Millet in ancient and Byzantine cuisine


The present article deals with some culinary applications of millet in Antiquity and Byzantine period, as demonstrated in select Greek and Roman literary sources (Athenaeus of Naucratis, Pedanius Dioscurides, Galen, Oribasius, Aetius of Amida, Alexander of Tralles, Symeon Seth, Geoponica, Byzantine lexi­ca, Cato, Columella, Antimus and Apicius). The authors of the article start their analysis with presenting two kinds of millet, which ancient and Byzantine people were familiar with, namely Latin – milium, i.e. broomcorn millet, Latin – panicum, i.e. foxtail millet. Subsequently, they demonstrate suitability of the cereals for bread baking. As result, they prove that millet bread was fairly popular and appreciated, even though Greek dietitians promoted the doctrine that millet was suitable for the purpose of bread production only in the time of scarcity of other, better quality grains. Accordingly, they specify various kinds of bread and describe diverse sorts of ov­ens (furnus, furniculus) it was baked in. The authors also write about one of the ancient desserts, occasionally made of millet flour, namely about libum. Then, the authors of the article discuss Roman puls, which were two kinds of foods eaten (instead of bread) by a considerable fraction of an­cient and Byzantine society and which could also be prepared from the analyzed cereal. The discussion is exemplified with some extant recipes. Ultimately, the authors of the study refer to the evidence left by medical writers (Galen, Oribasius, Aetius of Amida, Alexander of Tralles), as they discuss soups/ gruels and beverages prepared from millet, which were said to possess some medical values (and, as the sources re­veal, were profited from mostly to cure alimentary tract disorders).


ancient and Byzantine gastronomy; ancient and Byzantine medicine; cereals in Antiquity and Byzantium; broomcorn and foxtail millet as food in Antiquity and Byzantium

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Published : 2013-01-25

Rzeźnicka, Z., & Kokoszko, M. (2013). Millet in ancient and Byzantine cuisine. Vox Patrum, 59, 401-419.

Zofia Rzeźnicka 
Uniwersytet Łódzki  Poland
Maciej Kokoszko 
Uniwersytet Łódzki  Poland

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