Oxford Roman Economy Project University of Oxford

The Bountiful Sea Conference


The Bountiful Sea  |  Fish processing and consumption in Mediterranean antiquity

6-8 September 2017
Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, University of Oxford

From discussion of EU fishing policy and the health benefits of fish oil, to concern over the environmental impact of aquaculture, it seems fish are constantly in the news – and rightly so. Decreases in fish stocks, new government policies, and even changes in taste can lead to the rise and fall of entire industries and the communities that rely on them. Classical antiquity witnessed many challenges that we would recognise today – population expansion, mass migration, border disputes, and over exploitation of resources. Like us, the Roman Empire processed and consumed fish on an industrial scale. How did ancient cultures shape the modern seas? What can past industries tell us about the present?

The Bountiful Sea conference will gather archaeologists, scientists, cooks, and classical scholars to discuss new evidence for fish exploitation and new perspectives on the manufacture, transport, and consumption of fish-based products in Mediterranean antiquity.

Academic Programme

The Bountiful Sea’s academic programme will bring together specialists from across Europe, North America, and the Near East to investigate key areas of fish eating (production, processing, trade, consumption) as well as the potential of state-of-the-art scientific methods. Overall, the meeting aims to 1) demonstrate the potential of different types of evidence for the study of Mediterranean fish processing, 2) encourage interdisciplinary discussion and the integration of different lines of research, and 3) present novel methods for future investigation of fish exploitation. As such, the meeting will have a broad geographic scope that encompasses the entire Mediterranean. 

>>> Download the conference programme.

Guy Bar-Oz, Emmanuel Botte, Cristina Carusi, Oliver Craig, Sónia Gabriel, Nicolas Garnier, Ayelet Gilboa, Sally Grainger, Carl Heron, Omri Lernau, Benedict Lowe, Ephraim Lytle, Annalisa Marzano, Arturo Morales-Muñiz, Dimitra Mylona, Rebecca Nicholson, Andreas Pack, Efi Ragia, Kristine Korzow Richter, Mark Robinson, Guy Sisma-Ventura, Dorit Sivan, Tatiana Theodoropoulou, Athena Trakadas, Thomas Tütken, Susan Weingarten, John Wilkins, Irit Zohar

Call for Posters

The Bountiful Sea welcomes posters on all aspects of fishing, fish processing, and fish consumption, as well as related marine idustries and inland fish production (e.g. dye production, mollusc farming, fish ponds, salt, corals, etc.). Ethnographic and relevant ecological research is also welcome. These complimentary industries were frequently associated with fish processing, and understanding them is key to contextualising marine resource exploitation. The conference will leave plenty of time for discussion and debate and also all types of presentations, both oral and poster contributions will be published. Please send post titles and abstracts to Dimitra Mylona (dmylona@hotmail.com), include the preferred titles, names, and afflication of all authors. The deadline for posters is 5th May 2017.


Culinary Progamme

How can we understand ancient fish and fish products if we never experience them ourselves?

The Bountiful Sea meeting will include an innovative culinary programme that invites participants to engage with Roman fish products and fish-based dishes. Demonstrations and tastings will showcase Roman flavours and offer researchers new insight into how fish products were made.

Roman Fish Feast
The Bountiful Sea will open with a Roman banquet, featuring re-created sumptuous Roman dishes drawn from historical sources - a chance to try the best of Apicus and Cicero’s favourite saltfish frittata! Accompanied by salads, Roman-style bread, and white wine from the Bay of Naples.

>>> View a sample menu.

Fish Sauce Demonstrations
Explanation of the art and science behind Roman fish fermentation and presentation of re-created sauces. Taste fish-based dips and condiments using these ingredients.

Modern Mezze
Participants are invited to bring traditional preserved fish from their regions, which will be presented and shared with the re-created Roman sauces during the evening reception.



The conference will open with a plenary lecture and Roman Fish Feast on the evening of Wednesday 6 September. The academic sessions will take place over the two subsequent days (Thursday 7 – Friday 8 September), followed by receptions in the evenings. The Friday reception (8 September) will include presentations and tasting of fish sauces and Mediterranean fish-based products.

Wednesday 6 September
Afternoon - Registration opens. 
Evening - Keynote lecture by John Wilkens (University of Exeter) followed by the Roman Fish Banqet in the Ashmolean Museum.

Thursday 7 September
Full day of academic papers followed by a wine reception and fish sauce tasting.

Friday 8 September
Full day academic papers, closing by 18:00. Reception following.

>>> Download the conference programme.



Registration will open 5 April 2017.

There will be two registration options:
1) registration for the entire academic and culinary programme (Wednesday 6 - Friday 8 September), and
2) registration for the Roman fish dinner only (Wednesday 6 September). 

All are welcome, and we hope these flexible options promote attendance by a diverse range of academics, specialists, and general enthusiasts who might not otherwise be able to join us for the complete 3-day programme.



For further information about the event or to join the mailing list, please get in touch with the organisers.

Angela Trentacoste
Oxford Roman Economy Project,
University of Oxford


Dimitra Mylona
Institute for Aegean Prehistory,
Study Center for East Crete


Rebecca Nicholson
Oxford Archaeology
Sally Grainger
Independent scholar &
author of The Classical Cookbook

Andrew K. G. Jones
University of York



The Bountiful Sea is made possible through the generous support of:

Christian Levett




Advertising partners

Webdesign, databasedesign: Miko Flohr, 2010-2017. Content: OXREP, 2005-2017.