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What Meals Did the Spartan Men Eat?

Updated April 17, 2017

Ancient Sparta was one of the most feared and respected city states within Ancient Greece. The Spartans exercised a philosophy on life that was very different from other Greek city states, such as living in a city without walls and forcing all men to dedicated their lives to the military. Boys were reared from childhood for the sole purpose of providing protection to Sparta, enduring gruelling military training. Coupled with this training was a diet consisting of many differing food groups that forged Spartan men into supreme fighting machines.

Cereals

Cereals made up the bulk of the Spartan diet. The two main grains consumed by Spartan men were wheat and barley. Heavy breads or flat cakes were made by softening the grains in water and then grinding them into a flour paste. In Ancient Sparta's time, this was dried in the sun to form cakes, as stone ovens were not in use yet.

Fruits and Vegetables

As in any well-rounded diet, the Spartans made great use of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables of this time were very expensive due to Greece's agriculturally challenged rocky landscape. These foods included a wide variety such as apricots, grapes, dates, eggplants, potatoes, green beans, olives and okra. Olive oil was mixed in with virtually every dish of the Spartan diet.

Meat and Seafood

Deipnosophists, the ancient book about banquets, tells of Milo of Croton, a Greek wrestler that "would eat 9.07kg. of meat and as many of bread, and drink three pitchers of wine" before an Olympic competition. This kicked off a meat craze within Ancient Greece. Spartan men would hunt for their meat as well as consume domesticated animals such as ducks and pigs. Seafood also played an important role in the Spartan diet.

The Black Broth

The most well-known food consumed by Spartan men is the black broth. The only source for the ingredients comes from the book Deipnosophists; this black gruel consisted of pork, blood and vinegar. This mixture was a great point of pride among Spartan men and of much derision by outsiders as evidenced by one ancient source quoted as saying "no wonder the Spartans prefer to die, 10,000 times."

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About the Author

Sean Keven began writing professionally in 2011. Based in California, Keven has extensive knowledge of world history, military history and sports psychology. He is a graduate of California State University, Chico with a B.A. in journalism and a minor in forensic anthropology.