Food in the Ancient World (Food through History)
Joan P. Alcock
The ways of life of four great ancient civilizations― Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Celtic―are illuminated here through their foodways. As these cultures moved toward settled agriculture, a time of experimentation and learning began. Cities emerged, and with them consumer societies that needed to be supplied. Food Culture in the Ancient World draws on writings of classical authors such as Petronius, Galen, and Cato, as well as on archeological findings, to present intimate insight into ancient peoples. This volume will be indispensable as it complements classical history, cultural, and literature studies at the high school and college levels and will also inform the general reader.
The book begins with an overview of the civilizations and their agricultural practices and trade. A full discussion of available foodstuffs describes the discovery, emergence, usage, and appraisals of a host of ingredients. A subsequent chapter covers food by civilization. Chapters on food preparation, the food professions, and eating habits provide a fascinating look at the social structure, with slaves and women preparing and serving food. Accounts of the gatherings of slaves and freedmen in taverns, inns, and bars and the notorious banquet, symposium, feast, and convivium of the elite are particularly intriguing and crucial to understanding male society. Other aspects of ancient life brought to life for the reader include food for soldiers, food in religious and funerary practices, and concepts of diet and nutrition. Many Classical recipes are interspersed with the text, along with illustrations.
would be compared with the actual yield after threshing had been completed. The crops were cut with sickles, usually made of wood or an animal jaw spiked with flint teeth, and women and children collected the sheaves in baskets. No attempt was made to weed the fields, so weeds were mixed in with the grain. Cattle trampling on the grain did threshing. Winnowing meant throwing the grains into the air so that the chaff was blown away. The grain was then placed into sacks, and sweepers made sure that
w^ere strictly controlled by law, and Roman jurists were constantly involved with the minute details of commercial legislation. Trade was not confined to the Roman Empire. Once the Romans had subsumed Egypt after 14 A.D., they had access to a vast emporium of spices, but they wished to go farther because they knew that spices 26 FOOD IN THE ANCIENT WORLD came from more distant lands. The greatest advance in long-distance trade was made during the reign of Emperor Claudius (A.D. 4 0 - 5 4 ) ,
joints in their armor. Pliny said that a happy life was one that used wine inside and olive oils outside, but he warned against keeping both olives and FOOD IN THE ANCIENT WORLD 88 olive oil too long. Columelia thought that the Posean variety of olive oil lasted for about a year. Although Poseidonius said that the Celts disliked the taste of olive oil because they were not used to it, the vast quantities of olive oil that the Romans brought to the northern parts of their empire seemingly
were cultivated and used as a sweetener and also to produce a sugary drink. They and the sycamore fig became an essential part of the diet of the lower classes. Other sources of food were lotus and aquatic plant seeds, which could be eaten raw or ground into flour. Roots and stems w^ere also edible. Melons, watermelons, and chufa, or yellow nutgrass, were grown. Bread was also used to make the other staple, beer, which was part of the daily ration given to soldiers and workers. The god Osiris was
collection of sovereign states in the classical Aegean where elites ruled over lower classes, who cultivated areas of land, from a collection of buildings clustered around a fortified point. The earliest historic period was that of the Mycenaean culture, dating to the sixteenth century B.C:. and taking its title from Mycenae. This culture had an aristocratic ruling class, skilled craftsmen, and an elaborate administrative system. The evidence for this culture was found in the shaft graves