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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Deipnosophistae


published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. I) Athenaeus

 p. vii  Introduction

Ἀρχὴ καὶ ῥίζα παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ ἡ τῆς γαστρὸς ἡδονή.

We may live without poetry, music, and art;

We may live without conscience and live without heart;

We may live without friends; we may live without books;

But civilized man cannot live without cooks.

The Greek world from Lydia to Sicily early discovered the amenities of skilful cookery. Even the Athenians, who were noted from their simplicity of life, adopted a more refined cookery in the period of prosperity which followed the Persian wars. In Sicily, especially, the culinary art had been raised almost to the dignity of a science early in the fifth century before Christ; and just as Delmonico, coming to the United States three generations ago, taught the simple New Yorker how and what to eat, so the Sicilian cooks, by text-book or travel, raised the standard of eating throughout the Greek beau monde. Their prominence in the community is attested by the conspicuous rôle they played in comedy. They appear among the earliest stock characters in European drama. They made gastronomy a fine art, and though they understood little of physiology, they aimed to construct a philosophie  p. viii du goût, in much the sense in which, centuries later, the French gastronomist Brillat-Savarin laid down rules which prescribed "how to dine, theoretically, philosophically, and historically considered."

The publishing of cookery-books for the instruction both of philosopher and gourmet began in the fifth century. One of the earliest was the work, in hexameter verse, of the Syracusan or Geloan Archestratus (Athen. I.4E), which seems to have been republished under various titles, Gastronomy, High Living, Dinner Lore (Deipnology), and Dainty Dishes (Opsopoeia). His authority was so commanding that he became known as "the Hesiod or Theognis of epicures" (Athen. VII.310A).

In much later times, but still prior to Athenaeus, arose two culinary experts named Apicius, one in Tiberius's reign, the other in Trajan's. Their fame survived in the Middle Ages in a favourite work called De re coquinaria, in ten books, a curious parody of which appeared in Philadelphia in 1829, entitled Apician Morsels, by "Hamelbergius Secundus."

Athenaeus, whose Deipnosophistae, or The Sophists at Dinner, is the oldest cookery-book that has come down to us, was a native of Naucratis in Egypt. He lives in Rome at the end of the second and the beginning of the third century after Christ. We know nothing more of his life and activities than his own work reveals. If the Ulpian of his dialogue is really modelled on the celebrated Ulpian of Tyre, the able jurist, who, as praetorian prefect, undertook to carry out the reforms of Alexander Severus and was murdered in the Emperor's presence by the mutinous guard in A.D. 228, the completion of the Deipnosophistae  p. ix may be dated not long after 228.​1 Athenaeus mentions (XV.686C) the death of his friend, but disguises the tragic circumstances attending it. The Emperor Commodus is mentioned as a contemporary in Book XII (537F). In the course of the present work Athenaeus declares that he is the author of two others — a history of the Kings of Syria (V.211A) and a monograph on a passage in The Fishes, a comedy by Archippus (VII.329C). These are no longer extant.

It would be hard to find a Greek work more diffuse in style or more heterogeneous in subject than The Sophists at Dinner. Professor Gildersleeve's witty rendering of the title as The Gastronomers sufficiently hints at the windy discourses of the worthies here introduced. The reader learns perhaps all there was to learn about cooks — Greek, Persian, Sicilian, Roman, and others; about curious dishes (though recipes are rarely given), elaborate and costly banquets, with the dances and other entertainments which are the "ornaments of the feast"; about music and musical instruments, furniture of the dining-room, menu-cards (not mentioned in any English cookery-book before the eighteenth century), wines, choice and otherwise, medical regimen, cultivated fruits home-grown and exotic, gluttony and abstention, luxury and frugality, wit and pedantry, and a thousand other matters presented in bewildering array. Only politics is touched on lightly,  p. x generally by way of historical reminiscence, although the ethnological and consequently political implications of food and other things are sometimes recognized:

Classed your kickshaws and razors

with Popery and wooden shoes.

The Pax Romana still prevailed, and Athenaeus' friends were conformists in political matters.

