Did the Spartans eat cereals?

Feb 2012
3,888
Portugal
#1
We all heard of the black broth made of pork, blood and vinegar which the Spartans ate. However I read once that besides that the Spartan's cooks were forbiden to cook anything besides meat. It can be read in the Fish and Meat section in Wikipedia:
The 2nd–3rd century author Aelian, claims that Spartan cooks were prohibited from cooking anything other than meat.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_cuisine


However most sites say they were grain eaters and besides the black broth they ate wheat and barley.

Were the Spartans averse to cereals and cooked vegetables as a rule?
 
Jun 2013
76
london
#2
Yôḥānān;1500936 said:
We all heard of the black broth made of pork, blood and vinegar which the Spartans ate. However I read once that besides that the Spartan's cooks were forbiden to cook anything besides meat. It can be read in the Fish and Meat section in Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_cuisine


However most sites say they were grain eaters and besides the black broth they ate wheat and barley.

Were the Spartans averse to cereals and cooked vegetables as a rule?
You should find the link below of interest. It covers the surviving work of Athenaeus, a 3rd century AD Greek writer who wrote the Deipnosophists or "The Banquet Philosophers" according to him the Spartans had a surprisingly varied diet.

http://www.attalus.org/old/athenaeus.html
 

okamido

Forum Staff
Jun 2009
29,885
land of Califia
#3
The work of Athenaeus concerns the Spartans well after their heyday, so I am not sure it can be used as a description for the period being suggested here. Besides, it looks as it is written to be insult rather than a historical record.

Neither do I accept the work of Aelian, as they would have been exceptionally unhealthy to have just lived off of fish and meat. As Denis stated, they would have had a wide and varied diet (just not the sillyness from Athenaeus ;) ), as they were supplied the fruits of the labor of helots, ie: crops and domesticated animals. Add in the fact that they were avid hunters, thus providing wild game to the mix as well, and I am sure they were probably more balanced in their diet than some would have us belief.

In fact, Wiki should just about be avoided completely for research on Sparta as there are all kinds of unreferenced, made up, and disproven "facts" still printed there.
 

okamido

Forum Staff
Jun 2009
29,885
land of Califia
#4
Here is just an example to give an idea. The Rock is filming a new movie about Herakles, and this is his diet to get stronger and leaner:

What is noticed here? Carbs. Without them, the physical activity needed for his workout would come to a screeching halt, and so it would have been with the Lakedaemonians, had they existed on an Atkins diet. For a culture that spent their days hunting, exercising and training for war, there would have been no way to accomplish those things without carbs. ;)
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,920
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#5
A relater matter [discussed in other threads] is that the diet of the Roman gladiator was rich of cereals, legumes and similar. Meat wasn't that important for their nutrition.

Archaeologists in Ephesus found something surprising

What they found in Euxenius, and other unnamed Gladiator corpses, was to astound them. The results proved that Gladiators in fact had an almost completely vegetarian diet. They probably ate a diet of barley and beans washed down with a vinegar/ash drink – the forerunner of sports drinks.

Just an article as reference: BBC - Press Office - Lost secrets of gladiators revealed by Timewatch


Regarding Spartans, I have to check in deep since I remembered to have read that also they had an almost vegetarian diet. I repeat, I have to check.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,223
#7
The work of Athenaeus concerns the Spartans well after their heyday, so I am not sure it can be used as a description for the period being suggested here. Besides, it looks as it is written to be insult rather than a historical record.

Neither do I accept the work of Aelian, as they would have been exceptionally unhealthy to have just lived off of fish and meat. As Denis stated, they would have had a wide and varied diet (just not the sillyness from Athenaeus ;) ), as they were supplied the fruits of the labor of helots, ie: crops and domesticated animals. Add in the fact that they were avid hunters, thus providing wild game to the mix as well, and I am sure they were probably more balanced in their diet than some would have us belief.

In fact, Wiki should just about be avoided completely for research on Sparta as there are all kinds of unreferenced, made up, and disproven "facts" still printed there.
Surely the spartans, allowing for cultural preferences, would have eaten what was available? I seriously doubt greek soldiers had the luxury of a menu to choose from on campaign.
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,384
India
#8
Well proteins do go a long way to promoting musculature and long term strength. Also the lack of a meat diet may have been to keep costs low. But one can get plenty of Carbs from a vegetarian diet as well
 
Feb 2012
3,888
Portugal
#9
You should find the link below of interest. It covers the surviving work of Athenaeus, a 3rd century AD Greek writer who wrote the Deipnosophists or "The Banquet Philosophers" according to him the Spartans had a surprisingly varied diet.

Athenaeus: Deipnosophists - translation
Thank you in chapter 8 it mentions a diverse diet indeed and also the amount of meat served might have been very sparse at times:

Athenaeus: Deipnosophists - Book 8

Here is just an example to give an idea. The Rock is filming a new movie about Herakles, and this is his diet to get stronger and leaner:

What is noticed here? Carbs. Without them, the physical activity needed for his workout would come to a screeching halt, and so it would have been with the Lakedaemonians, had they existed on an Atkins diet. For a culture that spent their days hunting, exercising and training for war, there would have been no way to accomplish those things without carbs. ;)
From AlpinLuke's link Milo would eat a lot of bread along with meat so I guess Ancient Greeks were aware of the need for carbs to make a Herakles. :

"would eat 20 lbs. of meat and as many of bread, and drink three pitchers of wine"
A relater matter [discussed in other threads] is that the diet of the Roman gladiator was rich of cereals, legumes and similar. Meat wasn't that important for their nutrition.

Archaeologists in Ephesus found something surprising




Just an article as reference: BBC - Press Office - Lost secrets of gladiators revealed by Timewatch


Regarding Spartans, I have to check in deep since I remembered to have read that also they had an almost vegetarian diet. I repeat, I have to check.
Very interesting and the documentary can be found in youtube.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2012
3,888
Portugal
#10
Well proteins do go a long way to promoting musculature and long term strength. Also the lack of a meat diet may have been to keep costs low. But one can get plenty of Carbs from a vegetarian diet as well
That seems to be the case regarding the Spartans though many Greek philosophers were genuinely averse to meat.