The Oyster Culture of the Ancient Romans

R. T. Günther
1897 Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom  
With Plate L WHILE engaged in the examination of some vase pictures which have been stated to represent certain parts of the shores of the Bay of Pozzuoli as it existed in Roman times, I was struck by two drawings of Roman oyster culture grounds, or ostrearia, which seem to me to be of considerable interest, not only as affording us direct information concerning the method of oyster culture employed by the Romans in the neighbourhood of Baire, but also because they show clearly that that method
more » ... ly that that method was the same as the one which still survives and is still carried on, in common with so many other Roman customs in the same locality, exactly as it was nearly two thousand years ago. Our knowledge of the methods pursued by the Romans in the cultivation of oysters is derived from two sources. In the first place we meet. with scattered allusions to oysters and their cultivation in many classical authors; and secondly, there are still preserved to us certain vases decorated with views of the apparatus employed in oyster culture. Although passages alluding to oysters are fairly numerous, Latin authors seem to have found their gastronomic qualities a more attractive theme than their natural history. Some, however, surprise us with the close and careful observation displayed by their remarks. The credit of having been the first to layout artificial oyster beds is commonly given to C. Sergius Orata. Orata was Praetor in 97 B.C.,and was one of the most noted connoisseurs in the matter of oysters in his time. We read in Valerius Maximus tliat he closed the Lucrine Lake with extensive and lofty buildings, in order that th~molluscs (conchylia) might always be obtainable in a fresh condition. The works undertaken by Orata were evidently necessary to preserve the tranquillity of the waters of the oyster grounds, because it is probable
doi:10.1017/s0025315400005488 fatcat:pqchen7bqjbe7o7jqryqlknsku