Fish has formed an important component of mans' diet since the
Neolithic and considerable emphasis was placed upon the acquis¬
ition of fresh fish by the Roman aristocracy. However the
increased demands created by the establishment of urbanism in
the Phoenician colonies of S. Spain in the Eighth Century BC
necessitated the adoption of preservative methods, namely the
use of salt.
Salted fish and fish sauces seem to have been a ubiquituous
feature of the ancient diet being traded by the Phoenicians but
becoming particularly important following the Greek penetration
of the Peninsula in the Sixth Century BC. Production centred in
Andalucia and seems to have survived the Roman conquest.
Increased investment by Italian aristocrats led to the creation
of Romanised villae in Cataluna which by the mid First Century BC
engaged in the production of wine. By the Augustan period,
however, Tarraconensian exports increased with the openning up
of the annona militaris and the city of Rome. Although wine was
the principal recipient, fish sauce seems to have been carried as
a secondary commodity.
The interrelationship between fish sauce and other produce is
seen also in its inclusion within the villa economy. Production
seems to have occurred on a sufficient scale to be termed
'industrial' and to judge by the names of producers and merchants
attested on amphorae attracted considerable wealth, many of those
involved also producing wine.
The breakdown of the relationship between town and country and
the gradual movement of wealth away from the region meant that
the province's commercial interests contracted and although the
production of fish sauce continued until the Seventh Century AD
it served only to satisfy local demand.