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Food in Ancient Greece

a plate with fish painted on it
Platter with fish (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Food, for people in Ancient Greece, was what separated people from animals, and from the gods. Gods didn't need to eat, and people did. Animals ate their food raw, but people cooked their food and were civilized. Civilized Greek people only ate fresh meat if it had been sacrificed to a god, or had been hunted in the wild. People thought of the god Dionysos as being part of the wine they drank, and they thought of Persephone as being part of their bread.

Corinthian painting of a rooster

Bread and wine, with olive oil, made up most of what people ate in Ancient Greece. They liked cheese when they could get it.

bread oven
Woman baking bread

People also ate a lot of vegetables, especially lentils, chickpeas, green peas, and other beans. They also ate cabbage, parsnips and onions, garlic and leeks. They ate apples, figs, and almonds. Greek people probably didn't have chickens, or chicken eggs, until around 500 BC - so when Socrates says to sacrifice a rooster to Asclepius, he's thinking of something new and cool.

Possibly Greek people ate more fish than most other Mediterranean people. Most people only had meat on holidays. But people still liked cakes with honey, and yogurt with honey and walnuts in it, for dessert.

Learn by doing - a Greek feast
A project with figs
Making lentil soup
Making baked apples
Making yogurt
Making bread
Using olive oil for light: Greek oil lamps

Bibliography and further reading about food in ancient Greece:

Ancient GreeceAncient GreeceAncient food

Food and Feasts in Ancient Greece, by Imogen Dawson (1995). - both a general discussion of how food was used in Ancient Greece, and some recipes.

Spend the Day in Ancient Greece : Projects and Activities that Bring the Past to Life, by Linda Honan (1998). Also for kids, with recipes for a Greek feast.

Food in the Ancient World A-Z, by Andrew Dalby (2003). Not a kids' book, but pretty easy going.

A project with Greek food
More about ancient Greece home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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