Did the Romans Have Different Types of Kitchen Knives?

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.

Also read: What Did the Romans Use to Purify Their Water?

Did the Romans Take Care of their Dental Hygiene?


Most of all the traditional knowledge we have today originated from ancient civilisations like the Roman Empire. That era was known for its advanced medical practice. Roman doctors were able to perform Cesarean sections and amputations. They were able to do pelvic examinations using a speculum, catheterise bladders and even take eyes out. However, though their dental hygiene practices were not stellar, it can be said that their teeth fared better than the teeth of modern people like us.

Dental practices

From a recent study of more than 300 ancient Roman skulls, it was found out that they only have a 5% rate of periodontitis. This is lower than the current rate of 15 to 30% in the UK and 38.8% rate in the U.S. This is very significant because the ancient Romans did not regularly go to the dentist, did not drink water with fluorine and did not floss nor did they ever wonder “what is the best electric toothbrush?” because they didn’t brush their teeth!

Despite these facts, the state of their teeth was amazing. Instead of a toothbrush though, they have chewing sticks. There are various trees whose twigs are used as effective chewing sticks to clean teeth, including olive, walnut, lime tree, orange tree and Salvadora persica. They also used toothpicks and rags. They did not have tobacco then, which is one of the major causes of tooth decay. They did have honey, although sugar at that time was a luxury item.

Alternative toothpaste

Although there is an absence of extensive records about the dental hygiene practices of ancient Romans, it is known that they do use a form of toothpaste and whitening agent, which the modern world would find disgusting.

The Romans though had no qualms to use urine as their toothpaste, taking the ammonia that urine contains to whiten their teeth. A Roman poet named Catullus even described the practice of rubbing their teeth and gums with urine every morning after they have pissed. The indication of how much urine they used was shown by how clean their teeth were. They also used urine as their mouthwash.

Physicians from first century Rome believed that using urine to brush their teeth whitened them. Likewise, they maintained that urine caused the teeth to remain firmly in place in their sockets. It was also said that Roman women belonging to the upper class paid handsomely to procure urine from Portugal. The highly prized urine was the strongest available form of toothpaste/mouthwash in the continent.

But before you turn your noses to this fact, understand that urine was used as an active ingredient in mouthwashes and toothpastes until the 18th century. It may not be widely known then, but it was the ammonia content of the urine that provided the cleansing component. In modern times, ammonia is still used in the manufacture of some toothpastes.

From the study of the teeth found in a Roman Forum in 1987, Romans did suffer from tooth decay. However, the manner of extraction was different. There were no marks on the teeth to indicate that a heavy tool was used to remove them. The traditional practice back then was to loosen each tooth from its socket and some physicians remove part of the patient’s jaw attached to the diseased tooth.

The Little Known Huge Deforestation During the Roman Period


If you search deeper you’ll find that deforestation is not new and it certainly was brought about by the innovations of the best chainsaw brand leaders. It already happened during the Roman period, and just like today, it had devastating effects. It affected the environment, the people’s livelihood, agriculture and industry, and even led to the fall of a great ancient empire.

Factors that accelerated deforestation

1. Building and housing.

Wood was the most basic building material during the period. Trees were cut to build houses for the increasing Roman population. Together with a higher standard of living and more extravagant lifestyles in the urbanized capitals of the Empire need for timber became extensive.

2. Fuel consumption.

Need for fuel increased and the main source of heating and light at that time was wood. Ceramic making, smelting and mining were already established industries then, which required large quantities of wood and charcoal as fuel. The first areas to suffer deforestation were the forests surrounding mining centres. When the supply of wood was exhausted, the mining centres were shut down, only to move to other areas where wood was abundant, and the cycle of deforestation was repeated.

3. Increase in agricultural areas.

The demand for food exponentially grew as well. With the higher demand, trees growing in many areas had to be cut down to clear land for agricultural crops. Agriculture was also a major industry that boosted the Romans’ economic prosperity. Land areas became overworked due to the increasing demand for agricultural products. Soon they exhausted the fertility of most of the lands’ topsoil. With that, the armies were tasked to find more fertile lands to conquer.

4. Overgrazing.

The introduction of farm and domestic animals further degraded forests and prevented them from regenerating. Swine, goats, sheep and cattle all had different dietary needs and together, they effectively destroyed the vegetation they were able to reach. The herders opened lands so the animals can graze; swine ate the seed that fell on the ground and goats consumed young trees and bushes, preventing them from growing and maturing. The denudation caused erosion and when hillsides were stripped of soil, bare rocks were exposed. Gravel and silt that were washed down from mountains and hills caused siltation and flooding. Marshland became shallower due to siltation.

