Roman emperor may have eaten ancient Wheaties in ancient breakfast villa

Ruins of Hadrian's villa
Photo of Hadrian’s villa taken in 2016
Photo: DEA / S. VANNINI (Getty Images)

I don’t have a breakfast nook. I have a dining table in my dining room, which feels weird and formal since I live alone. Most of the time, breakfast is 1.5 servings of Special K snarfed on my couch. But if I were, say, an esteemed Roman emperor, I’d probably want fancier breakfast digs. Like the “imperial breakfast room” recently discovered in former Roman emperor Hadrian’s 1,900-year-old Villa Adriana, about 20 miles outside Rome.

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Atlas Obscura reports that an archeological team led by professor Rafael Hidalgo Prieto discovered the room while excavating the positively palatial 300-acre compound. The area was reportedly accessed by retractable wooden bridges, adorned with small waterfalls and a recessed fountain, and flanked by a courtyard of ornamental gardens. An excellent arrangement for slurping oatmeal and/or poached eggs, I think.

The breakfast room wasn’t just an extra-comfy spot for Hadrian and his wife, Vibia Sabina, to nosh on Roman Apple Jacks. Site director, Andrea Bruciati, told The Times of London that the room featured a raised platform that projected the rulers’ silhouettes through a pair of windows for members of the court to see. “The villa was a machine that served to represent the emperor’s divinity,” Bruciati said. “[This would have been] a quasi-theatrical spectacle.”

Atlas Obscura also cites scholar Mary Beard, who recently posited that the area wasn’t necessarily a “breakfast spot,” explaining that the Romans didn’t necessarily attribute much cultural significance to breakfast. Regardless, the room is a stunning find for archeologists. “In all the Roman world there is nothing like it,” Prieto told Spanish newspaper ABC. “The emperor wanted to show things that would overwhelm the visitor, something that had not been seen anywhere else in the world and that exists only in Villa Adriana.”

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

DISCUSSION

It’s entirely possible that Romans ate exactly what we’d recognize as Wheaties today (or at least what John Harvey Kellogg would’ve recognized as Wheaties before stuff like high-fructose corn syrup got into the recipe.)

After all, the stuff was discovered by accident when wheat gruel got spilled onto a stove and dried out; bash that glorified tostada into flakes and boom, breakfast of champions.

Not hard to imagine the ancients figuring it out as well. (Gladiator celebrity endorsements not included.)