What did ancient Greeks eat ?

The primitive need for food had become a major, social event in Ancient Greece. Olive oil, vegetables, fruits, spices, pulses and cereals as well as meat, fish and wine, like in our time, were the basic food ingredients.

Breakfast

Breakfast, known as “ariston”, consisted of bread soaked in pure (without any water) wine. Other ingredients were the dried figs, almonds, walnuts and other nuts. The breakfast beverage was “kykeon”, a mix of wine, grated cheese and barley-flour, goat milk as well as the “ydromelo” a mix of honey and warm water.

Lunch/Dinner

Usually, there were two meals. The first was consisted of fish, pulses or quick snacks like bread, cheese, olives, eggs, nuts and fruits.
Dinner, which was considered to be the main meal, was accompanied by friends and social events. In general, Greeks didn’t like to eat alone. They used to say that eating alone is not a meal, just a way to fill your stomach.

Olive oil

Many excavation findings have shown that the consumption of the olive oil was widespread all over Greece. Well known oil varieties came from the island of Samos and Ikaria, while Attica was not only self-sufficient in olive oil but was exporting olive oil and olives.

Wine

Wine was an every-day ingredient for in the Ancient Greece’s kitchen. In fact it was one of the basic foods since it was part of the breakfast as well as dinner.

Fish

Traditionally, Greeks were always eating more fish than meat. In ancient times, it seems that they preferred fat fish like mackerel, sardine, small fry and others.

Meat

Besides the symposium, meat was consummated mainly in private and public celebrations. The cooking method varies. However they preferred to cook it in the oven, on the skewer or boil it together with vegetables and spices.

Legumes and cereals

Legumes and cereals were the base of the nutrition for the majority of Greeks, in ancient times. All kinds of beans, chickpeas and lentils are some of the legumes that ancient Greeks preferred. Cereals were used mainly for the preparation of different types of bread, like barley-bread, wheat-bread and millet-bread.

Vegetables – fruits – spices

Vegetables and fruits always came first in the ancient Greeks diet. Besides, even in ancient Greece, there were vegetarians like the Pythagoras followers. Of course, there were differences in the fruits and vegetables of the time, since there were no tomatoes, potatoes, pepper trees, corn, oranges, bananas etc. As far as spices are concerned, they used dill, basil, mint, thyme, coriander, cardamom, capers, pine cone as well as imported spices like pepper and others. The top fruits were: pear, plume, arbutus berry, cherry, quince, fig and grapes. Among the nuts, you could find almonds, walnuts, raisins and dried figs.

Despite the luck in many food ingredients, the ancient Greeks were gourmand eaters. During a symposium, the dinner tables were packed with food and the wine flew in abundance.

In the 5th century’s rich dinner, one could find cheese from Achaia, figs and honey from Attica, dark-colored wine from Chios and Lesvos, seafood from the rich waters of Evoia, plumes from Syria, cheese made of horse only for the war lovers, boiled bulbs and radish for the hangover. Of course, famous were the Athens pies, stuffed with cheese, honey and other ingredients.

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4 comments on “What did ancient Greeks eat ?

  1. It’s a great thing to learn about one’s roots. Living outside Greece, doesn’t mean we must forget we are Greeks. Thanks fruitandcake for the usefull information.

  2. Hi, Angelo. That is the concept, exactly. After all, cooking is not only about ingredients and utensils. You may also be interested in the “Restaurant,Did you know?” post. Take care.

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