Greek conviviality was not incompatible with more or less sober discussions, and to make a banquet the scene and setting of philosophical discourse seemed natural. Plato's Symposium, Xenophon's Symposium, Plutarch's Symposiaca, Lucian's Symposium, and a host of later works, like Coleridge's Table Talk and Holmes's Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, testify to the popularity in ancient times and the acceptability in modern times of this literary form. A symposium is properly the drinking (potos) which follows a grand dinner (deipnon), and is the only part of the feast which Plato and Xenophon consider. But Athenaeus runs the two together, and frequently reverts to the deipnon in order to find occasion for discussing food as well as drink. The result is a work too long to be confined within the frame he has chosen. His powers are too slender to imitate the picturesque realism of Xenophon or the dramatic vividness of Plato. Even Plutarch's method is better; for his Συμποσιακὰ προβλήματα (Quaestiones conviviales) is a collection of discussions which occurred at several banquets in different places. Athenaeus, however, tries at first to make it appear that his guests assembled for a single occasion. At the end of ten books this fiction breaks down, and a  p. xi second assembly is indicated at the beginning of Book XI. This second day extends to the end of Book XIV, when a third day begins, described in the last book. Again, at one point during the dinner (IX.372B) cucumbers are introduced, and the guests wonder how they can be served fresh in January. Yet the banquet is said (VIII.361F) to have occurred on the holiday of the Parilia, which was an April feast, while, in still another passage, it is placed in the dog-days (III.99E). These contradictions can be explained either by assuming that the work once existed in a wholly different form,​2 and that the excerptor in making the selections now extant threw them together in a new order, with many omissions; or that the author himself became overwhelmed with the miscellaneous material which he had to present, and found the banquet theme all too thin to sustain the heavy weight he had laid upon it. And so, although he begins by imitating Plato's Phaedo, and would have us believe that his interlocutor Timocrates is a replica of Plato's friend Echecrates, he often forgets his framework, and abandoning the dinner and guests, presents his material — a bit of history or an anecdote, an extract from a medical dietary, or pages from a lexicon — without further reference to the personal environment. The scene of the banquet is laid in Rome.

And yet the persons who attend the banquet are not all of them characterless, despite the fact that in describing them Athenaeus follows a practice very common in his time. This was to take a well-known historical personage and attribute to him different  p. xii traits from those he was known to possess. In this use of biography lies an important contrast between the age of Plato and the age of Lucian. Plato can be charmingly realistic in the Symposium; or again, in the Republic, he can disguise his characters, especially when they are his opponents, in a delicate and courteous impersonality. But Athenaeus, child of the later sophistry, commands no such resources of art. Almost all his guests bear real names or hint at real persons, but, with a few exceptions to be noted, lacking the touch of Socratic humour or banter, they give merely an impression of uniform pedantry, and become as "indistinct as water is in water." The exceptions are five in number:

The host, called Larensios, is really P. Livius Larensis,​3 pontifex minor. The description of him as a man versed in religious and sacerdotal lore corresponds with his actual profession. From him come the few quotations of Roman writers contained in the work.

The physician — following Plato's example, it was customary to introduce a physician — is the celebrated Galen of Pergamum. It is curious that no quotation from his many writings occurs.

The chief speaker is Ulpian of Tyre, whose last words in Book XV (686C) "presaged the long silence" of his death in 228. The real Ulpian was a jurist and politician. Out of compliment, perhaps, to his eminent position in Rome, he is represented as the  p. xiii toastmaster (symposiarch), and occupies a couch alone. It suits Athenaeus, however, to portray him as a grammarian and sophist, a strict Atticist and purist. His assassination is passed over in silence; the violent death of a politician did not comport well with the peaceful death of a plodding scholar.​4 In one passage (XIV.648C), to be sure, Ulpian addresses a violent tirade against grammarians as a class, but I cannot see that this is out of character. When have philologists ever failed to chastise their fellows?

The Cynic Cynulcus embodies the reaction against the extravagances of the Atticistic revival, and as the chief opponent of Ulpian gives expression to the only kind of humour of which the author is capable, a bitter mockery and a crude irony. Cynulcus affects to despise the encyclopaedic learning of men like Polemon, and yet his quotations from a vast number of writers show him to be as widely read as any of the professional grammarians.

