In the TV show, Rome, during the battle of Philippi, there is a conversation between two rebel Roman commanders. It goes something like, is today your birthday? Oh yes, I want a birthday cake.

Please see this video clip, Battle of Philippi, starting from 00:00:36.

Was birthday cake already common back in Roman empire era? That is 42 BC.


Yes, there were birthday cakes in the ancient Rome.

From Wikipedia article on History of cake,

During the Roman period, the name for cake became “placenta” which was derived from the Greek term. Placenta were baked on a pastry base or inside a pastry case.

The Greeks invented beer as a leavener, frying fritters in olive oil, and cheesecakes using goat's milk. In ancient Rome, basic bread dough was sometimes enriched with butter, eggs, and honey, which produced a sweet and cake-like baked good. **Latin poet Ovid refers his and his brother's birthday party and cake in his first book of exile, Tristia.

Ovid is a Latin Poet from ancient Rome who is believed to live between 43 BC to 17 AD. He has referred to his and his brother's birthday cakes in one of his poems Tristia.

From his work Trisitia hosted by archive.org

11 What hast thou to do with Pontus ? Is it that Caesar's wrath
sent thee too to the remotest land of the world of cold ?
Thou awaitest, I suppose, thine honour in its wonted guise :
a white robe hanging from my shoulders,
a smoking altar garlanded with chaplets,
the grains of incense snapping in the holy fire,
and myself offering the cakes that mark my birthday
and framing kindly petitions with pious


So, it is known that there were birthday cakes made from different ingredients in the ancient Rome.

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  • 1
    Thank you very much, when I first watched this scene, I thought they made it up so that the show felt close to our modern lives. – Yu Zhang Feb 22 '18 at 5:32
  • 2
    @YuZhang Probably worth noting that the birthday cakes they made back then were (I assume) nowhere near as fancy-looking as the ones we make today. – Steve-O Feb 22 '18 at 13:58
  • @Steve-O Still sounds tasty based off the ingredients, though. – JAB Feb 23 '18 at 20:32

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