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Multidisciplinary approaches to food and foodways in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean

Sylvie Yona Waksman

Concluding remarks

Multidisciplinary approaches to food and foodways in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean

Concluding remarks to the POMEDOR symposium

Johannes Koder

Texte intégral

1The reconstruction of everyday life in the past, particularly in the field of the history of medieval nutrition, depends upon the nature of the respective landscapes and the changes that occur in them (physical conditions, geology, climate) and on three groups of sources: written evidence, archaeological remains and pictorial representations.

  • 1 See also Patriarch Nikolaos Grammatikos’ poem on Lenten fare: Koder 1970.
  • 2 At least 160 days: September 14th, six weeks before Christmas, seven weeks before Easter, at least (...)
  • 3 English transl. 2005.

2The number of Byzantine narrative sources and documents available will probably not increase significantly in the future. Moreover, they offer often only fragmentary and isolated information. Many narrative texts focus on Constantinople, and their authors had limited knowledge about life in the provinces far from the capital; the exceptions are hagiographical texts that describe the lives of local saints. With the exception of monastic archives and the Registrum Patriarchatus Constantinopolitani, most of the deeds and documents are lost. Texts such as the Geoponika and the Nomos Georgikos (Koder 2021) provide useful information on agriculture and animal breeding and conditions for food production. Also helpful are certain canons of the Orthodox church and especially the Lenten rules (Herbut 1966),1 as Lenten periods added up to nearly half the year.2 Monastic typika provide clues to the actual food eaten, as the monastic diet did not differ much from the basic food of the common people. Byzantine cookbooks are not preserved and recipies or clues as to how meals were prepared are rare (one example is a letter from Eustathios of Thessaloniki: Anagnostakis, in this volume), even in medical treatises. Contemporary sources in other languages can fill the gaps, such as Italian documents of the 13th-15th centuries (Balard, in this volume). We also have recipe collections from medieval Baghdad and from early Ottoman Constantinople (Zaouali 2009; Yerasimos 20023), although these do not reflect the everyday meals of ordinary people, but rather upper-class cuisine in these two capitals.

3Besides the written sources, archaeological evidence provides important information. The archaeological evidence is not only growing, but formerly neglected categories of remains such as the contents of (kitchen) refuse pits are now taken much more into consideration; also, diversification in methodology (in particular, the refinement of methods of classifying and dating pottery, the analysis and interpretation of organic material) provides more reliable information.

4The Byzantine and post-Byzantine pictorial representations of scenes related to nutrition, food and food implements in wall paintings, icons and illuminated manuscripts are mostly found in depictions of a few biblical scenes such as Abraham and the Three Visitors in the Old Testament (Genesis 18.1‑8), or the Marriage at Cana (John 2.1‑11) and the Last Supper (Matthew 26.17‑29, Marc 14.12‑25, Luke 22.7‑38, John 13‑17) in the New Testament. However, they often reproduce the realities of everyday life in the Middle Ages not directly, but through an imagined biblical world.

5The project “POMEDOR – People, pottery and food in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean” focuses on the increasing importance of the archaeological material and of methodological developments in the analysis of finds (Waksman, Introduction, in this volume). The scholars involved in the project directed their interdisciplinary research to a large extent towards the analysis of pottery in relation to basic foodstuffs and the development of food habits among the different ethnic groups in the former Roman and the Byzantine ecumene. Chronologically their research extends from the Late Antique (Roman and Oriental) period to the centuries of early modern times, particularly for the Ottoman realm (Yenişehirlioğlu, in this volume; Burlot et al., in this volume), with a focus on the Middle Ages.

6Some thirty papers were presented at the POMEDOR conference. Most of them are published in this volume and offer a convincing documentation of the significant progress and refinements that have been achieved in the various fields of research. Many papers rely directly on the results of surveys and excavations, mainly in relation to the islands, coastlands and hinterlands of the eastern Mediterranean basin, but also in southeastern Europe, the Black Sea regions and Constantinople, comparing the archaeological results with information from written sources (when they exist). These contributions presented at the conference mainly concern four central topics: archaeological remains – production and consumption of food – provisions, transportation and trade – social strata of the consumers and their behaviour patterns. These four categories, significant and instructive in themselves, also provide even more important results through their combination. At the same time, the results produce new questions and demonstrate in many cases the evident lack of information that might be expected from the written documents.

