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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

Their feet were bathed in perfumed water and wine


The

social instincts and the warmth of feeling amongst the Hellenic race made dinners and festival events of every day occurrence, and caused them to fill a prominent part in the lives of all, but the diet of the Homeric age was wonderfully simple (in those early days the most elaborate dinners consisted of only two courses--the first of meat, usually roasted sheep, oxen or pigs, and vegetables; the second of cakes, sweetened with the honey of Hymettus, and dried and fresh fruits), for appetites were held subordinate to the love of music and the dance.

"* * * Nor can I deem Aught more delightful than the general joy Of a whole people, when the assembled guests, Seated in order in the royal hall, Are listening to the minstrel, while the board Is spread with bread and meats, and from the jars The cup-bearer draws wine and fills the cups. To me there is no more delightful sight."

(Plato.)

Invitations were generally given a few days in advance by the host in person in the market or any other place of common sojourn.

Unlike the Egyptians, the Grecians made their toilets and anointed themselves before arriving at their host's house.

But before eating,

"* * * In a bowl Of silver, from a shapely ewer of

gold, A maid poured water o'er the hands and set A polished table near them."

Then, if any had traveled from a distance, their feet were bathed in perfumed water and wine.

Meanwhile the male attendants were not idle--

"* * * Some in the bowls Tempered the wine with water, some cleansed The table with light sponges and set The banquet forth and carved the meats for all."

A separate table was in those days usually provided for each guest, though the rule was not strictly observed.

In some cases, diners-out were accompanied and attended by their own servants. In a few districts in modern Greece this is still habitual.

Chairs and stools were generally used as seats, the custom of reclining on couches not being introduced until a later date.

As napkins were then unknown, the guests wiped their fingers on towels and in pieces of specially prepared dough, which were thrown under the table after being used.

There were spoons (of metal, often of gold--Athenaeus), but hollow pieces of bread were generally used in their stead.

The carver presided at a table and cut the meats into small pieces, as individual forks and knives were then unknown. The portions were usually of uniform size, although any very honored person was presented with larger or choicer morsels.

The diluted wine was then transferred by ladles to the drinking cups or beakers, to be distributed by boy servants. The first cup was handed from one to another of the guests untouched as a sort of salutation.

It was not customary to drink before the meal had been served.

Bread was handed round in little baskets woven from slips of ivory.


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