Taste or Taboo: Dietary choices in antiquity

Taste or Taboo: Dietary choices in antiquity

Michael Beer

Language: English

Pages: 152


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This book looks at the way in which food was employed in Greek and Roman literature to impart identity, whether social, individual, religious or ethnic. In many instances these markers are laid down in the way that foods were restricted, in other words by looking at the negatives instead of the positives of what was consumed. Michael Beer looks at several aspects of food restriction in antiquity, for example, the way in which they eschewed excess and glorified the simple diet; the way in which Jewish dietary restriction identified that nation under the Empire; the way in which Pythagoreans denied themselves meat (and beans); and the way in which the poor were restricted by economic reality from enjoying the full range of foods. These topics allow him to look at important aspects of Graeco-Roman social attitudes. For example, republic virtue, imperial laxity, Homeric and Spartan military valour, social control through sumptuary laws, and answers to excessive drinking. He also looks closely at the inherent divide of the Roman world between the twin centres of Greece and Rome and how it is expressed in food and its consumption.



















the diet. There are those who will think their position at the poorer end of the economic spectrum precludes them from purchasing some foods. Small incomes restrict choice. Occasionally, food scares impel sections of the population to exclude particular foods from their diet. Recent illustrations of this in the United Kingdom include concerns about salmonella in eggs in 1988, and the occurrence of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), so-called ‘mad cow disease’, in the food chain **** I

between work and leisure. This helps our understanding the ritualized and hermetically sealed world of symposiastic drinking. Male peer-bonding and the loosening of inhibitions occurs within a tightly controlled context. The rules of the symposium took temporary precedence over cultural norms. Transient licence was allowed to the participants. The world of everyday ‘non-drinking’ life did not intersect with that of the symposium. Although drunkenness might result, it was confined to the andron

festivals. Bars (kapeloi), in Athens at least, were particularly associated with public drinking, particularly for women and the lower classes.86 Many similar establishments have been uncovered in Roman towns such as Ostia and Pompeii. The satirist Juvenal describes the disreputable clientele of such an establishment: Look for him in a popina [tavern], Caesar, because you’ll find him there lying with a hit-man, in the company of sailors, thieves and fugitives, among hangmen, coffin makers, a

corporis temperamentis sequantur Gell. Aulus Gellius NA Noctes Atticae Hdt. Herodotus Hes. Hesiod Op. Opera et Dies Sc. Scutum Theog. Theogonia Hippoc. Hippocrates De prisc. med. De priscina medicina Hom. Homer Il. Iliad Od. Odyssey Hor. Horace Ars. P. Ars poetica Carm. Carmina Sat. Satirae Iambl. Iamblichus VP de vita Pythagorica Joseph. Josephus AJ Antiquitates Judaicae Ap. Contra Apionem Vit. Vita Juv. Juvenal Levit. Leviticus LSJ Liddell and Scott,Greek-English Lexicon Lucian Lucian Somn.

for animals.40 Vegetables could be grown both in the country and in urban gardens.41 Pliny thought that in his day vegetables were becoming too gentrified, attracting high prices.42 An analogous situation may be said to exist today, where vegetables may be bought cheaply in a supermarket from the frozen section, or they may be organically grown and be purchased at a farmers’ market. Fruits enjoyed a similar status, although Galen personally was wary of them.43 Locally grown fruits enjoyed less

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