This book looks at the way in which food was employed in Greek and Roman literature to impart identity, whether social, individual, religious or ethnic. In many instances these markers are laid down in the way that foods were restricted, in other words by looking at the negatives instead of the positives of what was consumed. Michael Beer looks at several aspects of food restriction in antiquity, for example, the way in which they eschewed excess and glorified the simple diet; the way in which Jewish dietary restriction identified that nation under the Empire; the way in which Pythagoreans denied themselves meat (and beans); and the way in which the poor were restricted by economic reality from enjoying the full range of foods. These topics allow him to look at important aspects of Graeco-Roman social attitudes. For example, republic virtue, imperial laxity, Homeric and Spartan military valour, social control through sumptuary laws, and answers to excessive drinking. He also looks closely at the inherent divide of the Roman world between the twin centres of Greece and Rome and how it is expressed in food and its consumption.
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