Eating to Excess: The Meaning of Gluttony and the Fat Body in the Ancient World

Eating to Excess: The Meaning of Gluttony and the Fat Body in the Ancient World

Eating to Excess: The Meaning of Gluttony and the Fat Body in the Ancient World

Eating to Excess: The Meaning of Gluttony and the Fat Body in the Ancient World

Synopsis

People in the ancient western world made a distinction between being fat and being a glutton, even when they valued self-control and criticized excessive behavior. Examining many works of early western cultures, this book shows how ancient views both confirm and challenge our contemporary assumptions about fat bodies and gluttons.

"Eating to Excess: The Meaning of Gluttony and the Fat Body in the Ancient World" explores the historical roots of the symbolic relationship between fatness, gluttony, and immorality in western culture. It includes chapters on Greek philosophy, medicine, and physiognomy; Greek and Roman popular culture; early Christianity; and the development of gluttony as one of the seven deadly sins. By examining ancient ideas about gluttony and fat bodies, the author offers new insight into what it means to be human in the western world.

Excerpt

The lives of ancient peoples may seem far removed, socially, linguistically, and especially technologically, from the concerns of the modern world. Yet the popularity of historical subjects on both the big and little screens— Troy, Alexander, 300; HBO’s Rome, the many History Channel programs— demonstrates the abiding fascination the ancient world continues to exert. Some people are drawn to the dramatic differences between the ancient and modern; others seek to find the origins for contemporary cultural features or the sources to provide meaning to our modern lives. Regardless of approach, the past holds something valuable for all of us. It is literally the root of who we are, physically through our actual ancestors, and culturally in establishing the foundations for our current beliefs and practices in religious, social, domestic and political arenas. The same ancients that we study were themselves drawn to their own pasts, often asking questions similar to the ones we pose today about our past.

The books in Praeger’s series on the Ancient World address different topics from various perspectives. The ones on myth, sports, technology, warfare, and women explore these subjects cross-culturally, both within the ancient Mediterranean context—Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and others— and between the ancient Mediterranean cultures and those of the Americas, Africa and Asia. Others, including the volumes on literature, men, sexuality, and on politics and society, examine their topic more specifically within a Greek or Greek and Roman cultural framework.

All renowned scholars committed to bringing the fruits of their research to wider audiences, each author brings a distinctive new approach to their topic that differentiates them from the many books that exist on the ancient world. A major strength of the first group is their multi-cultural breadth, which is both informative in its comprehensive embrace and provides numerous opportunities for comparative insights. Likewise, the books in the second group explore their topics in dramatically new ways: the inner life of male identity; the contributions of both women and men to the social polity; the ancient constructions of concepts of sexuality and eroticism.

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