It’s Julius Caesar’s name that most people recall when they hear Caesar. Julius was the conqueror, but he could not accomplish one thing: a lasting empire. That honour goes to his adopted son and successor, Augustus Caesar. Augustus slowly built the bridge for Roman survival from republic to empire, prolonging the nation’s life for several hundred years. He re-organized Roman government, military, and economic structure for such longevity.
We can talk all day about his military strategies, shrewdness, and cunning to attain such a legacy, but as with the Teddy Roosevelt post, Caesar had several physical setbacks that he had to overcome. “You are what you eat” and for Caesar, it is interesting to see how someone plagued with so many physical obstacles, was able to control what he could and reach the heights of his potential.
Although he was described as always looking graceful and of a healthy-face, Caesar was in-fact faced with several illnesses throughout his life. Abscesses of the liver were not an unfamiliar experience for Rome’s first emperor. Moreover, he could not bare the heat of the arraying sun, having to travel near the night time. Moreover, his constitution would grow weak from yearly sickness, like during the start of the spring season and near his birthday.
Many would drown in such weariness, letting their ailments take them over. Augustus, on the other hand, would instead control what he could in his life. Practicing moderation, he was able to live a long and successful existence, bridging a new age to one of the most powerful empires of the time.
The Hippocratic saying, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,” is no greatly made than through Augustus’ eating habits.
The historian, Suetonius, pretty much sums up Augustus’ eating habits in one word: Light. In his works, The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius describes Augustus as a frugal man with his food. And who would have expected otherwise for Rome’s most important statesman/emperor.
He was described as enjoying coarse bread, small fishes, hand-made moist cheese and green figs of the second crop. Full of micro-nutrients, reasonable on carbohydrate intake, omega 3’s from the fish, and that casein protein from cheese for a long lasting source of amino acids for growth, Caesar ate what was important and he ate sparingly.
Another habit of Augustus was to eat whenever he was hungry. Many fitness enthusiasts have preferred the small, multiple meals, methodology for the best means of getting good nutrition in. Caesar was ahead of the game on this one. However, unlike you or I who would turn the tempers of many family and friends by imposing our eating lifestyle on them, Caesar could do so on a whim and without consequence to others.
Being the head honcho, you, the host for the August one would have to accommodate his person lest you fall into ill-favour. And ideally, you wouldn’t want to upset the most powerful man of the greatest, most powerful empire of the time.
He was also known to eat on the go. In a letter, Suetonius writes Augustus as saying, “I ate a little bread and some dates in my carriage.”
In another letter recorded by Seutonius, Augustus writes,
“As I was on my homeward way from the Regia in my litter, I devoured an ounce of bread and a few berries from a cluster of hard-fleshed grapes. “
Now you might be thinking….He devoured bread? You mean like a binge of bread-related ecstasy? Nope. Read again. A ounce of bread is equivalent to about a slice of your regular store-bought loaf. Did we forget to say that Caesar was also a great wordsmith?
A Faster as well
Not only did he eat in small quantities, and whenever he felt the urge to, but he would also at times prolong eating.
“Not even a Jew, my dear Tiberius, fasts so scrupulously on his Sabbaths as I have to-day; for it was not until after the first hour of the night that I ate two mouthfuls of bread in the bath before I began to be anointed.”
Intermittent fasting, small meals, and high micro-nutrient content. How much more effective can you get? Periods of fasting have been utilized by cultures all around the world and throughout history. The current trend of intermittent fasting, of prolonged periods of not-eating followed by meals that feel satisfying, was something that Augustus utilized effectively. This not only carried to his eating but also to his drinking as well.
Augustus was a stringently, Controlled Drinker
Even his drinking was quite sparing. He never exceeded a pint. If he did, he’d throw it up (a blasphemous act in some cultures). However it shows a great restraint by Caesar in knowing his limits of indulgence. Something that the vast majority of people have a hard time adhering to, and they let their desires control them.
The Power of Control
At the end of the day, Caesar was a restrained man in his eating and drinking. Regularly having to combat some sort of illness or ailment, he took control of what he could (the food he consumed) and maximized it to give him the nourishment and strength to shoulder the responsibility of an empire. Augustus’ restrictive nature would also be taken on by another important leader in Roman history. The last of the Five Good Emperor’s, Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher-King.
Never forget, that when going upon a task, that there is someone who has done the same and conquered; and that there is someone who has done so when faced with greater adversity and lesser resources than yourself
SUETONIUS, GAIUS. TWELVE CAESARS. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.