Taste and the Ancient Senses  book cover
1st Edition

Taste and the Ancient Senses

Edited By

Kelli C. Rudolph

ISBN 9781844658695
Published August 15, 2017 by Routledge
310 Pages

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents


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

Sarah Hitch

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

Laurence Totelin

4. Tastes of Homer: Matro’s Gastroaesthetic Tour Through Epic

Mario Telò

5. Tasting the Roman World

Emily Gowers

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

Laura Banducci

8. Tastes and Digestion: Archaeology and Medicine in Roman Italy

Patricia Baker

9. Tastes of Meat in Antiquity: Integrating the Textual and Zooarchaeological Evidence

Michael MacKinnon

10. Tastes in the Roman Provinces: An Archaeobotanical Approach to Socio-Cultural Change

Alexandra Livarda

11. Tastes of Wine: Sensorial Wine Analysis in Ancient Greece

Thibaut Boulay

12. Tastes of the Extraordinary: Flavour Lists in Imperial Rome

John Paulas

13. Tastes of Danger and Pleasure in Early and Late Antique Christianity

Béatrice Caseau



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Kelli C. Rudolph is Lecturer in Classics and Philosophy at the University of Kent, Canterbury. She has research interests in ancient perceptual theories and the relationship between Presocratic and Hellenistic philosophy, and is currently working on theoretical approaches to the senses in antiquity. 


 "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, Johns Hopkins University, USA


"This splendid volume is part of the Routledge series devoted to the senses in the ancient world and comes strongly recommended ... The essays are wide-ranging: their breadth prompts reflection on further forays into the sensory worlds of antiquity, which worked powerfully in medicine, religion and thought. Many revelations are made ... The volume is particularly strong in bringing together philosophy with literature, and archaeology with technical texts ... The volume excels in its range of approaches and materials for study. There is also an excellent bibliography and index."

- John Wilkins, University of Exeter, UK, The Classical Review 2020