7Concerning the relation between written sources and archeological evidence, a certain aspect deserves in my opinion particular attention, namely the question of which Byzantine terms correspond to which Byzantine vessel types. The answers may often be difficult or even impossible to obtain, but cooperation between specialists of Late Antique and Byzantine pottery and lexicographers of medieval Greek could produce some results. To stimulate this approach, included here at the end of these conclusions is a list of terms (see “Appendix”).

8An important starting point for any approach to the history of food consumption is the consumer, the human being in his relation towards the environment (Sinakos 2003, pp. 45‑112, with bibliography). Thus it is not only the study of the archaeological remains of fauna and flora that matters, but of equal importance are the physical remains of human individuals. The progress in bioarchaeology offers “insights into lifestyle, demography, health and disease patterns (palaeopathology), as well as diet” (Bourbou, in this volume). The combination of the analyses of human skeletal remains in burial grounds and of kitchen waste pits enables chronological, regional and social differentiation in the study of human nutrition. For example, the poor condition of teeth from the skeletons, even those of younger persons, may suggest a certain preference for soups, mash and vegetable dishes.

9In the pre-industrial periods of history the primary staples of animal and plant foods relied, wherever possible, on local production, because transportation by land was time-consuming, whereas the more efficient transportation of goods by sea was advantageous to settlements in or near harbours. In fact, the archaeobotanical finds (Reuter, in this volume) and the written sources (Coureas, in this volume) provide evidence for the use of local products on certain sites, although non-perishable basic foodstuffs could be transported over long distances: many types of cereals (wheat, barley, oats), pulses (broad beans, vetches, lentils), dried fruits, nuts and spices, and of course wine, olives and olive oil. In contrast, fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs would have been mainly obtained locally. Even the vegetables for Constantinople were probably mostly produced within the walls and in the immediate surroundings (within walking distance) of the capital (Koder 1993; 1995).

  • 4 Goats were also common, not only for being frugal, but also because they accept saline and sea wat (...)
  • 5 BE, chap. 16.4 (Περὶ τῶν χοιρεμπόρων) indicates that it is forbidden to hide pigs in the house of (...)

10Concerning the animals consumed (Kroll 2010; Baron 2016, with bibliography) the excavations of the Theodosius harbour (Onar, in this volume) provide evidence for the predominant consumption of sheep and goats4 in Constantinople, a result that is corroborated by the Middle Byzantine Book of the Eparch (BE), which deals with the marketing and processing of sheep, pigs and fish, whereas cattle (Koder 2011) and bird species are not mentioned. BE, chap. 15, On butchers, clearly indicates that herds of sheep (and goats?) were driven from central and western Asia Minor to Nikomedia, from which they were obviously shipped to Constantinople (BE, chap. 15.3 [Περὶ τῶν μακελαρίων]; Boak 1929, pp. 597‑619; Freshfield 1938). Pork was important – pigs were probably not only imported, but also fed within the capital; their sale was assigned to another guild (BE, chap. 16, On pig sellers).5 That pork served in many parts of the Byzantine realm as a primary source of animal protein, whereas cattle and water buffalos were primarily used as beasts of burden or plough animals, is corroborated by written sources and the analysis of animal bones (Koder 2011). These consumption preferences are also reflected in the exports of chicken, sheep, goats and pigs (mainly salted bacon) from Cyprus (Coureas, in this volume) in the late Middle Ages (for pig-breeding the conditions of climate should be discussed).

  • 6 BE, chap. 17 (Περὶ τῶν ἰχθυοπρατῶν, On the fishmongers).
  • 7 See also BE, chap. 17.3, and Trapp 1966.

11Fish were most important, in particular during the Lenten periods. In Constantinople fresh fish were sold early in the morning, when the fishermen returned from the fishing waters near the capital, in the “Largest Halls” (Μεγίσται Καμάραι).6 Salted and sun-dried fish generally came from local producers, but in Constantinople large quantities were also imported from the coast of the Black Sea. Eustathios of Thessaloniki, for example, describes a luxurious wedding banquet (at midnight) without any meat, but with a great variety of excellent fresh and preserved fish and seafood (Eustathios, chap. 66) – the banquet was arranged (by the emperor Manuel I Komnenos) during Lent! The importance of fish is also confirmed for the late medieval period, especially in Cyprus, where fish farms are known to have existed in the salt lake of Limassol; fresh fish sold at the local markets of Nicosia and Famagousta, whereas salted fish were exported to many places in Europe (Trélat, in this volume). Centuries earlier, the organization of fish farms (epochai) was regulated by the emperor Leo VI (Novellae 57 and 102‑104)7 for the sea-shelf areas next to Constantinople. Fish are also present, although rare, in the archaeological evidence found in rural communities in southern Crimea, providing information on festive parish meals near churches (Teslenko, in this volume). The menu included wine, meat and seafood (sometimes also fish); the animal remains indicate a high consumption of sheep and goats, of pigs to a lesser extent, and exceptionally of oxen (the latter possibly to be associated with a sacrifice on the occasion of the consecration of a church).

