Greeks Imagine an Indian Feast

Athenaeus Deipnosophists 4, 153 (=Megasthenes fr. 38)


“In his second book of Indika, Megasthenes says that during dinnertime among the Indians each person receives a table of his own that is most like a tripod. On this is placed a golden serving-bowl into which thy first place rice, cooked the way someone might boil barley, and to which they add many delicacies prepared in Indian fashion.”

Μεγασθένης ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ τῶν ᾿Ινδικῶν τοῖς ᾿Ινδοῖς φησιν ἐν τῷ δείπνῳ παρατίθεσθαι ἑκάστῳ τράπεζαν, ταύτην δ’ εἶναι ὁμοίαν ταῖς ἐγγυθήκαις· καὶ ἐπιτίθεσθαι ἐπ’ αὐτῇ τρυβλίον χρυσοῦν, εἰς ὃ ἐμβαλεῖν αὐτοὺς πρῶτον μὲν τὴν ὄρυζαν ἑφθὴν, ὡς ἄν τις ἑψήσειε χόνδρον, ἔπειτα ὄψα πολλὰ κεχειρουργημένα ταῖς ᾿Ινδικαῖς σκευασίαις.


Note: this is the first time I have encountered the Greek word for rice (oruza). In Strabo, it appears specifically in conjunction with India’s numerous rivers.

Has Your Cook Read Democritus and Epicurus? (Damoxenus, fr. 1)

This comic fragment is found in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists. The comic poet Damoxenus is from the 4th century BCE–he is known mostly from Athenaeus and has no Wikipedia page.

A. You see that I am
a disciple of the wise man Epicurus—
in his house in under than two years and ten months
I ‘boiled off’ ten talents.

B. What does this mean? Tell me? A. I ‘dedicated’ them.
That man was a cook as well, dear earth and gods!
B. What kind of a cook? A. Nature is the origin point
Of every kind of craft. B. The ‘origin point’, you scoundrel?

A. ‘There is nothing wiser than work’–
Every task or pursuit is easier when
You keep that saying in mind. Many things come to you!
This is why if you ever meet an uneducated cook,
one who hasn’t read Democritus completely
along with Epicurus’ Canon, rub shit in his face
and kick him out as they do from the academies!
For this is what he needs to know….”

Greek philosophers
Gallery of Culinary Inspiration

᾿Επικούρου δέ με
ὁρᾷς μαθητὴν ὄντα τοῦ σοφοῦ, παρ’ ᾧ
ἐν δύ’ ἔτεσιν καὶ μησὶν οὐχ ὅλοις δέκα
τάλαντ’ ἐγώ σοι κατεπύκνωσα τέτταρα.
Β. τοῦτο δὲ τί ἐστιν; εἰπέ μοι. Α. καθήγισα.
μάγειρος ἦν κἀκεῖνος, ὦ γῆ καὶ θεοί.
Β. ποῖος μάγειρος; Α. ἡ φύσις πάσης τέχνης
ἀρχέγονόν ἐστ’. Β. ἀρχέγονον, ὦλιτήριε;
Α. οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν τοῦ πονεῖν σοφώτερον,
πᾶν εὐχερές τε πρᾶγμα τοῦ λόγου τριβὴν
ἔχοντι τούτου· πολλὰ γὰρ συμβάλλεται.
διόπερ μάγειρον ὅταν ἴδῃς ἀγράμματον
μὴ Δημόκριτόν τε πάντα διανεγνωκότα,
καὶ τὸν ᾿Επικούρου κανόνα, μινθώσας ἄφες
ὡς ἐκ διατριβῆς. τοῦτο δεῖ γὰρ εἰδέναι…

Muse, Tell Me About Dinner–An Epic Feast for Thanksgiving Week

Antiquity has bequeathed us many odd things. Among them, the Attic Dinner attributed to Matro of Pitane, a poet so obscure he does not merit his own wikipedia article. A student of Greek epic–even a rather poor one–should recognize the many allusions to Homer. (Of course, this poet is largely preserved by the gastronome Athenaeus).

“Dinners, tell me, Muse, of dinners, much nourishing and fine.
Which Xenokles the orator ate at my house in Athens.
For I went there too, but a great hunger plagued me—
Where I saw the finest and largest loaves
Whiter than snow, tasting like wheat-cakes
The north-wind lusted after them as they baked.
Xenicles himself inspected the ranks of men
As he stopped while standing at the threshold; next to him was the parasite
Khairephoôn, a man like a starving sea-gull,
Hungry, and well-acquainted with other people’s feasts.”

δεῖπνα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροφα καὶ μάλα
πολλά ἃ Ξενοκλῆς ῥήτωρ ἐν ᾿Αθήναις δείπνισεν ἡμᾶς·
ἦλθον γὰρ κἀκεῖσε, πολὺς δέ μοι ἕσπετο λιμός.
οὗ δὴ καλλίστους ἄρτους ἴδον ἠδὲ μεγίστους,
λευκοτέρους χιόνος, ἔσθειν δ’ ἀμύλοισιν ὁμοίους
τάων καὶ Βορέης ἠράσσατο πεσσομενάων
αὐτὸς δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἐπεπωλεῖτο στίχας ἀνδρῶν
στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ οὐδὸν ἰών. σχεδόθεν δέ οἱ ἦν παράσιτος
Χαιρεφόων, πεινῶντι λάρῳ ὄρνιθι ἐοικώς,
νήστης, ἀλλοτρίων εὖ εἰδὼς δειπνοσυνάων.

The first line quite obviously adapts the first line of the Odyssey:

“Of a man, tell me, Muse, a man of many ways who [suffered] many things…”

῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Part 3: A Mouse Describes his Diet

Previously, our amphibious friend Bellowmouth introduced himself to a certain mouse at the edge of a pond.  Now the mouse responds.  There are some textual problems here. We have decided to include the interpolations.  Who doesn’t want more Batrakhomuomakhia?

Then Crumbthief [Psikharpaks] answered and spoke:
“Why do you seek out my lineage? It’s known
To all men, gods and flying things in the sky.
I am known as Crumbthief, and I am the son
Of great-hearted Breadnibbler and my mother Mill-Licker,
who was daughter of king Ham-nibbler.
She birthed me in a hidey-hole and nourished me with food
like figs and nuts and all kinds of delectables.                                        30
How could you make me your friend when our nature is so different?

Continue reading “The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Part 3: A Mouse Describes his Diet”