Archestratus’ Gastronomy

Perhaps the most famous food writer in antitquity was the fourth-century Sicilian Archestratus, who wrote a verse poem about food that sources variously call Gastronomy (Γαστρονομία), Luxury (Ἡδυπαθεία), Deipnology (Δειπνολογία) or Cookery (῾Ὀψοποιία, Athenaeus 1.7). Although it is frequently Gastronomy in modern descriptions the title Hedupatheia, is attested earlier. In general, Archestratus was a proponent of fresh food cooked when it is at its best. Athenaeus’ Deipnosophistae preserves the only extant fragments of this poem. The two below (from Athenaeus 3.77, OS Fr. 5 and 6) are the rare fragments about bread.

Fragment 5

First, Moschus my friend, I will recall the gifts of fair-haired Demeter
and take these into your heart.
Take these the best and greatest of all:
[The flour] of fruitful barley sifted clean grown entirely
From famed Eresus on the sea-girt knoll Lesbos,
lighter than ethereal snow. Indeed if the gods eat
barley groats, this is where Hermes buys it for them from the market.
And suitable is [bread] in seven-gated Thebes,
And in Thasos and in many other poleis, but olive pits
These would seem, you can clearly judge [in comparison].
Seek [σοι ὑπαρχέτω] the rounded Thessalian roll [κόλλιξ]
Kneaded by the fair hand of a woman, the one they call
Krimnites [possibly barley], but others call the Chondrinos loaf.
Then, from Tegea, I commend the son of the finest wheat flour
Baked in the Fire [the ἐγκρυφίας]. But famed Athens sends
to market the best made loaves for men.
And in grape-bearing Erythrae from an earthen cook vessel,
comes a loaf, bright and risen, that brings cheer at mealtime.

πρῶτα μὲν οὖν δώρων μεμνήσομαι ἠυκόμοιο
Δήμετρος, φίλε Μόσχε, σὺ δ᾽ ἐν φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσιν.
ἔστι γὰρ οὖν τὰ κράτιστα λαβεὶν βέλτιστά τε πάντα,
εὐκάρπου κριθῆς καθαρῶς ἠσσημένα πάντα,
ἐν Λέσβῳ κλεινῇς Ἐρέσου περικύμονι μαστῷ,
λευκότερ᾽ αἰθερίας χιόνος. θεοὶ εἴπερ ἔδουσιν
ἄλφιτ᾽, ἐκεῖθεν ἰὼν Ἑρμῆς αὐτοῖς ἀγοράζει.
ἐστὶ δὲ κἀν Θήβαις ταῖς ἑπταπύλοις ἐπιεικῆ
κἀν Θάσῳ ἔν τ᾽ ἄλλαις πόλεσίν τισιν, ἀλλὰ γίγαρτα
φαίνονται πρὸς ἐκεῖνα, σαφεῖ τάδ᾽ ἐπίστασο δόξῃ.
στογγυλοδίνητος δὲ τετριμμένος εὖ κατὰ χεῖρα
κόλλιξ Θεσσαλικός σοι ὑπαρχέτω, ὅν καλέουσι
κεῖνοι κριμνίταν, οἱ δ᾽ ἄλλοι χόνδρινον ἄρτον.
εἶτα τὸν ἐκ Τεγέας σεμιδάλεος υἱὸν ἐπαινῶ
ἐγκρυφίαν. τὸν δ᾽ εἰς ἀγορὰν ποιεύμενον ἄρτον
αἱ κλειναὶ παρέχουσι βροτοῖς κάλλιστον Ἀθῆναι.
ἐν δὲ φερεσταφύλοις Ἐρυθραῖς ἐκ κλιβάνου ἐλθὼν
λευκὸς ἁβραῖς θάλλων ὥραις τέρψει παρὰ δεῖπνον.

Fragment 6

Have in your home a Phoenician or Lydian man
Who has knowledge of grain and every day
Develops all sorts of forms at your orders.

ἔστω δή σοι ἀνὴρ Φοῖνιξ ἢ Λυδὸς ἐν οἴκῳ,
ὅστις ἐπιστήμων ἔσται σίτοιο κατ᾽ ἧμαρ
παντοίας ἰδέας τεύχειν, ὡς ἂν σὺ κελεύῃς.

Additional bibliography on Archestratus:

  • Dalby, A., “Archestratos: where and when?” in Food in Antiquity, ed. J. Wilkins, D. Harvey, and M. Dobson (Exeter University Press: 1995), 400–12.
  • Olson, S.D. and A. Sens, Archestratos of Gela: Greek culture and cuisine in the fourth century BCE (Oxford University Press: 2000).

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