Freshman Seminar - Food and Religion in Ancient Greece
Days and Time: 
M 4-4:59P
Mark Griffith
Course Description: 

In this course we will look at ancient Greek eating habits, sacrificial customs, and dietary restrictions in relation to their religious and philosophical beliefs. Which animals were killed and eaten, which not--and which kinds or parts of animals were especially significant for religious purposes? What vegetables and fruits were sacred or specially valued? How were foods to be cooked, for religious or non-religious purposes? Which foods were forbidden? Why? What was the relationship between medicine and religion in the realm of diet and food-preparation? What kinds of mythical stories were told to "explain" the origins of Greek eating habits and sacrificial practices? How healthy and sustainable was the classical Greek diet?  And why did certain religious/philosophical sects advocate vegetarianism?

We will read short excerpts from major Greek authors (all in English translation), including Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Hippocrates, Plato, Plutarch, Porphyry; and we'll consider too some visual material (vase paintings, archaeological remains, etc.). We'll also look at other ancient Near Eastern material for comparison, as well as the eating habits and foodways of some modern societies. 

Most of these texts will be available online in bCourses.  A few secondary works by modern scholars will also be available (optional, not required), i.e. chapters and articles about ancient food and/or ancient religion, as well as brief discussions and theories of the social meanings of food in different societies.

There is no midterm or final exam.  Students will be required to present two short “responses” (mini-papers, 1-2 pages each; or possibly some other appropriate format) about some of the ancient Greek views or behaviors that we examine.  They will also be expected to join in the discussions in class, and to contribute in some way to the final FEAST.