The Thessalian Myrtilus is merely a doublet of Cynulcus, distinguishing himself by fierce attacks on all philosophers, especially the Stoics. His lowly origin — he was son of a shoemaker — accords with his cynical professions.​5 His appearance beside the more prominent Cynulcus enhances the satirical and Menippean colour of Athenaeus's work. It is well known that the Menippean satire was a mélange of prose and poetry, in which, as Lucian shows, the Cynic played a large rôle; and in this respect, if in  p. xiv no other, it corresponds to what Athenaeus sets before us. There is no great inconsistency in making the Cynic lecture on the subject of luxury (XV.687A).

Other characters have been regarded as purely fictitious.​6 But Pontianus of Nicomedia is a name which occurs on an inscription.​7 The Plutarch of Athenaeus hails from Alexandria; he is a grammarian, not a philosopher. The name is of frequent occurrence, and we are not obliged to connect or compare the Alexandrian with the great Plutarch of Chaeroneia. Athenaeus makes use of Plutarch's writings, as also of Lucian's, without naming either. Again, a Masurius Sabinus actually lived in the days of Tiberius; the Masurius of Athenaeus need not be the same, any more than his Democritus need be identified with the great atomist who lived six centuries earlier. Kaibel identified Philadelphus of Ptolemais with Ptolemy Philadelphus, and Aemilianus Maurus with Scipio Africanus Aemilianus, but without warrant. On the other hand, Daphnus of Ephesus and Rufinus of Nicaea may possibly stand together for Rufus of Ephesus, a physician who lived under Domitian and Trajan. But unless we assume that Athenaeus meant to assemble personages who lived in quite different ages at the banquet of Larensis, like a Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's court, or the characters in A Houseboat on the Styx,​8 we must think of his guests as contemporaries.

With all his defects of style, his prolixity, his repetitions, his artificiality and his facetiousness, his  p. xv tendency to digression without any of the arts of connexion which Herodotus, for example, has at his command, Athenaeus has contrived to pile up a work the loss of which would have wrought incalculable harm to our knowledge of Greek literature. In some respects it is the most important work of later antiquity. Without it we should have missed entire chapters of Hellenistic life and history. Without it, too, our knowledge of the Middle and New Comedy would have been limited to the baldest notices scattered throughout scholia and lexicographers — a poor substitute for the lengthy and diverse quotations which now, with Athenaeus's help, enrich the volumes of Meineke and Kock. His interest in the comedians, to be sure, is inspired by eagerness to trace lexical curiosities rather than by sympathy with the comic spirit. He cites the most amusing passages without any indication that his own risibilities were stirred. He quotes (II.37B) what is perhaps the funniest story of a drunken revel in ancient literature without any other hint that he appreciated its humour than the fact that he quotes it. And yet he is genuinely interested in the life and thought of the Greeks in the great classical period and in the later Roman times, and gives invaluable testimony to the nature of the changes which affected life in those two periods. Though his contributions to lexicography are numerous and invaluable, and he is himself a part of the great tradition of lexical erudition from Aristarchus to Suidas,​9 he is more than a mere grammarian. He  p. xvi often directs his ridicule against the little linguists of his day, and though artificial himself, he wisely deprecates the Atticistic revival. He satirizes somewhat heavily the philosopher Epicurus. He ventures even to attack the zoological researches of Aristotle and the historical trustworthiness of Plato. His industry is that of a trained antiquarian, who, as is now generally agreed, read his authors independently and made his own citations, a practice which does not exclude the use of other excerptors who preceded him. He is a polyhistor who appropriated from the past everything that his eager eye caught. His communicativeness covers a multitude of stylistic sins.

The intimate relation between civilization and cookery, as recognized by Athenaeus, has been maintained in a long tradition which, consciously or unconsciously, goes back to him. In that ancient, man-made world, the authors of treatises on cookery were male. We remember that even Lord Bacon did not disdain to study the problems of the kitchen, and that David Hume promised to spend the rest of his life, after leaving office, on the science of cooking. The touch of a woman's hand, applied, to be sure, not to cooking but to the publication of a work on it, may be seen in Queen Elizabeth's Achademy, by Sir Humphrey Gilbert; and in Elizabeth's day there appeared A Proper newe booke on cokerye, which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, was glad to own. From that time on women have usurped the field, and especially since the publication of The Accomplished Lady's Delight, in London, 1706, a host of cookery-books have been written by women for women. Latterly there has been a slight swing back toward men as authors of such books,  p. xvii observable in a work by Geffroy and Richardin on the favourite dishes of celebrated French authors; another is called Celebrated Actor Folks' Cookeries, and still more recently The Stag Cook Book, by C. Mac Sheridan, which the author describes himself in a kaleidoscopic picture touched by metaphor not unworthy of Athenaeus: "sauces from the South, chowders from New England, barbecued masterpieces from the West, grilled classics from field and stream, ragouts, stews, desserts, dressings, are hung within the reach of all, like garlic clusters from the rafters of opportunity."

