Olives, bread, meat and wine: it is deceptively easy to evoke ancient Greece and Rome through a few items of food and drink. But how were their tastes different from ours? How did they understand the sense of taste itself, in relation to their own bodies and to other modes of sensory experience? This volume, the first of its kind to explore the ancient sense of taste, draws on the literature, philosophy, history and archaeology of Greco-Roman antiquity to provide answers to these central questions.
By surveying and probing the literary and material remains from the Archaic period to late antiquity, contributors investigate the cultural and intellectual development towards attitudes and theories about taste. These specially commissioned chapters also open a window onto ancient thinking about perception and the body. Importantly, these authors go beyond exploring the functional significance of taste to uncover its value and meaning in the actions, thoughts and words of the Greeks and Romans. Taste and the Ancient Senses presents a full range of interpretative approaches to the gustatory sense, and provides an indispensable resource for students and scholars of classical antiquity and sensory studies.
Taste is the most corporeal of senses, requiring not only direct physical contact, but the ingestion of substances that will become part of ourselves. Thanks to its association with "low" bodily functions, taste has commonly been held in low regard by idealizing philosophers and other theorists. This multidisciplinary volume, with contributions from historians, literary critics, and material culture specialists, seeks to redress this imbalance through an engaging exploration of the distinctive qualities, characteristics, and experiences of taste in ancient Greece and Rome. It offers much to ruminate on for readers interested in almost any aspect of the ancient world, food history, or the history of the senses.
- Matthew Roller, Professor of Classics, Johns Hopkins University, USA
List of Figures and Tables
Notes on Contributors
Introduction: On the Tip of the Tongue: Making Sense of Ancient Taste
Kelli C. Rudolph
1. Tastes of Greek Poetry: From Homer to Aristophanes
2. Tastes of Reality: Epistemology and the Senses in Ancient Philosophy
Kelli C. Rudolph
3. Tastes in Ancient Botany, Medicine and Science: Bitter Herbs and Sweet Honey
4. Tastes of Homer: Matro’s Gastroaesthetic Tour Through Epic
5. Tasting the Roman World
6. Tastes from Beyond: Persephone's Pomegranate and Otherworldly Consumption in Antiquity
Meredith J. C. Warren
7. Tastes of Roman Italy: Early Roman Expansion and Taste Articulation
8. Tastes and Digestion: Archaeology and Medicine in Roman Italy
9. Tastes of Meat in Antiquity: Integrating the Textual and Zooarchaeological Evidence
10. Tastes in the Roman Provinces: An Archaeobotanical Approach to Socio-Cultural Change
11. Tastes of Wine: Sensorial Wine Analysis in Ancient Greece
12. Tastes of the Extraordinary: Flavour Lists in Imperial Rome
13. Tastes of Danger and Pleasure in Early and Late Antique Christianity
Like us, ancient Greeks and Romans came to know and understand their world through their senses. Yet it has long been recognized that the world the ancients perceived, and the senses through which they channelled this information could operate differently from the patterns and processes of perception in the modern world. This series explores the relationship between perception, knowledge and understanding in the literature, philosophy, history, language and culture of ancient Greece and Rome.