Resources on Ancient Foodways – Historical Novel Society

Metapontion – 540-510 BCE – silver stater – barley ear


In case you are writing a narrative about folks in historical past you nearly must know in regards to the meals these characters ate.   I’m betting that HNS members can in all probability use some assist in researching meals historical past.

The record under is supposed as a place to begin for analysis on historical foodways. It’s not complete, however represents print books that may be present in educational libraries on the subject.  In case your native library doesn’t personal a title from this record you wish to use, inquire about borrowing it by way of interlibrary mortgage.  I embrace ISBN numbers in case you wish to order a replica out of your favourite on-line vendor.

On the finish, I’ve included some web sites on Greek and Roman foodways, for those who desire on-line to print.



 Meals and Drink in Antiquity: Readings from the Graeco-Roman World, a Sourcebook, by John F. Donahue.  Bloomsbury, 2015.  9781441133458

“Current[s] a fairly consultant choice of literary and documentary sources illustrating food and drinks within the Graeco-Roman world”—introduction.  Date vary: 8th century BCE—5th century CE.  Donahue reproduces excerpts from historical writings on meals subjects, with commentary.  Meals and faith, meals within the army, meals in society are among the chapter subjects.  Chapters finish with lists of recommendations for additional studying.

Meals and Society in Classical Antiquity, by Peter Garnsey.  Cambridge, 1999.  0521645883

“Greeks and Romans, wealthy or poor, had been obsessive about meals…This e book presents meals as a biocultural phenomenon”—preface.  Chapters embrace: meals and the financial system, malnutrition, forbidden meals, meals and the household.  There’s an in depth bibliography after the final chapter.

The Meals Historical past Reader, Major Sources, edited by Ken Albala.  Bloomsbury, 2014.  9780857854131

That is meant as a meals historical past course textbook; the excerpts are “meant as an instance attitudes and practices of the previous, drawn from a broad vary of sources and a number of vantage factors”—basic introduction.  Half one covers Sumer and Egypt; two, historical Greece; three, historical Rome, and the next sections are on historical China, India, and the Hebrews.  It has an in depth bibliography.

Meals in Antiquity, edited by John Wilkins, David Harvey & Mike Dobson.  College of Exeter Press, 1996. 0859894185

The emphasis is on Greece and Rome (e.g., historical vegetarianism, Roman meat commerce, historical bread baking), but additionally consists of articles on Persia, the Celts, Egypt, and Palestine.  Articles embrace notes and/or a bibliography for additional analysis.

Meals within the Historical World, by Joan P. Alcock.  Greenwood Press, 2006.  0313330034

Element from a Fishing Scene, Tomb of Qenamun, ca.1427-1400 BCE

“This e book discusses meals grown, produced, and eaten from the beginnings of the Egyptian predynastic civilization, about 4000B.C., to the tip of the Roman Empire, within the fifth century A.D.”—introduction.  Lots of the chapters are a few specific meals kind, equivalent to root greens, or spices, and the writer discusses that meals’s use throughout completely different civilizations.  Civilizations included: Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Celts.  This strikes me as a e book to make use of as an introduction, after which graduate on to different sources.

Meals within the Historical World from A To Z, by Andrew Dalby.  Routledge, 2003.  0415232597

The alphabetical listings on this reference quantity cowl food and drinks of the archaic and classical Mediterranean.  Moreover particular person meals listings, entries embrace social points equivalent to drunkenness, extra, open-air eating, and journey meals.  Samples: the entry on oats says that Greeks considered the grain extra as a weed than a meals; roses had been sometimes used for flavoring meals or making wine.  Indexes embrace Latin and Greek phrases, and certainly one of scientific names.

Inside Historical Kitchens: New Instructions within the Research of Day by day Meals and Feasts, edited by Elizabeth A. Klarich.  College Press of Colorado, 2010.  9780870819421

These are papers from a symposium on meals historical past sponsored by the Society for American Archaeology.  Articles embrace materials on the Philippines, Mesopotamia, and historical Peru.  As anticipated, the tutorial papers have in depth bibliographies you should use for additional analysis.

Style or Taboo: Dietary Decisions in Antiquity, by Michael Beer.  Prospect Books, 2010.  9781903018637

“In among the strongest and unusual situations of meals avoidance within the historical world, I hope to find how such attitudes to meals helped form the psyche, and the way they could have influenced in flip our personal attitudes’’—introduction.  Chapters embrace vegetarianism, Jewish dietary legal guidelines, an particularly fascinating one on alcohol restrictions, and gluttony within the historical world.  An intensive bibliography is included.



Historical Roman amphoras in Pompei 

Across the Roman Desk, by Patrick Faas.  Palgrave Macmillan, 1994.  0312239580

The foreword states that this “is neither a historical past e book nor a cookery e book; it’s a little bit of each.”  The primary part covers 753BCE to 476CE, with chapters on desk etiquette, menus, wine, and spices utilized in cooking.  Half two has recipes and discusses the varieties of meat, greens, and cereals eaten.  An appendix lists costs and weights and measures, together with a one-page bibliography.

