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by Archaeology Newsroom

Foods eaten by the ancient Greeks and how this was incorporated in classical Greece’s economic, social and religious system

Farming to the ancient Greeks was more important than stock breeding. The ownership of a plot of land supported society’s political structure. Cereals were usually cultivated as were olive trees and vineyards, given to the mortals as gifts respectively by Demeter, Athena and Dionysos. The names given to the months and the religious festivals reflect the way the calendar year was organized, according to farming chores. The ancient Greeks imported wheat from Sicily, Thrace, the Black Sea and Egypt, salted fish from the Hellespont and the Black Sea, salt from the Taurus Peninsular and the Black Sea. The many kinds of bread indicated its large consumption. The Greeks improved the taste and acidity of their wine by mixing it with salt water, chalk, aromatic herbs etc. Their breakfast, called “akratisma” consisted of a little bread dipped in undiluted wine and eaten with figs and olives. Fish was a favourite of theirs, particularly the salted kind. They consumed great amounts of lentils and vegetables, cheese in its natural state or specially prepared. The rich enjoyed eels, which were expensive, and shellfish. Domestic animals had their uses and therefore were not slaughtered. Instead, pork being cheap, was consumed. The poor ate beef during the great public sacrifices while the well to do enriched their meals with game. At the symposia, after the dinner “deipnon”, the guests talked and enjoyed themselves, drinking watered down wine and eating fruit and nuts. We can therefore conclude, that man’s “diet” was moderate and selective in the ancient sense of “The Way of Life”, considered by Hippocrates as vital for one’s health.