  • 8 The Bulgarian Tsar Samuel laid siege to Larissa: “He made this for three years, so that they [the (...)

12The dietary errors catalogues (Caseau, in this volume) are significant for the study of Byzantine food consumption, indicative of its taboos but also to underline the distinction between the “own”, Romaic or Christian identity and the identities of the ethnic or religious “Others” (Jews, Muslims). Compared to the food customs of the “Others” these long lists of prohibited animals include the unclean meat of horses, bears, turtles, porcupines, dogs, many species of birds, and others. But it should be mentioned that in the case of famine, dead donkeys, dogs and even carcasses from rubbish heaps were eaten.8 Contradictory to the Old Testament, in Byzantine society it was permitted to eat pork and shellfish, but the Jewish practice of bleeding slaughtered animals was adhered to, unlike the “Latins”.

13The study of sweeteners is of particuler interest. It is well known that cane sugar was produced in the Near East at least since the Abbasid and Crusader periods and reached the core regions of the Byzantine state from the coastlands of the Levant, and Cyprus where production flourished during the Lusignan and Venetian periods (see also Jones 2017). From the meticulous evaluation of the material, which was found at five sugar production sites in the plain of Akko, northern Israel (Shapiro et al., in this volume), and at Khirbet Shaykh ‘Isa, Jordan (Jones & Grey, in this volume), details have been revealed not only concerning the production, but also the transportation and the storage of sugar, as a liquid in large molasses jars and sugar pots, and in solid form as loaves in molds. Jars and molds from the 11th-13th century have been analysed in detail by Shapiro, who proposes that the production of molds was concentrated along the seashore, and was relocated inland after the fall of Akko in 1291, remaining there until the early Ottoman period.

  • 9 “Table companion of pigs, eating carob pods [ὁμοδίαιτος, τῶν χοίρων, ἐσθίων κεράτια]”, Photios, Bi (...)
  • 10 “Carob pods were lying on the road, and he picked up some of them and ate them [κερατίων δὲ ὄντων (...)
  • 11 For example in Chios: “They collect in the island of Chios all necessary (foodstuffs): wheat, wine (...)

14Jones and Grey point out that “sugar was not part of a subsistence economy but rather a specialized product of what was, if not continuously, a lucrative industry”. They further argue that sugar was “presumably the standard sweetener”, when the sugar mills in Khirbet Shaykh ‘Isa operated, “while previously honey would have largely fulfilled that function”. This would depend on the population in question, and on which product was cheaper and more available in relation to the transportation distance. Furthermore, a preference for cane sugar, for honey or for (probably cheaper) carob pods (having a content of approximately up to 50% sugar) may have been a matter of individual taste as well as dependent on the recipes used. Thus it is not surprising that in Cyprus these three sweeteners were produced and exported at the same time (Coureas, in this volume). Some Byzantine written sources, in early literary tradition, mention the carob pod (keration, “carat”, or xyloglykon, “sweet wood”) as a common fodder for pigs and therefore contemptible,9 but it appears that carob pods were always eaten, at least by the poor.10 Carob was also produced in other regions of the Byzantine realm,11 but I have found until now no source of information describing the processing of the dried pods into powder, paste or syrup (Greek charouposiropi, arab kharubiye, turkish keçiboynuzu şurup), as is common today.

  • 12 ἀντὶ ξύλου τῷ ζαρζάκῳ χρώμεθα, ὅπερ ἐστὶν ἐπιμελείας ἀξιωθεῖσα κόπρος, πρᾶγμα καὶ ἀτιμότατον καὶ δ (...)

15Food was usually prepared on simple brick stoves or fireplaces, outside or (less often?) inside the houses. A well preserved portable clay hearth (73×20×29 cm) from the 3‑4th century was found in the west cemetery of Thessaloniki (Papanikola-Bakirtzi 2002, p. 548, no. 749). The tanur, the oven for baking bread, characteristic in the Levant and the Middle East (Yehuda, in this volume), is to my knowledge not recorded for Asia Minor during the Byzantine period. Dung and remains of olive oil production were used as fuel, often caused by the serious shortages of firewood in many regions of the Byzantine realm: Leo, the metropolitan of Synada in Phrygia (died after 998), complains in a letter to the emperor Basil II about the actual situation in his province: “Instead of wood we use zarzakon, this is processed dung, a most dishonourable and bad smelling thing”.12

  • 13 References for the mentioned terms in Trapp (1994-2017).
  • 14 τὴν χύτραν τῆς φούσκας τῆς ζεστῆς (“the jug of the hot phouska”), Leontios of Neapolis, p. 87; Kru (...)
  • 15 Matthew 11.19 and Luke 7.34 (oinoposia, methysma). See e.g. Damaskenos Studites, oratio 18, l. 118 (...)