Apicius: Cookery and Eating in Imperial Rome, tr. by Joseph Dommers Vehling.  Dover Publications, 1977.  0486235637

This incorporates historical Roman recipes, and is assumed to have dated from the 5th century CE, first revealed in English in 1936.  Nonetheless, Wikipedia’s article in regards to the e book says that Vehling’s translation is defective and newer and higher translations exist.  Some recipes: boiled ostrich, leeks and beans, and boiled cuttlefish.

Roman Cookery: Elegant & Simple Recipes from Historical past’s First Gourmand, revised ed., by John Edwards.  Hartley & Marks, 1986.  0881790117

That is an adaptation for contemporary cooks of recipes from Apicius’ e book listed above.  It in all probability can’t be relied on for historic accuracy, however I’m together with it right here in case you may be an historic reenactor and wish to serve a Roman-inspired feast made in a contemporary kitchen.

Meals within the Historical World, by John M. Wilkins and Shaun Hill.  Blackwell, 2006.  9780631235514

Wilkins presents chapters on meals and faith, cereals, meat/fish, wine, meals and medication, and meals in literature, the emphasis being on historical Greece and Rome.  Hill gives a handful of recipes.  A bibliography will information you to additional analysis.

Meals and Cooking in Roman Britain: Historical past and Recipes, by Jane Renfrew.  English Heritage, 1985.  1850740801

Renfrew’s sources embrace Apicius’s work above, plus bones and seeds present in archaeological digs and likewise “letters preserved at Vinolanda, written by troopers serving on Hadrian’s Wall.” Romans launched new sorts of sport animals and vegetation into Britain that modified native consuming habits.  Brief chapters embrace: how meals was ready and served, a bit of modernized recipes, and a brief bibliography.

Culinary Facets of Historical Rome: Ars Cibaria, by Almudena Villegas Becerril.  Cambridge Students Publishing, 2021.

This educational work “shed[s] mild onto the importance that Historical Romans hooked up to meals, the banquet, and the straightforward every day act of sharing meals”—again cowl.  The writer personally examined some Roman cooking strategies equivalent to emulsification of eggs and olive oil.  It has in depth finish notes for additional analysis.


Lady grinding wheat in a basin, Greek art work, ca.450 BCE


 Siren Feasts: A Historical past of Meals and Gastronomy in Greece, by Andrew Dalby.  Routledge, 1996.  0415116201

“What did Greeks eat?  How did gastronomy and meals writing develop amongst them?” are two key questions handled on this e book, which covers prehistoric Aegean civilizations by means of Byzantium.  It appears to be very complete, with a prolonged bibliography which might present many leads for additional analysis.

Meals, Delicacies and Society in Prehistoric Greece, edited by Paul Halstead and John C. Barrett.  Oxbow Books, 2004.  1842171674

These are papers given on the Spherical Desk of the Sheffield Centre for Aegean Archaeology in 2001.  Animal husbandry, feasting, ingesting, and so on. are studied from archaeological finds from the area.  Since they’re educational treatises, there are many leads for additional analysis within the accompanying bibliographies.

Items of the Gods: A Historical past of Meals in Greece, by Andrew and Rachel Dalby.  Reaktion Books, 2017.  9781780238548

The primary 4 chapters cowl prehistory by means of the Byzantine Empire.  Some recipes are scattered all through the textual content, equivalent to one to make pucker-inducing quinces palatable for contemporary style by simmering them in Coca-Cola.  The authors are a historian and his daughter who runs a present-day café on the island of Paros.

The Mycenaean Feast, edited by James C. Wright.  American College of Classical Research at Athens, 2004.  0876619510

“Students take a detailed have a look at the proof for ritual feasting and ingesting ceremonies within the Mycenaean world…giant deposits of ingesting and serving vessels, …animal bones, depictions in frescos and on painted pottery, and Linear B paperwork from Pylos, Thebes, and Knossos”—preface.  Chapters embrace in depth scholarly bibliographies.


A potential Maya lord sits earlier than a person with a container of frothed chocolate


 Feasts and Fasts: A Historical past of Meals in India, by Colleen Taylor Sen.  Reaktion Books, 2015.  9781780233529

The primary six chapters of this quantity cowl Indian subcontinent meals from prehistory by means of 600CE. “It’s intriguing to unearth what makes Indian meals recognizably Indian and the way it got here to be that manner, and to analyze the place there’s a gastronomic tradition widespread to all Indians”—introduction.  One chapter connects meals with Indian medication. Chapter references and a choose bibliography will information you to extra sources.

