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Polenta

(144 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (ἄλφιτα/ álphita). Barley groats, flour or bread. The Lat. term polenta describes on the one hand the groats of hulled, roasted barley kernels; on the other, the mash mixed or cooked with these groats together with water, salt and other ingredients (Plin. HN 18,72; Pall. Agric. 7,12). Barley mash, served with accompaniments such as oil or vegetables, was among the most important staples of the diet in Greece until the Hellenistic Period. By contrast, in Italy (with the possible exception of Cisalpine Gaul (Plin. HN 18,85)), emmer mash ( puls) was preferred, the nation…

Must

(251 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (γλεῦκος/ gleûkos; [ vinum] mustum). As yet unfermented - or just fermenting - juice of pressed fruit such as apples, pears, dates, figs, pomegranates, cornel cherries, quinces and service tree fruit (Plin. HN 13,44-45; 14,102-103. 125; 15,109). The most important type of must was made from grapes (Columella 12,41; Plin. HN 23,29); its Latin name was vinum mustum, from which the English word 'must' derives. Fresh must, whose aperient and invigorating effects were prized by doctors (Celsus, Med. 4,26,5-6; Dioscorides 5,9; Gal. De alimen…

Salgama

(121 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (Greek ἁλμαῖα/ halmaîa). Collective term for pickled vegetables, herbs, and fruit. From the Greek period on, people enjoyed preserving plant foodstuffs by pickling them in brine (Colum. 12,4,4), often with the addition of vinegar, spices and other ingredients such as milk and honey (Plin. HN 19,153; Dioscorides 2,174 Wellmann). Columella (10,117; 12,9 f.) has recipes for pickling capers, lettuce, herbs, onions, European cornels, plums and various kinds of apples and pears. In simple cuisine, salgama were eaten with bread or cereal porridge; at more lavish meals, sa…

Comissatio

(159 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] Traditional Roman drinking party, a regular accompaniment to a festive   cena , often lasting long into the night. For a long time it was reserved for men, but from the end of the Roman Republic women, too, could partake. The comissatio, a socially highly important form of gathering, reached Rome by the end of the 3rd cent. BC at the latest. The word is derived from the Greek word for revelry, κῶμος ( kômos); its structure and rules corresponded to a large extent to those of the symposium ( Banquet). Apart from the drinking, the entertainment consisted …

Maiorinus

(114 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] Praefectus praetorio Orientis under Constantius II. Life and career are poorly attested. Coming from a curial family from the East, he had a meteoric rise in his career (Lib. Ep. 1510) which reached its peak with the praetorian prefecture. He presumably held this office between the summer of 344 and 28 July AD 346 (Cod. Theod. 11,22,1: first certain evidence for his supposed successor Flavius Philippus) with his headquarters in Antioch [1]. He died shortly before 357 (Lib. Ep. 560) …

Praefectus urbi

(328 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (Town prefect <of Rome later also of Constantinople>; Greek πολίαρχος/ políarchos). According to Roman tradition, by the early Roman period a PU ('town administrator' in [4. 663]) who was authorized first by the king and then by the highest magistrate, supervised the business of the state, mainly the administration of justice in their absence (Liv. 1,59,12; 3,3,6; Tac. Ann. 6,11; Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 5,75).The post - should it have ever existed - must have become insignificant with the introduction of collegiality ( collega ) in senior magistr…

Soup

(180 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] was prepared by boiling solid food (such as corn, vegetables, pulses, fish, meat or fruit) in water or other liquids. There were no clear or light soups in ancient cooking, nor was there a term for it. The main reason for this lies in ancient eating habits: although Greeks and Romans did have large spoons ( ligula), they were accustomed to eat with their hands; also as a rule there was no individual cutlery (Table utensils). Thus there were only thick soups in both the simple cooking and the haute cuisine of antiquity: stews, porridges ( pultes; Apicius 5,1), fricassees ( minutal…

Flour

(340 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (Greek ἄλευρον/ áleuron, Lat. farina). Fine-grained to powdery product resulting from grinding, crushing or pounding certain grains or seeds. The most important source product in the Greek period was barley (Ath. 3,111e-112a) and in the Roman period it was wheat (Plin. HN 18,74; 85-90); depending on the region, flour was also made from millet (Gal. De alimentorum facultatibus 1,15) and rye (Plin. HN 18,141) and in areas with no grain cultivation or in times of emergency even from starch-containing fruits such as beans or acorns (Plin. HN 16,15; 18,117). Flour was diff…

Vicarius

(645 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
generally a 'representative' (Cic. Verr. 4,81; Liv. 29,1,8 f.; Quint. Decl. 9,9; CIL I 202). [German version] [1] Military-political office (military-political office). In the realm of the Roman political administration (VIII.), vicarii began to appear especially in the High Imperial Period when state responsibilities were increasing and individual civil and military officials were no longer able to single-handedly carry out the duties of their jurisdiction. The emperor assigned men to replace or represent them in certain si…

Food

(643 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (τροφαί / trophaí; Lat. alimenta). Name for nutritious solid and liquid substances which can sometimes be eaten or drunk raw, but which are not normally suitable for consumption without preparation and are therefore further processed into meals in the kitchen. A systematic classification of food is offered by Galen's treatise ‘On the Powers of Food’ ( De alimentorum facultatibus libri III), one of the few ancient dietary specialized writings that are completely extant. Galen classifies food on the principle of its place in natural history…