16Food was not only prepared in private houses, but also in taverns13 (taberna, kapeleion), which were to be found in towns of every size, but also at places of pilgrimage and along highways. Some taverns in towns offered mainly wine (hence akratopolion or katharopotion, “shop of unmixed / pure wine”). The wine, sometimes called phouska (from the latin posca, pusca), was often served warm or hot and brought to the guests in a chytra (jug).14 Examples for such wine pubs are three taverns of the Early Byzantine period (in function until the early 7th century), which were excavated at Ephesos along Kouretes street; they were equipped with stone-built benches, tables and wall shelves (Ladstätter et al. 2015). It was frowned upon to drink wine pure or consume it in great quantities,15 although this occurred often enough, sometimes accompanied by obscene dances (Koder 2013). Usually wine was mixed with water; for example, the holy fool Symeon earned his livelihood for some time in a kapeleion (tavern) in Emesa (Homs, Syria) as thermodoton, by serving hot water to be mixed with the wine (θερμοδοτῶν ἐν καπηλείῳ ἐλάμβανεν τὴν τροφὴν αὐτοῦ) (Leontios of Neapolis, p. 81; Krueger 1996, p. 152; see also Kislinger 1986). We are not informed about an exact ratio of the mixture, but a ratio of one part wine to four parts water, which is mentioned for the famous (and strong) Cypriot Maroa wine (Coureas, in this volume), with its high portion of water, was probably an exception.

17The BE refers to tavern-keepers and regulation of opening hours in chap.19:

  • 16 BE, chap. 19.3 (Περὶ καπήλων): “Μὴ ἐξέστω τοῖς καπήλοις ἐν ταῖς μεγίσταις τῶν ἑορτῶν ἢ κυριακαῖς μ (...)

Tavernkeepers [kapeloi] are forbidden to open their shops and sell wine or cooked meals before the second hour of the day on the highest festive days or on Sundays. At night they shall close their shops and put out the fires under the water boilers when the second hour [of the night] arrives, in order to prevent the habitual daytime patrons, if they have the opportunity of returning at night, to become intoxicated from the wine and shamelessly engage in fights, deeds of violence and brawls.16

  • 17 Transl. Bradbrook 2005, pp. 243‑257.
  • 18 Evliyā Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, p. 142f. Evliyā also praises (p. 124f.) the strong reyhania (basil-win (...)

18Water was not only mixed with wine, but also with fennel or cumin seed or aniseed, and with vinegar, verjuice (the juice of unripe grapes: greek omphakion, latin defrutum, arab hisrim, turkish üzüm korouğu), fruit juices, syrups and a mixture of wine and honey (oinomeli). These eukrata (“well mixed drinks”) found a continuity in the şerbets of the Ottoman period (Yerasimos 2002):17 Evliya Çelebi mentions that, on the occasion of a feast in Ohrid, he was served 26 (!) different kinds of şerbets (Evliyā Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, p. 214f). He preferred a şerbet made from “pure white honey, with its aroma of musk and ambergris” produced in Avlona (southern Albania).18

  • 19 “Ἀμέλει καὶ τὸ τρύβλιον ἁρπαλέως περιχυθεὶς ταῖς χερσὶ τῆς πωλητρίας ὀχούμενον, ὅπερ ἔστεγεν ἔνδον (...)

19Most taverns offered not only wine and other drinks, but also simple meals (hence also kapelomageireion, “cookshop, snack bar”). A very common soup dish, for example, was called (like the vegetable pickles) halmaia. This halmaia consisted of cabbage or other green-leaved vegetables, oil and spices, and was offered in Constantinople’s taverns; it was a favourite dish of John, minister of finance to the emperor Manuel I Komnenos, who is reported to have taken the bowl of halmaia he had bought from an alewife in the street, “lowered his head with his mouth wide open, gulped down the juice in one draught, and gluttonously devoured the greens”.19

  • 20 But xenón normally was a hospital, often attached to a monastery.

