The first references to the dietary habits of Ancient Greece are traced to the texts of classic tragedians and comedy writers; information on the subject is more richly provided in sources pertaining to the Hellenistic Age, the Roman Era and the Byzantine Period. The number of books and studies written in the course of these historic periods, especially on Greek gastronomy, is truly noteworthy. Taking into account the individual references in related works, the amount of avialable information becomes staggeringly large. Suffice it to say that The Deipnosophists, a literary work produced by Athenaeus in the 2nd century AD numbering 30 books, of which 15 have survived into the present, constitutes a mass of references to ancient texts on Greek cookery produced by writers who had lived many centuries before Athenaeus’s time. At this point, a couple of interpolations need to be made for the sake of precenting any misconception of the expression “staggeringly large” stated above.
First, the number of extant texts of the pre-Byzantine period is very limited. Today we know the names of many prolific autors and quite frequently, the titles of books with which they are credited. Yet, the contents of these works give us only the information that happened to be recorded by writers and critics of later leriods, such as Athenaeus. The 300 verses of Athenaeus preserved a poetic style from the 4th century BC Other data attributed to this period are fragmentary and the limited number of extantreferences indicate a great bulk of information that did not survive.
Second, it is rarely possible to reconstruct a recipe based solely on the above available information. The ancient Greek cuisine was handed down to us with little specific information. Apparently, the need to make mention of quantities was never felt in the ancient world. For strictly conservative persons, such absence of methodology and quantification is a great pity. On the contrary, more liberal spirits and creative gastronomies view it as a challenge, an opportunity to practice their skills. Certainly, with dishes calling for more thatn 10 and occasionally 20 ingridients, the re-creation of ancient cuisine can turn into a costly and unending exercise.