According to Aristotle, the world was based on five building elements, earth, fire, water, air and ether. So, let’s see how it begins (not only the world… but also the Ancient Greek cuisine)

Ancient Greek cuisine was characterized by its frugality for most, reflecting agricultural hardship, but a great diversity of ingredients was known, and wealthy Greeks were known to celebrate with elaborate meals and feasts. The cuisine was founded on the “Mediterranean triad” of cereals, olives, and grapes, which had many uses and great commercial value, but other ingredients were as important, if not more so, to the average diet: most notably legumes. Research suggests that the agricultural system of Ancient Greece could not have succeeded without the cultivation of legumes.

Eating Like an Ancient Greek… At home

The Greeks had three to four meals a day. Breakfast consisted of barley bread dipped in wine, sometimes complemented by figs or olives. They also ate pancakes called teganites. Tagenites were made with wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk, and were served for breakfast.

A quick lunch was taken around noon or early afternoon. Dinner, the most important meal of the day, was generally taken at nightfall. An additional light meal was sometimes taken in the late afternoon. Literally “lunch-dinner”, was served in the late afternoon instead of dinner.

Men and women took their meals separately. When the house was too small, the men ate first, the women afterwards. Slaves waited at dinners. Aristotle notes that “the poor, having no slaves, would ask their wives or children to serve food.” Respect for the father who was the breadwinner was obvious.

Social dining

As with modern dinner parties, the host could simply invite friends or family; but two other forms of social dining were well documented in ancient Greece: the entertainment of the all-male symposium, and the obligatory, regimental syssitia.


The symposium, traditionally translated as “banquet”, but more literally “gathering of drinkers”, was one of the preferred pastimes for Greek men. It consisted of two parts: the first dedicated to food, generally rather simple, and a second part dedicated to drinking. However, wine was consumed with the food, and the beverages were accompanied by snacks such as chestnuts, beans, toasted wheat, or honey cakes, all intended to absorb alcohol and extend the drinking spree.

The second part was inaugurated with a libation, most often in honor of Dionysus, followed by conversation or table games, such as kottabos. The guests would recline on couches; low tables held the food or game boards. Dancers, acrobats, and musicians would entertain the wealthy banqueters. A “king of the banquet” was drawn by lots; he had the task of directing the slaves as to how strong to mix the wine.

Apart from courtesans, the banquet was strictly reserved for men. It was an essential element of Greek social life. Great feasts could only be afforded by the rich; in most Greek homes, religious feasts or family events were the occasion of more modest banquets.


The syssitia were mandatory meals shared by social or religious groups for men and youths, especially in Crete and Sparta. They were referred to variously as hetairia, pheiditia, or andreia (literally, “belonging to men”). They served as both a kind of aristocratic club and as a military mess. Like the symposium, the syssitia was the exclusive domain of men — although some references have been found to substantiate all-female syssitia. Unlike the symposium, these meals were hallmarked by simplicity and temperance.