Eat and drink with the Ancient Greeks

Like their ancient Egyptian cousins, the ancient Greeks recorded much of what they did on vases, sculptures and in print. I, for one, am very grateful for the information they left behind as it enabled me to research and learn what they ate. It was fascinating to read how much hasn’t really changed in the way food is prepared and used. Bread, wine and olives, and olive oil, formed the basis of their diet, to which today, most cultures still eat and drink.

Female baker taking bread from the oven.
early 5th century BC
Louvre Museum
Source/Photographer Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009)
Wikimedia Commons

Evan, being of Greek origin, would have been familiar with most of the food as he and his companions travelled through Greece. Thanks to Homer and his famous works, The Iliad and The Odyssey, we know the Ancient Greeks had breakfast, lunch and dinner, referred to as ariston, deipnon, and dorpon. Contrary to belief, not all Ancient Greeks ate meat, only the wealthy could afford it (still true to this day!)

Another main feature of their diet was seafood; the Ancient Greeks were renown sailors and harvest the fruit from the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. There was always an abundance of vegetables and fruit, dependant on the seasons and what part of Greece they lived. Not all of the land in Greece was productive nor fruitful, hence the Spartans domination of Messene for their land—this is referred to in book 2 of my series, Servant of the Gods.

After the sacrifice: a youth prepares the head of a pig in front of a temple By Tarporley Painter
Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2008), CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4048347

They grew barley, oats, lentils, peas and acorns. On a side note, acorns are great for fattening pigs. The Greeks learnt how to cultivate wild plants such as: olives, almonds, peanuts, grapes, cherries, plums, pears, figs, apples, blackberries, strawberries, pomegranates, dill, capers, oregano and coriander. These items would not be out of place on my shopping list or pantry. As to animals, they domesticated goats, sheep, pigs and cows and used for their meat and milk.

Wheat came on to the scene later and was imported. Much of the bread was made from barley. As to recipes, the Ancient Greeks didn’t write them and much of the Ancient Roman recipes are derived from the Greek cuisine. They did use garlic, onion, various herbs and spices to flavour their dishes. To sweeten the food, they’d use pomegranates, berries and honey. Cooking meat hasn’t really changed; they either braised, boiled or fried their meat. The same with seafood. The Ancient Greeks also dried their meat and fish.

Breakfast would normally be bread dipped in wine, figs and olives. In more affluent

Scene of olive-gathering by young people. Attic black-figured neck-amphora, ca. 520 BC. From Vulci, Italy.
By Antimenes Painter – Steff, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1752943

homes, berries and goat’s milk would be included. Lunch was a light cooked meal, and dinner was more formal and two courses—for starters you would eat dishes that had barley, wheat, lentils, beans, food that was filling; and the second course may have dishes with either meat, fish, cheese, a salad or vegetables, or only olive oil. Not all these were served together, unless one attended a symposium of which only men attended, and the women were hetarari (similar to high paid escorts or a geisha) who could sing and play music.

Here a few ancient Greek culinary delights: ancient honey and sesame fritters , lentil soup, gastrin, ancient version of baklava.

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 read for free the first few chapters of Search for the Golden Serpent http://eepurl.com/brIbFf

Further reading:
The Ancient Greek diet, Lemonandolives, http://www.lemonandolives.com/the-ancient-greek-diet/
Eating in Ancient Greece, neoskomos, http://neoskosmos.com/news/en/eating-in-ancient-greece
Food and agriculture in Ancient Greece, Ancient History Encyclopedia http://www.ancient.eu/article/113/
Food in Ancient Greece, Cooksinfo http://www.cooksinfo.com/food-in-ancient-greece
Food of the Ancient Greeks, Hoplites.org http://www.hoplites.org/FOOD.pdf

3 thoughts on “Eat and drink with the Ancient Greeks

  1. The roots of the mediterranean diet!… Well balanced, healthy food. Also interesting to see how the romans became legatees of the Greeks in this sense too: Once again! 😀
    A most interesting reading, cara Luciana… Tante grazie!… Love & best wishes! ⭐

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