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Platter with fish painted on it - Ancient Greek food

Ancient Greek food – Platter with fish (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Sacrifice and Greek food

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.

The Greek gods
Animal sacrifice
Greek religion
Party: a day in ancient Greece
All our ancient Greece articles

Civilized Greek people only ate fresh meat if it had been sacrificed to a god, or had been hunted in the wild. Like other Mediterranean people, though, Greek people ate a lot of fish and shellfish, octopus and squid (none of which had to be sacrificed to a god).

Early Egyptian food
Mediterranean food
Northern European food

Bread, wine, Dionysos and Persephone

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

Corinthian painting of a rooster

Where does wine come from?
Wine-making and wine presses
Dionysos, the god of wine
Who was Persephone?

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

What is olive oil?
History of fishing
How do you make cheese?

Did ancient Greek food include vegetables?

Woman baking bread: Ancient Greek food

Ancient Greek food: Woman baking bread

Yes, people also ate a lot of vegetables, especially lentils, chickpeas, green peas, and other beans.

Where are lentils from?
How about chickpeas?
Who domesticated apples?
More about almonds

They also ate cabbage, parsnips and onions, garlic and leeks. They ate apples, figs, and almonds.

Chickens come to Greece

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. Greek people started to import black pepper from India about the same time.

History of chickens
Black pepper and India

Desserts in ancient Greece

Most people only had meat on holidays. But people still liked cakes with honey, and yogurt with honey and walnuts in it, for dessert. They also ate a lot of figs, apples, and pears, both fresh and dried.

Honey and beehives
How do you make yogurt?
History of figs

Did you find out what you needed about ancient Greek food? Let us know in the comments!

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

Bibliography and further reading about food in ancient Greece:

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