What did the Phoenicians eat?

Origins
The Phoenicians lived in northern ancient Canaan, where Lebanon is today. They were considered to be Canaanites, yet recent DNA evidence of Modern Lebanese, a study conducted by the National Geographic,  suggest they came from an ancient Mediterranean sub-stratum. What does this mean? The results showed their bloodline are of mixed origin and were not indigenous to the area. It could be the Phoenicians were related to the ‘sea people’, having migrated in the 3rd millennium BCE and mixed with the local Canaanites and hence the Phoenician line was born. You can read more here.

Phoenician trade routes Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Phoenician trade routes
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The sea and trade
The Phoenicians were renown for being masters of the sea and trading with neighbouring countries. Their famous purple dye processed from the Murex sea-snail shell was renown throughout the Mediterranean. It was at one of the Phoenician ports, Hippo Regius now under Carthaginian rule, that Evan and his new Phoenician friend Phameas arrive. Carthage was one of Phoenicia’s important ports and commercial outpost. They also had established sites on the west coast of Sicily, Spain, Cyprus, Corsica and Sardinia. This allowed them to maintain strong trade routes in the Mediterranean.

Food

Phoenician mosaic of a zebu-type animal Image courtesy of Bible-Archaeology.info

Phoenician mosaic of a zebu-type animal
Image courtesy of Bible-Archaeology.info

The Phoenicians had written records, they did invent the alphabet! However, none of the texts have survived, which is a shame as we don’t know for certain their recipes. What we do know is from second hand sources and so that’s where most of my research into Phoenician food, and those for a sailor has come from. Much of the Middle Eastern cuisine today is derived from their rich ancient past, and there a plenty of websites which showcase their recipes.

Flat bread

Flat bread

So, what would have Evan eaten during his short stay at Hippo Regius? He would have drunk wine, and Phoenician wine was the best, according to ancient sources. To eat, he would have eaten flat cakes, stews made with lentils, chickpeas and beans. Meat would include either sheep, rabbit, cattle, chicken, game and doves each cooked with water to make a stew. Roasting was the mainstay as was grilling. Fruits from the sea were also eaten but meat was used more. Breakfast, as we call it, may have been a dish called ‘puls’, which is a porridge made from cereals. If one was lucky enough, it may include cheese, honey and eggs.

Pulses

Pulses

As to spices, salt was their main source. Herbs, there wasn’t a great deal mentioned but as we know, the Middle East has amazing selection of herbs and spices.

As to fruit, Evan had a few delicacies to choose from, such as pomegranates (Love this fruit. We had a tree until dad pulled it out to build a shed) and another favourite fruit of mine, was figs. figsDates, apples, almonds limes, grapes and quinces were others he would have eaten. And not to forget the olives as well!

I did try to locate a few ancient Phoenician recipes to share with you and came across many and delicious modern takes on what the ancients would have eaten. But I did find one that was as close to an ancient biscuit. Here’s a recipe for Phoenician honey cookies (biscuits) by Vefa Alexiadou.

Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet. Subscribe and receive a free PDF on how to survive 7th century BCE http://eepurl.com/brIbFf

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12 thoughts on “What did the Phoenicians eat?

    • I do love the research side of writing, especially trying to get the time period right along with the small details such as food and clothing.
      I agree, it makes the stories much more authentic, if you can bring that depth of knowledge and description.

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  1. This is such an interesting and quite amazing post. I am loving this new saga… I was glad to see the pomegranates among the chosen fruits as It reminded me of Persephone´s abduction by Hades. The myth tells us that after Zeus took part and stood by Demeter (Persephone´s mother), Hades agreed to release her, but gave her a pomegranate. When she ate the pomegranate seeds, she was bound to him for one part of the year, either the dry Mediterranean summer, when plant life is threatened by drought, or the autumn and winter. As you could have guessed this myth explains the yearly cycle of growth, harvest, and winter, and Persephone is related to Spring 😀
    Love and best wishes, cara Luciana!

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    • Mille grazie, cara Aquileana and for sharing the myth of Persephone and the connection with the pomegranate 😀

      It’s extraordinary how various fruits have a basis in mythology. My favourite is Dionysos, the god of wine ;D A fruit and drink for all seasons.
      Have a wonderful week.
      Love and kind wishes,
      Luciana

      Liked by 1 person

    • I do get a kick out what I find in the research for my books. And it does help with making the story more realistic 😀
      Thanks, Cathleen.

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