History is far more complicated that we would like to believe. Even in our schools today, different versions of events are being taught to students, depending on the country they’re in and how those events in history affected that country. “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” right? Nevertheless, we also have archaeology, which sometimes helps us to better understand what happened regardless of what was written down in centuries past. And sometimes, some such discoveries turn the way we saw history right on its head.
10. Ancient Fast Food
We generally tend to think that fast food came about fairly recently, right? And it does make sense, after all, given the faster pace the world is moving nowadays as opposed to the slower ancient times. In fact, the first such shops, which were serving fish and chips, opened in Britain during the 1860s. Then, in the 1950s in the US, the drive-through restaurants became popular, and… well, you know the rest.
But taking a quick snack for lunch and then hurrying on your way is not something new and has been going on since ancient times. This place was the so-called thermopolium, or “place where (something) hot is sold,” and it was a common sight all throughout the Greco-Roman world; particularly in larger towns and cities. These thermopolia are, in fact, the forerunners of all present-day restaurants. They usually consisted of a small room that opened onto the street and specialized in two or three items such as spiced wine, meats, cheese, or lentils. These establishments were quite tiny and almost never had tables for people to sit at. There was only a counter with several embedded earthenware jars called dolia where the food was stored.
These places were frequented mostly by slaves or people who did not have the means or facilities to cook for themselves. And as it so happens, these thermopolia were also frequent hangouts for all sorts of shady characters. These places were even abolished on several occasions for this exact reason, since they harbored all sorts of “effeminate Greeks and thieving slaves,” as Plautus, a Roman playwright from the 3rd century BC, once said. There were, however, some fancier establishments too, with some tables inside and even some frescoes painted on the walls. One such ornate restaurant called the “Thermopolium of Asellina” was discovered in Pompeii and is one of the best preserved in the world.