Ancient Romans often featured dormouse on their feasting tables. With just a few rich, oily bites of meat covering each rodent, upper classes deemed the creatures a delicacy. Romans called the mice glires and housed them in a special home known as a glirarium, which was designed to make them as pudgy as possible.
A glirarium wasn’t just a shelter, it was filled with acorns, walnuts, and chestnuts. The clay storage vessel looked unremarkable from the outside, but mimicked a dormouse burrow on the inside. Potters added ventilation holes, channels that allowed greater mobility, and a food holder that could be refilled from the outside. An unsuspecting dormouse could stuff itself, scurry, and sleep until humans deemed it plump enough to eat.
It may sound cruel, but not all captives of the Roman realm had such comfortable accommodations. And though the empire responsible for the glirarium is no more, dormice survive in Europe. People in Croatia and Slovenia occasionally trap and eat wild dormouse, which sounds far more challenging than dining in a glirarium.
Visit Rome with Atlas Obscura Trips
Rome Behind Locked Doors: Music, Magic, and Secret Crypts
Join us as we go beneath Rome’s streets and behind its locked doors to explore hidden and overlooked places, witnessing a capital city that most tourists rarely experience—strange, magical, and filled with intrigue.