Although the work as it now appears in the oldest manuscript is divided into fifteen books, and was known in this form to Stephanus of Byzantium, Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, and Suidas, there are many indications that it was originally of much greater extent. The first two books and the beginning of the third have been reduced to a collection of excerpts, often quite disjointed, by an epitomizer who compiled them some centuries earlier than the date of the St. Mark codex. This is a parchment manuscript (A), one of the prodigious number — 238 in all — brought by Aurispa in 1423 from Constantinople to Venice. It was written probably in the tenth century, in an excellent script, but it had been mutilated before it came into Aurispa's possession. It lacks Books I, II, and the portion of III extending to page 74. Two gaps occur in Book XI, and the end of Book XV, the last, is wanting. These losses are partially supplied by several manuscripts which preserve the epitome. The best of these are a codex  p. xviii not older than 1350, Paris (C), and a manuscript (E) in Florence. A copy of A, now lost, was made in the middle of the fifteenth century and was used by Musurus as the basis of the Aldine edition of 1514. Among the manuscripts descended from this copy are a Laurentian (B) of the fifteenth century, and a Palatine (P), written in 1505 and 1506 under the supervision of Musurus, who was then professor at the University of Padua. The present text is based, in the main, on that of Kaibel, but departs from it in many passages in which it appears that Kaibel's emendations are too bold or unnecessary.

 p. xix  Selected Bibliography


Marcus Musurus, Athenaei Deipnosophistarum libri XV. Aldus. Venice, 1514. Editio princeps.

Jacobus Bedrotus. Basle, 1535.

Conti (Natalis de Comitibus), Latin translation, Venice, 1556. According to Vicaire (Bibliographie gastronomique) this work was issued the same year at Lyons, but he notes that it is not listed in de Bure or in Brunet.

Isaac Casaubon, Greek and Latin text, Heidelberg, 1597. Latin notes by Dalechamp. Casaubon's Animadversiones, though announced on the title-page, were not published until 1600, by de Harsy, at Lyons. They are commonly regarded as forming vol. II of this edition.

Isaac Casaubon, Greek and Latin text, Heidelberg, 1611. Identical with the foregoing, but without the Animadversiones. Other editions: Lyons, Harsy, 1612, and Lyons, Huguetan, 1657 and 1664. The last contains the Animadversiones.

G. H. Schaefer, Greek and French. Leipzig, 1796. Partes I‑III. Only the first volume of each part was published. The French translation is by Lefebvre de Villebrune. This was first published in sumptuous folios, 1789‑1791.

Johannes Schweighäuser, Greek and Latin text, with commentary. Strassburg, 1801‑1807.

 p. xx  Wilhelm Dindorf, Greek text. Leipzig, Weidmann, 1827.

August Meineke, Greek text. Leipzig, Teubner, 1858‑1867.

Georg Kaibel, Greek text. Leipzig, Teubner, 1887 (vols. I, II), 1890 (vol. III).


The first French version, according to Vicaire, was by de Marolles, 1680, after the Latin versions of Natalis Comes and J. Dalechamp.

Villebrun, Paris, 1789, 5 vols. folio.

Vicaire also mentions Morceaux extraits du banquet des savans d'Athènes, by M. Hubert. Paris, 1828. The Bohn translation, by C. D. Yonge, was published 1854. There is a German translation of Book V, 1‑45, by Thomas Kramer, 1872.


W. Franzmeyer, Kallixenos' Bericht über das Prachtzelt und den Festzug Ptolemaeus II (Athen. V pp196‑203). Strassburg, 1904.

F. Hackmann, De Athenaeo Naucratita quaestiones selectae. Berlin, 1912.

F. C. W. Jacobs, Additamentum animadversionum in Athenaei Deipnosophistas. Jena, 1809.

G. Kaibel, De Athenaei epitome. Rostock, 1883.

A. Ludwich, Conjectanea in Athenaeum, Königsberg, 1901‑02.

Karl Mengis, Die schriftstellerische Technik im Sophistenmahl des Athenaios. Paderborn, 1920.