20In the late medieval Kingdom of Cyprus taverns were called chanouti or kanouti (from the Syriac khanoûtâ, Arab ḥānūṭ). As in Constantinople, they were subject to specific rules; moreover they belonged to the state and were leased to the innkeepers (Grivaud, in this volume). Like the Seljuq hane and the earlier Persian caravanserai, the taverns were located in small towns and along highways, often combined with a hostel (xenagogion, xenodochema, xenokomeion and similar terms;20 if attached to monasteries: archontarion or archontarikion).

21The importance of the archaeological evidence is evident, confirmed at the conference also by the large number of presentations concerning pottery. The major part of the finds belonged to households, but they also include artisanal and agricultural equipment. Due to production being complex, many of the ceramic products may have been more expensive than, for example, comparable wooden artefacts. The types of pottery were predetermined by their intended (original) function, mainly as cooking wares and table wares in households and as vessels for storage and transportation. Their function would have somehow prescribed their form, material composition and method of production (quality of raw material, handmade or wheel-thrown, temperature of the kiln, etc.).

  • 21 See also Vroom 2015.

22The functional specifications also reflect a remarkable regional diversity, especially in cooking ware; this is shown in the results from analyses of pottery in Cyprus and in the coastlands of the southern Levant (Gabrieli et al., in this volume; Stern et al., in this volume), from the Italian controlled production in Kadıkalesi/Anaia in southwestern Asia Minor (Mercangöz, in this volume), from excavations on both sides of the Euripos strait (Kontogiannis et al., in this volume) and from the 12th and 13th century products from the Kranion and the Forum areas in Corinth (Tzavella, in this volume). The latter finds enable a social and ethnic differentiation of the inhabitants. Similar regional diversities resulted from the move of Seljuk tribes from central to western Asia Minor and the subsequent foundation of Beyliks during the first half of the 14th century. The invaders brought their “food habits and their associated table wares. This results, in the ceramic productions, in the introduction of a repertoire of new types and new techniques”, sometimes parallel to the traditional Byzantine production of pottery (Burlot et al., in this volume). Such a development was observed concerning the Byzantine to the Ottoman period in an urban complex of three houses in the Agora of Athens, where glazed tableware and large pithoi for the storage of olive oil, wine and grain were found at the same place (Vroom, in this volume).21 The interpretation, that the material belonged to double-floor houses with an agricultural or commercial shop on the ground floor and a household on the upper floor, is confirmed by similar housing structures in other places, for example in Monemvasia (Kalligas 2002, pp. 880‑881; 2009, bibliography) or in the mastic villages in southern Chios (Koder 1998, pp. 117, 223 “Mastichochora”).

23From chemical residue analyses it appears that the original use of cooking ware and other types of vessel often remained unchanged for long periods, at least in some regions. In other cases the analyses suggest multiple use, also of amphorae, the nature of the initial contents remaining unclear (Pecci et al., in this volume; Todorova, in this volume). In certain cases, however, the initial contents may have excluded reuse – a discriminating individual may have difficulty in drinking an excellent (and expensive) wine that had been transported in a reused amphora, the primary contents having been olive oil or oinogaron (fish sauce mixed with wine).

24The long-distance trade of high-priced products between the 13th and the 15th century is indicated by finds in the lagoon of Venice. Sugar and spices (first and foremost pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cloves) came from the harbours of Alexandria and the Levant; they were consumed in northern Italy or distributed to continental Europe (Vezzoli, in this volume). In the more limited space of the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, more than fifty shipwrecks dated to the 10th-13th centuries provide information on the wide variety in the content of their cargoes: usually there is no doubt about the types of (painted) bowls, glazed plates, glazed tableware and glass vessels, but although advances have been made concerning their origins, the contents of the amphorae (mainly Günsenin I‑III) and storage jars cannot yet be defined (Morozova et al., in this volume; Koutsouflakis, in this volume, with a comprehensive catalogue).

25The importance of pottery for the reconstruction of essential aspects of everyday life is confirmed by the results of the POMEDOR project, which are published in this volume. Furthermore, these results will have an impact on wider fields of research concerning the social and economic history of the Byzantine empire and beyond, and of the Eastern Mediterranean and its relations with adjacent regions.

