luxury item. Probably he was referring to higher quality varieties of the allec . On the tituli picti of the amphorae, this was given the quality additions such as optimum , and more rarely with additions of the degree of ripeness (e.g. flos ), as we know them from other fish sauces. Pliny also mentions that allec is the faex (expectoration) of the Garum. The term muria , probably originally a brine, which is often mentioned in the context of fish sauces, for example on the tituli picti of the usual fish sauce amphora , is not entirely clear .


The entrepreneur Aulus Umbricius Scaurus is from Pompeii as a garum producer on a large scale through various sources. His name, that of his family members, slaves or freedmen appears on 31% of all fish sauce containers found in Pompeii and Herculaneum. In a larger residential building near Porta Marina , Region VII, 16 (Insula Occ.), Entrances 12-15, mosaics with fish sauce containers bearing the name of the Scaurus were discovered. The presumed tomb of the family was located on the grave road in front of the Herculaneum gate. An inscription there probably mentions the deceased son of A. Umbricius Scaurus, who was awarded a tomb as Duumvir by the decurions . A brief mention in the Satyricon of Petronius during the banquet of Trimalchio may refer to the garum merchant Scaurus .

However, no production facilities were found within the city limits of Pompeii, from which the excavators concluded that they were outside the city limits. Currently excavated Garum factories can be visited in Baelo Claudia (Spain) and in Lixus (Morocco). Garum was an export hit that was exported far into the Roman Empire: Garum amphorae from Spain were found in the Roman military camp Haltern ( Recklinghausen district ); Garum from the province of Lusitania in present-day Portugal , which was shipped via the port of Lacobriga ( Lagos ), achieved top prices in the markets in Rome.

Several tituli (inscriptions) found on amphorae near the Castra praetoria in Rome probably indicate a family who worked in this business. A whole series of amphora inscriptions give the names of the aulus or C. Atinius. Two inscriptions from Colijnsplaat (municipality of Zierikzee , province of Zeeland ) in the Netherlands name two negotiatores allecarii .

Garum today

If you want to cook ancient Roman recipes today, you can replace garum with high-quality Asian fish sauces if they are similar in production (note the fish or fish extract content in the list of ingredients). They are easily available in Asian stores. Vincent Klink has also suggested a sauce based on pickled anchovies , dried porcini mushrooms and seaweed as a substitute.

A traditionally continued and refined variant of Garum is produced on the Amalfi Coast between Naples and Salerno and is available in southern Italy as Colatura di Alici , which is preferably made only from anchovies. The addition of other types of fish influences the taste, but is not a fundamental quality criterion. To stimulate, accelerate and control the fermentation, old, already squeezed anchovies (anchovies) are added to the brine .

In the area of Nice, developed from the garum is Pissalat made until today and used in many ways in the regional cuisine, especially in the typical local Pissaladière whose name derives also from the sauce. The name is derived from peis salad in Nissart and means "salted fish". The production is still similar to that of ancient Garum, with anchovies and anchovies being fermented alternately with salt in a closed clay vessel in the sun.

A brine similar to the garum forms the historical basis of the English Worcestershire sauce from Lea & Perrins (since approx. 1830), to which other condiments are added and which in its current form can therefore replace the garum or the colatura if these spices are needed anyway (which is often the case or, as with the Caesar Salad , is even desired). Other products known as Worcestershire or even Worcestershire sauce usually have little in common with Garum (and fish sauce and the original Worcestershire sauce), but are mostly based on flavored soy products.


  • Robert Maier (ed.): The Roman cookbook of Apicius. Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-15-008710-4
  • Robert Irvin Curtis: The Production and Commerce of Fish-Sauce in the Western Roman Empire. A social and economic study. University Microfilms Int., Ann Arbor MI 1982.
  • Robert Irvin Curtis: Garum and salsamenta - production and commerce in materia medica. Brill, Leiden 1991, ISBN 90-04-09423-7
  • JC Edmondson: Two industries in Roman Lusitania - mining and garum production. BAR international, Oxford 1987, ISBN 0-86054-469-9
  • Michel Ponsich, Miguel Tarradell: Garum et industries antiques de salaison dans la méditerranée occidentale. Presses universitaires de France, Paris 1965.

Web links

Commons : Garum  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Johanna Maria van Winter: Cooking and Eating in the Middle Ages. In: Bernd Herrmann (Ed.): Man and the environment in the Middle Ages. Stuttgart 1986, pp. 88-90.
  2. Christina Becela-Deller: Ruta graveolens L. A medicinal plant in terms of art and cultural history. (Mathematical and natural scientific dissertation Würzburg 1994) Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1998 (= Würzburg medical-historical research. Volume 65). ISBN 3-8260-1667-X , p. 112 f.
  3. For example Pliny , naturalis historia 31, 93 or Ausonius , epistulae 25.
  4. Varro, de lingua latina 9, 40, 66.
  5. z. B. Geoponica 20, 46.
  6. Robert Étienne : A propos du garum sociorum. In: Latomus 29, 1970, 297-313.
  7. 3. 6-7, S. Lauffer, Diocletian's price edict. Texts and Commentaries 5 (Berlin 1971) 102-105.
  8. naturalis historia 31.95 .
  9. CIL 10, 01024
  10. Petronius, Satyricon 77.
  11. CIL 15, 3639 ; CIL 15, 3640 ; CIL 15, 3641 ; CIL 15, 4695-4702; CIL 15, 4739 ; CIL 15, 4742 ; CIL 15, 4744 .
  12. AE 1973, 00365 ; AE 1973, 00375 .
  13. The Maggi of the Romans on from January 6, 2009 .
  14. La cucina italiana , issue 4/2011, p. 63.
  15. Benvenuto, Alex. Les cuisines du Pays niçois , Serre éditeur. Nice: 2001. ISBN 2-86410-262-5
  16. Benvenuto, Alex. Les cuisines du Pays niçois , Serre éditeur. Nice: 2001. ISBN 2-86410-262-5
  17. Nice-Historique n ° 208, p.37, 1950.