Salinum

(106 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (ἁλία/ halía). Small salt container (Plin. HN 33,153) made of silver, occasionally of clay. It belonged in every Roman household and was used for adding salt during dinner, but had a special function in the domestic cult as well: Up to the Imperial Period, the salinum was used in food offerings between the main course and dessert (Liv. 26,36,6; Stat. Silv. 1,4,130 f.). This cultic significance explains why the salinum was handed down from father to son (Hor. Carm. 2,16,13 f.). Mola salsa Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster) Bibliography M. Besnier, s. v. S., DS IV/2, 1022  A. Hug, s.…

Butter

(144 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (βούτυρον; boútyron, butyrum). Fat mainly from cow's milk, less commonly extracted from sheep's or goat's milk; unlike today it was mostly used in liquid form. Many peoples on the northern and southern edge of the ancient world (especially the Thracians and Scythians but also the Lusitanians, Gauls, Germanic tribes and Arabs) used butter intensively as cooking fat and ointment (Plin. HN 28,133f.). In the Mediterranean Sea area, people preferred to use olive oil instead, the cost of …

Cena

(317 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] The main daily meal of the Romans. Over the cents. it was largely influenced by Greek table culture: it shifted from midday to evening-time; while it was originally consumed sitting in the atrium or the kitchen, the upper classes at least later took it lying down in special, richly furnished dining rooms (  triclinium ); to the original sequence of main course ( mensa prima) and dessert ( mensa secunda) was added the starter course ( gustatio). The duration and contents of the cena depended on the occasion, and above all on economic circumstances. The ordinary p…

Dishes, Meals

(798 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (Greek ἐδέσματα/ edésmata; Lat. cibi, esca). A classification of dishes in antiquity is unknown to us and can be deduced only from antique  cookery books. They generally organize dishes according to their basic ingredients, thus according to such food groups as fish, meat (quadrupeds), poultry, vegetables, grains and legumes [1]. Ancient sources attest to a variety of dishes; apart from cookery books, comedies (Aristophanes; Plautus) are especially informative sources of information, a…

Milk

(324 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (Greek γάλα/ gála; Latin lac). The milk of various mammals (donkey, camel, cow, sheep, mare, goat) was used in ancient times; the concept was thus not, as today, limited to cow's milk. Cow's milk was rather unpopular in the Mediterranean region, and was consumed in large quantities only in northern regions of the ancient world (Aristot. Hist. Ant. 3,20). The favourite kind of milk among the Greeks and Romans was that of sheep, also the only kind to appear in the Edictum [3] Diocletian…

Fruit

(338 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (ὀπῶραι/ opôrai, Lat. poma). Collective term for edible fruits or seed kernels (hazelnut, almond, pine kernel, etc.), usually from fruit trees. Ancient authors distinguish, according to the time of ripening of the fruit, early summer, summer and autumn fruits (e.g. Gal. de alimentorum facultatibus 2,2; 8). The most important cultivated fruits in the Roman imperial period were  apples, pears, dates,  figs, pomegranates,  plums,  quinces and grapes ( Wine) with many respective subspeci…

Vinegar

(142 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (ὄξος/ óxos, acetum). Means of flavouring and conserving, usually obtained by fermenting wine, occasionally also the juice of fruits such as dates and figs. Vinegar existed in various qualities, with that from Alexandria being particularly valued (Plin. HN 14,102). Vinegar, which at the beginning of the 4th cent. AD cost less than ordinary wine (Edict. Diocletiani 3,5), contributed to the sweet-and-sour taste of many dishes; Apicius often used it for sauces for meat and fish dishes …

Meals

(914 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] Meals, i.e. drink and food taken at particular hours, are at the centre of ancient table culture. The type and sequence of meals and their position in the larger order and that of the overarching rhythm of life are so complex that they cannot be discussed here in their entire structural, spatial and temporal differentiation. In the Greek and Roman world, daily meals were subject to a fixed order that was at first primarily guided by the natural environment, especially sunrise and sunset (cf. the names of the meals: ἄριστον/ áriston, morpheme: ‘early’ and vesperna, morpheme…

Opson (Food)

(172 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (ὄψον; ópson) referred to any kind of cooked, fried or raw food that was served with staple foods (Nutrition) consisting of grains and pulse, namely vegetables and fruit as well as fish, meat, eggs and milk products (Hom. Od. 3,480; Athen. 7,277a; 14,648f); also opsónion, Lat. obsonium. In classical times, the term acquired the special meaning of “fish” (Athen. 7,276e) because, in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean, that was quite simply the standard accompaniment to staple foods (Fish dishes). Depending on context, opson could mean cheap, often preserved fi…

Saccharon

(239 words)

Author(s): Gutsfeld, Andreas (Münster)
[German version] (σάκχαρον/ sákcharon, Lat. sacc[ h] aron). Sugar obtained from the pith of sugarcane, a plant not native to the Mediterranean region. The Greeks first came to know of sugarcane and its sweet juice with the Indian campaign of Alexander [II 4] (Str. 15,1,20; Theophr. Hist. pl. 3,15,5). Sugar does not appear to have reached the Mediterranean region in crystalline form before the beginning of the 1st cent. AD, when direct sea trade from Egypt to India got under way (Peripl. maris Erythraei 14 Casson). In any case, the word saccharon entered the sources (Plin. HN 12,32) a…
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