John M. Wilkins & Shaun Hill, Food in the Ancient World

By Henderson, W. J. | Acta Classica, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

John M. Wilkins & Shaun Hill, Food in the Ancient World


Henderson, W. J., Acta Classica


John M. Wilkins & Shaun Hill, Food in the Ancient World. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2006. Pp. 300. ISBN 0-631-23550-7. 55.00 [pounds sterling]/$70.95 (hardback), 17.99 [pounds sterling]/$29.95 (paperback).

This attractive volume is a worthy contribution to the series Ancient Cultures, which aims to present 'enjoyable, straightforward surveys of key themes in ancient culture' to new-comers to the study of the ancient world. A short time-line, map of the Mediterranean and excellent illustrations of animals and plants from Dioscorides (ed. A. Matthioli, 1598) and of culinary realia add to the book's usefulness and appeal. Each chapter, written by Wilkins (W.), Professor of Greek Culture at Exeter, is preceded by a short introduction by Hill (H.), chef and Honorary Research Fellow at Exeter. A comprehensive Bibliography (281-89), an Index (290-300) and three recipes (277-80) appear at the end.

In the Introduction to Chapter 1 ('An Overview of Food in Antiquity, 1-38), H. touches on various aspects of the ancient culinary world: the different preferences of the wealthier and poorer classes; the influence of changing social and economic conditions, fashion, medical considerations and food prejudices determined by religious belief; the strictly seasonal availability of food and the limited storage facilities and preservation methods; the absence of tomatoes, peppers, maize and chillies; the lack of cookery manuals and scarcity of recipes (the chefs being illiterate); the unfamiliar tastes and textures (e.g. garum, likened to Thai Nam Pla) and the fondness for rank flavours (e.g. cheese) and sweet (honey, dried fruit), strong spices (asafoetida) and herbs (hyssop) to improve often bland food; and the role of inns, private dinners and street food.

Chapter 1 (4-38) proper offers a historical framework (750 BC-AD 200) with the main focus on Greece and Rome and their cultural interaction, but with due attention to exchanges through trade and travel with other regions (4-7). The evidence and problems of interpretation are then discussed (7-17). The main sources are Plutarch's Sympotica, Athenaeus' Deipnosophistae and Galen's On the Powers of Foods, as well as sympotic literature and archaeology (e.g. interesting observations on diet and diseases from the bones of a Late Minoan III cemetery at Armenoi, near Rethymnon and from Grave Circle B at Mycenae). Other literary sources are the casual references to eating and drinking encountered everywhere in Greek and Latin literature and technical treatises: cookery books (first written by the Greeks in the 4th century BC), works on the rustic agricultural world (Cato, Varro and Columella, Hesiod's Works and Days), technical treatises on food and medicine (Aristotle, Theophrastus), works on zoology, botany, cities, agriculture, travel, geography, the encyclopedic works (Pliny the Elder), and Porphyry's treatise On Abstinence (3rd century AD). The confused and confusing terminology in most of these sources makes only a broad treatment possible; the matter is further complicated by the vastness of the ancient world, its many cities and varied cultures, and the time-span. Perspective is gained by comparison with pre-modern shortages and modern Western culture, and by the cultural component of anthropology. After a section on the foods and drinks of the ancient diet (17-30), the chapter closes with mythological and poetic accounts of food for sustenance and healing as a civilising force in human development: the Golden Age, Prometheus, Heracles, Demeter, Persephone and Triptolemus, and Dionysus (30-38).

The Introduction of Chapter 2 ('The Social Context of Eating', 39-78) surveys the diets of the rural poor, with their starch-based diet of porridge and flatbreads, supplemented with herbs, salads and milk, and of the urban poor who relied on street food, occasional fish and game. The cooking methods were simple and practical, using olive oil, garum and wine.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

John M. Wilkins & Shaun Hill, Food in the Ancient World
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.