From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin: Attitudes to Food in Late Antiquity

By Veronika E. Grimm | Go to book overview

2

THE GRAECO-ROMAN BACKGROUND

The Christian message was carried from Roman Syria-Palestine through cities and towns of the eastern Mediterranean and inland Asia Minor. As evidenced by the extant texts, it seems to have been carried in its beginnings and for some time to come by Greek-speaking apostles to Greek-speaking peoples. Even when it reached Rome and the West, the language of Christianity remained predominantly Greek until the late second century or the beginning of the third, the time of the first surviving Christian writings in the Latin language. However varied the ethnic and cultural character of the vast areas through which the early Christian messengers travelled, 1 they shared two conditions: the Greek language, which carried with it, at least potentially, shared cultural habits and assumptions; and Roman rule. The more Christianity distanced itself from the Jews, the more it became pressed by the Graeco-Roman cultural milieu. Christian converts born into this culture shared with their non-Christian neighbours experiences, ideas and customs that the adoption of a new faith did not touch directly or, even if it did, could not eradicate completely or change. Early Christian sources reveal the various strategies Christians developed that would allow them to reject some of these cultural influences and to acknowledge others, and in both instances to demonstrate their own superiority. 2 The present chapter will focus attention on ideas and practices concerning food and drink in this Graeco-Roman ‘pagan’ 3 milieu. First the role of food in religion and civic ceremonial will be examined; then we shall survey ideas concerning the importance of food in health and the ‘good life’ in the discussions of philosophers, sophists, physicians and other self-appointed guardians of public health and decency.

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From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin: Attitudes to Food in Late Antiquity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Jewish Background 14
  • 2 - The Graeco-Roman Background 34
  • 3 - Food and Fasting in the Pauline Epistles 60
  • 4 - Food and Fasting in the Acts of the Apostles 74
  • 5 - Clement of Alexandria 90
  • 6 - Food and Fasting in the Works of Tertullian 114
  • 7 - Food and Fasting in Origen and Eusebius 140
  • 8 - Jerome and Ascetic Propaganda 157
  • 9 - Augustine and Ascetic Practice 180
  • Conclusion 191
  • Notes 198
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index 278
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