Appendix: selected medieval Greek terms for implements, objects and installations related to food and foodways22

  • 22 This word list relies mainly on Trapp (2001-2017), see the respective lemmata.

baking house φουρνάριον

baking oven φουρνάριον, φουρνίν; small ~ φουρνόπουλον

baking tin κλιβάνιον

barrel βαγένιον, βαρίλλιον, βουτζίον, βούτ(τ)η, βουτ(τ)ίον, οἰνοβούτιον, πίθη, πιθίον; small ~ (keg) βαγενίτζιον, πιθόπουλον


bottle, flask κουκουμάριον, μπότζα, φάκι(ο)ν, φλασκίν, φλάσκων; pot-bellied bottle γαστέρα, small ~ βισσήριον, καννίον

bowl, dish γάδιον, ἐπιβαλτάριον, καβάθα, κουκουμάριον, κουρελός, λεκανοπούλα, λοπάδιν, μίσος, μισσώριον, πιβακτόριον, πινακοσκούτελλον, σαλτζάριον, σκουτέλα, σκουτέλλιον, σκουτλίον, τριβλίον, τρουλ(λ)ίον; drinking bowl μουχρούτιον, flat bowl ἀπαλαρέα, καυκοπινάκιον, half-height bowl μεσοκαυκίον, large bowl μουχρούτα, small bowl γαβαδίτζιον, μινσουράκιον; washing bowl and water jug χερνιβούξεστον; bowl (plate) in the middle of the table μεσοσκούτελον; washing bowl made from copper χαλκόξεστον

brazier φλογοτήγανον


cauldron κακκάβιν → cooking pot

cooking pot ἑψητήριον, κακκάβιν; cooking pot made from copper χαλκοτζούκαλον and χαλκοτζούκιον, cooking pot for honey μελιέψιον

cookshop μαγειρεῖον, προπίνα

cup, mug ἁπλοπότιν, ἡμίτομον, καννίον, καύκαλον, καυκίν, καῦκος, κόνδυον, κοῦπα, κουρελός, κουπάρι, κρασίον, μινσουράκιον, μισσώριον, ὀρθομίλιον, παραποτήριον, ποτήριν, ποτόπουλον, σαλτζάριον, σκύφιν, τρίβλα, τριβλίον, χανάπιν; big ~ μεγαλοποτήριον, small ~ κουπίδι, κυπέλλιον, σκαφιδόπουλον, cup of wine κιρνόν

cutlery: cooking spoon ἐτνήρυσις; fork πεντάσουβλον; knife κοπίδιον, μαχαίριν, ταλιούριον, τομίς; carving ~ σμίλα, small ~ λάντζουρον, μαχαιρόπουλον, τομίδιον; ladle ζωμήρυστρον; roasting spit περόνιν, σουβλίον, σούγλα, σουγλίον; spoon κοχλιάριν, κοχλιάς, λίγγλα, χουλιάριον; small ~ μυάκιον

dish κουκουμάριον, κουρελός, μισσώριον, σαλτζάριον; small ~ μινσουράκιον

fire place καπνός

flint λίθος πυρίτης

fuel: charcoal δενδροκάρβων, coal καρβώνιον, κάρβωνον; (dried) dung ζάρζακον, firewood ξυλοκαύσιμον, coal container ἀνθρακοδόχη

furnace καμινέα; small ~ καμινάκιον

glass jug ὑελοβίκιον, ὑαλοξήστης, small ~ ὑελοξέστιον; glass vessel ὑαλί(ο)ν

grill σκάρα; small ~ ἐσχαράτζιον

jug, mug, pitcher ἀρκιόλιον, βῖκος τὸ, βικός ὁ, βίσσα, βιτίνα (for oil), κολάθη, κουκουμάριον, κρατήρι, λαγένι, λαγήνα, λαγήνιον, ξεστίν, ὀρθομίλιον, ὀρκιόλιον, πιβακτόριον, προῦχος, προχούδιον, σταμνίν, στάμνον, χύτρα; copper pitcher χαλκοστάμνιον; glass jug ὑελοβίκιον, ὑαλοξήστης, small ~ σκυφίδιον, σταμνίσκιον; waterjug and washing bowl χερνιβούξεστον


kettle κακκάβιν

kitchen stove ἐστία, μαγείριον

lamp holder (for an oil lamp) κανδηλοβάσταξ

lamp κανδήλιον, λύχνος; little ~ λαμπήδιον; lamp in the shape of a mug κυθροκανδῆλα, κυθροκάνδηλον

leather container, leather bottle (for oil) σκορτζίδιον, σκορτίδιον

lid ἐπικύθριον, καπάσιον, καππάκιν, πωμάτιον


oven ὀπτονάριον, φούρναξ, φοῦρνος

pan ἑψητήριον, τηγάνη, τηγάνιον

plate δισκίον, μίσος, μουσουραῖον, πάτελλα, πάτελλον, σκουτέλα, σκουτέλλιον; flat plate ἀπαλαρέα; plate and bowl (dinner ware) πινακοσκούτελλον; place setting σκουτελλοπίνακον


