Taste or Taboo: Dietary Choices in Antiquity

Taste or Taboo: Dietary Choices in Antiquity


By (author) Michael Beer


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  • Publisher: PROSPECT BOOKS
  • Format: Paperback | 160 pages
  • Dimensions: 138mm x 214mm x 16mm | 222g
  • Publication date: 1 July 2010
  • Publication City/Country: Blackawton
  • ISBN 10: 1903018633
  • ISBN 13: 9781903018637
  • Sales rank: 1,926,817

Product description

For many centuries the meaning of food has been much more than merely nutrition on the table. The types of food a man eats, the ways in which he cooks it, the style in which it is served: all these carry their own significance which is extended by contemporary and later observers to describe the identity of the unwitting eater. This book looks at the way in which food was employed in Greek and Roman literature to impart identity, whether social, individual, religious or ethnic. In many instances these markers are laid down in the way that foods were restricted, in other words by looking at the negatives instead of the positives of what was consumed. Michael Beer looks at several aspects of food restriction in antiquity, for example, the way in which they eschewed excess and glorified the simple diet; the way in which Jewish dietary restriction identified that nation under the Empire; the way in which Pythagoreans denied themselves meat (and beans); and the way in which the poor were restricted by economic reality from enjoying the full range of foods. These topics allow him to look at important aspects of Graeco-Roman social attitudes. For example, republic virtue, imperial laxity, Homeric and Spartan military valour, social control through sumptuary laws, and answers to excessive drinking. He also looks closely at the inherent divide of the Roman world between the twin centres of Greece and Rome and how it is expressed in food and its consumption. The book is written for the intelligent and educated reader but does not rely on quotations in the original Latin or Greek. It is fully referenced and indexed.

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Author information

Michael Beer received his doctorate from the University of Exeter in pursuing the topic of his book. He now teaches in Exeter. This is his first book.

Table of contents

List of abbreviations. Introduction. The diet of the poor and involuntary dietary restriction. Vegetarianism. Beans. Fish. The dietary laws of the Jews. Restrictions upon alcohol. State control of food: Spartan diet and Roman sumptuary laws. Gluttony versus abstinence: the tyrant and the saint. Conclusion. Bibliography. Index.