Ancient Greek Food

Ancient Greek Food Ancient Greek food was frugal, in order to reflect the difficulty of agricultural life and was based on wheat, olive oil and wine; fish was also common but other types of meat were used less often. The basis of Ancient Greek food was cereals, mainly wheat, and when needed, a mix of barley and wheat that was used to make bread. Spelt was also common. Cereals were accompanied with vegetables such as cabbage, onions, lentils and chickpeas. Dairy was also used; butter was known but olive oil was preferred. Wine was served with food, but was always mixed with water.

Ancient Greeks would eat three times a day. Breakfast consisted of barley bread dipped in wine, along with figs or olives. Lunch was either at noon or in the early afternoon, while dinner, which was considered the most important meal of the day, took place after night had fallen, or occasionally late in the afternoon. Social gatherings called symposia also occurred; the word actually means “drinking together” and consisted of two main stages: during the first, people would eat frugally, and during the second, they would drink wine. Wine was always accompanied with meze platters. The drinking stage always started with an offering to God Dionysus and participants would later play board games, while dancers and musicians would also contribute to the entertainment.

Depending on the location of the household, meat or fish was also eaten. Farmers were able to set traps and eat birds and rabbits, while they also had chickens and geese. In the cities, meat was very expensive and was used in celebrations only. However, sausages were eaten both by rich and poor people. The main food in Sparta was a pork broth called “melas zomos” (black broth), consisting of very little pork, salt, vinegar and blood, and accompanied with figs, cheese and occasionally fish. The other Greeks did not understand why Spartans were so frugal; in fact, a Greek from Syvaris said that any sane person would prefer to die rather than live such a frugal life. Greeks also raised ducks, geese, chickens and quails to eat the eggs, which were eaten soft– or hard– boiled.

A number of sources have been used to draw information about the eating habits of Ancient Greeks, depending on the era. Archaeology has particularly contributed for information around the first millennia, as many tablets from Pylos and Knossos have informed us about the culinary habits of Myceneans and Minoans. Information on the Geometric Period (1100 – 800 BC) has been drawn by Homer’s epics, Iliad and Odyssey. Finally, information on the Classical Period is drawn by Ancient Greek literature, such as Aristophanes’ comedies and Atheneus’ works, as well as pottery and figurines.

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