pot κουκουμάριον, κουμνίον, κυθραπαλαρία, τζουκάλα/-η; big ~ τσουκαλούδα, small ~ κουκουμίκιον, πολταρίδιον, τζουκάλιον, τζουκαλόπουλον, pot-bellied jar γαστρίον, pot for fish sauce γαρίτιον, → cooking pot

pub ακρατοπώλιον, καθαροπότιον, καπηλεῖον, καπηλομαγειρεῖον, καπηλικὸν ἐργαστήριον, προπίνα, ταβερνεῖον, χανούτι

stopper καπάσιον

stove καπνός

tank ἐπιβαλτάριον; small tank λεκανοπούλα

torch λαμπάδα, → lamp

trivet made from iron (over the fire place) σιδεροστία

trough: baking trough καρδόπιον, μαζονομεῖον; kneading trough πλασταραία


Anagnostakis, in this volume: Anagnostakis I., “What is plate and cooking pot and food and bread and table all at the same time?”, in Waksman 2020, pp. 211‑228.

Balard, in this volume: Balard M., “L’approvisionnement des villes d’Orient par les marchands italiens (xiiie-xve siècle)”, in Waksman 2020, pp. 323‑330.

Baron 2016: Baron H., Auf Gedeih und Verderb. Mensch, Tier und Umwelt im Byzantinischen Reich, Forschungen am Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz 13, Mainz, 2016.

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Bourbou, in this volume: Bourbou C., “The biocultural model applied: Synthetizing research on Greek Byzantine diet (7th-15th century AD)”, in Waksman 2020, pp. 355‑362.

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1 See also Patriarch Nikolaos Grammatikos’ poem on Lenten fare: Koder 1970.

2 At least 160 days: September 14th, six weeks before Christmas, seven weeks before Easter, at least two weeks between Pentecost and the feast of St Peter and Paul (June 28th), two weeks before the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (August 15th) and every Wednesday and Friday of the non-Lenten weeks, except the Easter period.

3 English transl. 2005.

4 Goats were also common, not only for being frugal, but also because they accept saline and sea water intake when there is a shortage of fresh water (McGregor 2004).

5 BE, chap. 16.4 (Περὶ τῶν χοιρεμπόρων) indicates that it is forbidden to hide pigs in the house of a noble person (εἰς οἶκον ἀρχοντικόν).

6 BE, chap. 17 (Περὶ τῶν ἰχθυοπρατῶν, On the fishmongers).

7 See also BE, chap. 17.3, and Trapp 1966.

8 The Bulgarian Tsar Samuel laid siege to Larissa: “He made this for three years, so that they [the inhabitants of Larissa] run out of food and consumed dogs and donkeys and meat from other banned animals. But when they also run out of these, they collected the hides from the rubbish heaps, and boiled and ate them in order to satisfy their hunger; but one woman even ate the leg of her husband who had died [Τοῦτο δὲ ἐπὶ τρισὶ χρόνοις ἐποίει, ὥστε καὶ ἐπιλιπούσης αὐτοῖς τῆς τροφῆς, κυνῶν καὶ ὄνων καὶ ἄλλων τινῶν μιαρῶν ἀπεγεύσαντο κρεῶν, ἐπιλιπόντων δὲ καὶ αὐτῶν, δέρματα τὰ ἐν ταῖς κοπρίαις κείμενα συλλέγοντες ἔψεναν αὐτὰ καὶ ἔτρωγαν, παραμυθήσασθαι βουλόμενοι τὸν λιμόν. ἀλλὰ καὶ γυνὴ τεθνηκότος τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐτῆς ἔφαγεν τὸν μηρὸν αὐτοῦ]”, Kekaumenos, Strategikon, chap. 4.170.

9 “Table companion of pigs, eating carob pods [ὁμοδίαιτος, τῶν χοίρων, ἐσθίων κεράτια]”, Photios, Bibliotheke, Codex 271, 502a; “their lack even of carob pods, their commonality with pigs [τῆς μέχρι κερατίων αὐτῶν ἐνδείας, τῆς μετὰ χοίρων διαγωγῆς]”, Symeon Logothetes, epistle 21, l. 31.