Land of Milk and Honey: Travels within the Historical past of Indian Meals, by Chitrita Banerji.  Seagull Books, [2007?]  9781905422340

The emphasis is on Bengali regional delicacies.  Chapter one seems on the historical past of the usage of milk, others are on meals in ritual and artwork, and meals’s function in Bengali girls’s lives.    It has an in depth bibliography for a small quantity.

Meals, Sacrifice, and Sagehood in Early China, by Roel Sterckx.  Cambridge College Press, 2011.  9781107001718

The writer explores historical Chinese language foodways’ connection to sacrificial faith.  The e book “take[s] the tradition of meals and sacrifice as a degree of departure to assist us perceive Chinese language attitudes to human advantage, private salvation, self-cultivation, and conceptions of ethical authorities”—introduction.  It has an in depth bibliography, however lots of the sources seem like solely in Chinese language, not translated.

The Historical past and Tradition of Japanese Meals, by Naomichi Ishige.  Kegan Paul, 2001.  0710306571

“Designed to tell a non-Japanese viewers about Japanese dietary historical past and the way the tradition of Japan is projected by means of its meals”—preface.  The primary three chapters have probably the most details about historical Japan.  Half two of the e book could be helpful to anybody touring to Japan in present-day; the writer consists of info like chopstick etiquette.

Rice and Baguette: A Historical past of Meals in Vietnam, by Vu Hong Lien.  Reaktion Books, 2016.  9781780236575

“The story of what the Viet have eaten all through historical past, and of why and the way they eat sure varieties of meals”—introduction.  The primary a number of chapters cowl meals in historical occasions.  References and a bibliography are included.

The Delicacies of the Muslims, by Ibrahim Chabbouh.  Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Basis, [2004?]  1873992831

The writer doesn’t declare to be complete on this slim quantity, however gives a “preliminary framework…that may take care of all parts associated…to the tradition of meals” within the Muslim world.  Discussions of historical texts used as sources are included, how meals was served, particular spices, and so on.  The final part incorporates paperwork written in Arabic.

Farming, Searching, and Fishing within the Olmec World, by Amber M. Vanderwarker.  College of Texas Press, 2006.  0292709803

The writer examines archaeological proof to assemble details about agriculture and meals within the Olmec society between 1400BCE to 300CE, in present-day Mexico.  She additionally considers political features of Olmec foodways.  It consists of an in depth bibliography.

Her Cup for Candy Cacao: Meals in Historical Maya Society, edited by Traci Ardren.  College of Texas Press, 2020.  9781477321645

“This quantity goals to discover the social facet of meals and foodways in Basic Maya society”—introduction.  Most chapters report on archaeological findings, equivalent to evaluation of canine bones, microscopic plant stays, cave findings, meals rituals, and so on.  This might be a great supply to seek the advice of on the historic use of cacao/chocolate.  Chapters have in depth bibliographies.

The Oldest Delicacies within the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia, by Jean Bottero.  College of Chicago Press, 2004.  0226067351

The writer states that he makes use of an anthropological strategy to Mesopotamian meals than an historic strategy.  Vital sources are from the Yale College Babylonian assortment, simply in regards to the oldest recipe assortment recognized, taken from 1600BCE cuneiform tablets.  There’s a bibliography however lots of the works listed will not be in English.

Indian Agriculture in America, Prehistory to the Current, by R. Douglas Harm.  College Press of Kansas, 1987.

The primary two chapters cowl Mesoamerican and prehistoric Native North American agriculture.

Rivers of Change: Essays on Early Agriculture in Jap North America, by Bruce D. Smith.  College of Alabama Press, 2007.  9780817354251

“Prehistoric Native American societies in japanese North America and their transition from a looking and gathering lifestyle to a reliance on meals manufacturing”—introduction.  Consists of archaeological findings on plant domestication/meals crops in japanese North America.

From Colonization to Domestication: Inhabitants, Surroundings, and the Origins of Agriculture in Jap North America, by D. Shane Miller.  College of Utah Press, 2018.  9781607816164

The writer began with the query, “How and why did Native Individuals go from looking mastodons to planting sunflowers in japanese North America?”  Archaeological proof is used to help a concept that plant domestication was tied to a increase/bust cycle of accelerating inhabitants and declines in looking.


Chesters Roman Fort, alongside Hadrian’s Wall. The half-open circle is an oven exterior the West Gate, used for bread-baking.


These will present transient introductions to the subject.

What Did Historical Romans Eat?

Meals within the Roman World

Mendacity Down and Vomiting Between Programs:  That is How Historical Romans Would Feast

Overview of Historical Greek Delicacies

Meals of the Historical Greeks

Meals & Agriculture in Historical Greece

The Extremely Various—and Wholesome—Weight-reduction plan of the Historical Greeks


Concerning the contributor: B.J. Sedlock is Lead Librarian and Coordinator of Metadata and Archives at Defiance School in Defiance, Ohio. She writes e book critiques and articles for The Historic Novels Overview, and has contributed to The Sondheim Overview.