J. Meyer, Emendationes et observationes in Athenaei novissimam editionem. Regensburg, 1897.

 p. xxi  Abbreviations


Menander, in Loeb Classical Library.


= Aristophanes.


= Aristotle.


= Athenaeus.


Parodorum Epicorum Graecorum reliquiae, ed. P. Brandt, 1888.


Anthologia Lyrica, ed. E. Diehl, 1922‑24.


Poetarum Philosophorum Fragmenta, ed. Hermann Diels, 1901.

F. H. G.

Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. C. Müller.

Frag. ep.

Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. G. Kinkel.


Theophrastus, in Loeb Classical Library.


Inscriptiones Graecae.


Comicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. G. Kaibel for Epicharmus, Sophron, Sopater).


Comicorum Atticorum Fragmenta, ed. Th. Kock.

P. L. G.4

= Bergk, Poetae Lyrici Graeci, 4th edition.

P. L. G.5

= 5th edition of the preceding work, Vol. I (Pindar), by Schroeder, 1900, reprinted with a new appendix (P. L. G.6), 1923. Vols. II and III reprinted with indices by Rubenbauer, 1914.


Collectanea Alexandrina, ed. J. U. Powell, Oxford, 1925.


Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. A. Nauck, 2nd edition.

The references are to pages, unless otherwise indicated.

In the case of an ancient author whose work is known only through quotations, a proper name following a reference indicates the modern editor or compiler of the quoted fragments. Thus, "Frag. 200 Rose" means the edition of Aristotle's Fragmenta by Valentin Rose; "Frag. 72 Gaede," Gaede's edition of the Fragmenta of Demetrius of Scepsis, etc.

 p. xxii  Persons of the Dialogue

Aemilianus Maurus, grammarian.

Alceides of Alexandria, musician.

Amoebeus, harp-player and singer.

Arrian, grammarian.

Athenaeus of Naucratis, the author.

Cynulcus, nickname of a Cynic philosopher, Theodorus.

Daphnus of Ephesus, physician.

Democritus of Nicomedia, philosopher.

Dionysocles, physician.

Galen of Pergamum, physician.

Larensis (P. Livius Larensis), Roman official, pontifex minor, procurator patrimonii.

Leonidas of Elis, grammarian.

Magnus, probably a Roman.

Masurius, jurist, poet, musician.

Myrtilus of Thessaly, grammarian.

Palamedes the Eleatic, lexicographer.

Philadelphus Ptolemaeensis, philosopher.

Plutarch of Alexandria, grammarian.

Pontianus of Nicomedia, philosopher.

Rufinus of Nicaea, physician.

Timocrates, to whom Athenaeus relates the story of the banquet.

Ulpian of Tyre, Roman jurist and official.

Varus, grammarian.

Zoïlus, grammarian.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The identification of the jurist with the Sophist, first made by Schweighäuser (I p19), has been much debated. It is accepted by Kaibel, the latest editor, and Wentzel (in Pauly-Wissowa), the latest biographer, of Athenaeus. See Karl Mengis, Die schriftstellerische Technik im Sophistenmahl des Athenaios, pp31‑36.

2 See Ullrich, Entstehung und Entwickelung der Litteraturgattung des Symposium, Würzburg, 1908.

3 Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, VI.2126; see Dessau in Hermes XXV (1890), 156 ff. The inscription containing his name occurs on a marble altar erected in his honour by his wife, Cornelia Quinta, who describes him as a maritus incomparabilis.

4 Cf. Kaibel, Praefatio (I p. vii): "gladio enim peti poterat imperatoris consiliarius, non poterat grammaticus."

5 The shoemaker was a favourite character in writings dealing with the Cynics. See R. Helm, Lucian und Menipp, Leipzig, 1906.

6 Kaibel, Praefatio I p. vi.

7 IG II.3265, in the British Museum.

8 For this process, to be sure, he had the example of Socrates in the Apology, and Lucian in Dialogues of the Dead.

9 See F. Rudolph, Philologus, Suppl. VI (1891), 111 ff. R. Reitzenstein, Geschichte der Etymologie. The lists of plays of the comic poets given by Suidas are taken from Athenaeus.

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