10 “Carob pods were lying on the road, and he picked up some of them and ate them [κερατίων δὲ ὄντων κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν, λαβὼν ἀπ’ αὐτῶν καὶ φαγὼν]”, Symeon Stylites, chap. 216.

11 For example in Chios: “They collect in the island of Chios all necessary (foodstuffs): wheat, wine, oil, figs, carobs, barley and all types of legumes [συνάγουσαι ἐκ πάντων τῶν χρειωδῶν ἐν τῇ νήσῳ Χίῳ, σίτου, οἴνου, ἐλαίου, ἰσχάδων, κερατίων, κριθῶν καὶ πάσης ἄλλης εἰδέας ὀσπρίων]”, Dukas, chap. 36.7.

12 ἀντὶ ξύλου τῷ ζαρζάκῳ χρώμεθα, ὅπερ ἐστὶν ἐπιμελείας ἀξιωθεῖσα κόπρος, πρᾶγμα καὶ ἀτιμότατον καὶ δυσωδέστατον. In the same passage he also remarks: “We do not cultivate olives (this is common to all living in Anatolia); our land does not produce wine, because of its high and steep terrain [Ἔλαιον γὰρ οὐ γεωργοῦμεν· τοῦτο κοινὸν τοῖς Ἀνατολικοῖς ἔχομεν πᾶσιν· οἶνον ἡ καθ’ ἡμᾶς οὐ δίδωσιν, ὑψηλῆς καὶ ταχινῆς λαχοῦσα τῆς θέσεως]”, Leon of Synada, epistle 43.7‑11.

13 References for the mentioned terms in Trapp (1994-2017).

14 τὴν χύτραν τῆς φούσκας τῆς ζεστῆς (“the jug of the hot phouska”), Leontios of Neapolis, p. 87; Krueger 1996, p. 157.

15 Matthew 11.19 and Luke 7.34 (oinoposia, methysma). See e.g. Damaskenos Studites, oratio 18, l. 1186‑1188: “τὰ βιβλία τῆς Ἐκκλησίας μας ὁρίζουν ἀλλέως, ὅτι μηδὲ νὰ μεθύσῃς, ὅτι καὶ τὸ μέθυσμα ἀρχὴ ἁμαρτίας εἶναι εἰς τὸν ἄνθρωπον [the books of the Church command us not to get drunk, because also drunkenness is the beginning of sin for the human being].”

16 BE, chap. 19.3 (Περὶ καπήλων): “Μὴ ἐξέστω τοῖς καπήλοις ἐν ταῖς μεγίσταις τῶν ἑορτῶν ἢ κυριακαῖς μέχρις ἀρχῆς δευτέρας ὥρας τῆς ἡμέρας ὑπανοίγειν τὰ ἑαυτῶν ἐργαστήρια καὶ ἀπεμπολεῖν τινι οἶνον εἴτε καὶ ὄψα. Ἐν δὲ ταῖς νυξὶν ἅμα τῷ τὴν δευτέραν ἐπιέναι ἀσφαλίζειν ταῦτα καὶ σβεννύειν τὰ λεβέτια, ἵνα μὴ διημερεύοντες οἱ εἰθισμένοι ἐν αὐτοῖς εἰσιέναι, εἰ ἐξῇ τινι, καὶ πάλιν διὰ τῆς νυκτὸς τοῦ οἴνου ἐμφορούμενοι ἀδεῶς εἰς διαμάχας καὶ βίας καὶ διαφορὰς κατακρημνίζωνται”.

17 Transl. Bradbrook 2005, pp. 243‑257.

18 Evliyā Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, p. 142f. Evliyā also praises (p. 124f.) the strong reyhania (basil-wine) in Berat, “produced by boiling grapes, perfumed with sweet basil and ambergris”, and he assures the reader, “that a glass is enough to make you drunk”, probably it was a liqueur.

19 “Ἀμέλει καὶ τὸ τρύβλιον ἁρπαλέως περιχυθεὶς ταῖς χερσὶ τῆς πωλητρίας ὀχούμενον, ὅπερ ἔστεγεν ἔνδον τὸ ἐκείνῳ ἐράσμιον ἔδεσμα, ἐγκύψας ἀμυστὶ καὶ χανδὸν ἐνεφορεῖτο τοῦ ζωμιδίου καὶ τῷ λαχάνῳ πολλάκις ἐνέχανε”, Nicetas Choniates, History, p. 57; transl. Magoulias 1984, pp. 33‑34.

20 But xenón normally was a hospital, often attached to a monastery.

21 See also Vroom 2015.

22 This word list relies mainly on Trapp (2001-2017), see the respective lemmata.

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