Knives as kitchen utensils did not become common until after the middle ages. During the Roman times, there were only one or two basic kitchen knives, and a special mincing knife. The way that ancient Romans ate, they did not need a large variety of knives.
Kitchen knives evolved from big hunting knives. In ancient times, the knives (and swords) were made of bronze or iron. The use of steel or other iron alloys was not discovered until much later. Initially, kitchens were outdoor affairs which centred around a table out in the open. The animal carcass was skinned and butchered on the table using only one knife. Depending on the area in the world, the knife could be made of any number of materials. The type of knife available at the time also dictated the cuts of meat. With only a small knife, you would end up with a whole carcas roasting on a spit over an open fire. That was the extent of your kitchen.
Today, there is a whole range of knives, including bread and butter knives, cleavers, butcher’s knife, paring knife, filleting knife as well as speciality knives which are typically Japanese in origin. That is not to say that you need all of these knives. In some parts of the world, people make do with only one knife which just so happens to be slightly smaller than a machete. Of course, there is the odd French pastry chef who would be using a paring knife to slice pork for the pot.
Those who value completeness in their kitchen knife set would have to have at least a set of the best oyster shucking knives, a steak carving knife, a Spanish ham knife, a thin sushi knife, as well as dining table steak knives.
Food and cooking as we know it does not really depend on the knife you use, but it does help if you have more than adequate knife skills. Chopping onions, celery, carrots, as well as deboning fish or poultry are essential skills which any home master chef should know. As the master of the kitchen, it is your duty to practice using your knives whenever you have the time or the inclination to do so.