5. Military manoeuvres.

The military played a big hand in deforestation. They cleared large areas of the forests to prevent sneak attacks and invasion threats. The military also conquered lands to ensure that the empire will have a continuous supply of timber.

6. Shipbuilding.

Military conquests overseas required the Roman Empire to build ships, with warships taking precedence over merchant ships. Wood was used to build ships and these vessels were used to conquer lands rich in timber, which is crucial in supporting the flourishing economic life of the ancient Romans.

Deforestation left the empire with vast tracks of unproductive lands, which led them to be dependent on other countries such as North Africa for food supplies. Industries moved to other places, making shipping costs higher and drained the empire’s resources. Their currency became useless due to lack of silver supply. Population decreased, the treasury became empty and invaders can no longer be kept at bay. In 476 AD, the Roman Empire fell.

Also read: The Governance Of Rome & How It Is Relevant Even Today?

The Rise Of The Holy Roman Empire


Holy Roman Empire followed the principle that the monarch is the guardian of papacy. It has given birth to the political framework of many modern states like Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic, parts of Demark, Poland, France and Italy. These countries were the geographical expressions of the Empire and they did not inhabit the present borders. The past of Europe is shaped by these countries than the Empire which is now known as the Middle Ages of Germany. The transnational character of the Empire is affected by the 18th century observers.

roman1In the words of Voltaire, the French Philosopher commented that it was not Holy, Roman or an Empire. The fall of 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars only went to prove that the empire has just outlived its role and was considered redundant after the emergence of nation states. The divisions in Europe clearly shoes that these states followed similar trends and it is evident in their historical writing and map making. The demarcations were marked with solid colors, these frontiers either increased or decreased with the acquisitions or surrender.

roman2The glorious past of discovering institutions, passing new laws, forging treaties and evaluating measure and weight was chronicled by the historians. The historical writings became more economic or social but did not change the fundamentals but instead added folk to the nation states. The Holy Roman Empire saw its end because it did not follow the historical path. For instance, the first emperor Charlemagne fitted the framework of a being a powerful ruler. He expanded the empire from France to North West Europe, Italy and central Germany. These successions went on to convince the Pope Leo III that Frankish King would be an effective protector than the Byzantine emperor. Meanwhile, Leo made use of the temporary interregnum and transferred the imperial title to Charlemagne.

Read More : The Growth Of Art In Ancient Rome

The Governance Of Rome & How It Is Relevant Even Today?


Rome was earlier governed by the kings. The Ancient Rome evolves it own governments that governs the Romans. The Roman society used its forceful army to capture other nations and turn them into salves. When it concerns its own people, the Rome was democratic. The Romans had the privilege to elect their officials. The hierarchy of the Roman official system comprised of consuls and below them were two officials. The consuls changed every year, if they meet the expectations of the citizens. They will not be reelected if they do not perform well. In the true sense proficiency was rewarded and incompetency is punished.

romeThe consuls take the advice of the Senate in most cases. The role of the Senate is to legislate new laws, issues related to finance affecting the state and many more. The senate held 600 men and these were represented from noble and rich families. They held the power to decide what was good or bad for the nation. The Roman laws lay in their hands. As the Roman Empire grew and became a powerful city, the top position became lucrative. With this more ambitious men became part of the government. These men opined it would be good for the nation, if one man held the power, and this person was called the emperor.

Despite the consuls being elected by the citizens, the Senate was not a democratic body. Since the Senate was from influential families, the decisions were mostly pro-rich. The people in the lower social class did not have the guts to question the system. The commoners generally believed that the rich were meant to rule and the poor to listen. During the period of the Senate, Rome becomes the power center in Europe and Mediterranean. The Rome was a republic between 509 and 27 BC and it was the period of great power.

Read More : The Culinary Skills Of The Romans

Significance Of Women In Ancient Rome


Roman women were given equal rights to men. They enjoy equal opportunities in education, trade and business. Some of the higher strata women also went on to graduate. Despite the forward thinking of the Romans in giving equal status to women, they did not consider it important to give women the right to vote. Yet women were able to alter the political scene by influencing their male relatives or friends. Roman women made great name in trade and business and they even had the right to possess property. women1Though, salve women were not given a high stratus in the society. They were abused, tortured and treated badly by their masters.

In the family women held equal rights to their brothers. They were treated equal to their sons. Roman family was headed by the father and hence it is a patriarchal society. Daughters were given the right to receive the share in the property if the father dies without producing a will. The family name of the women does not change even after marriage. This goes to show that they remain loyal to their pater familias despite a difference of opinion with their husbands. Women enjoy equal legal rights. Legal action or Divorce is common among women ill-treated by their husbands. They can challenge the decision of the family head denying her right in the property.