Athenaeus of Naucratis, the perfect life?

I will, then, tell of the life of old which I provided for mortals. First, there was peace over all, like water over hands. The earth produced no terror and no disease; on the other hand, things needful came of their own accord. Every torrent flowed with wine, barley-cakes strove with wheat-loaves for men's lips, beseeching that they be swallowed if men loved the whitest. Fishes would come to the house and bake themselves, then serve themselves on the tables. A river of broth, whirling hot slices of meat, would flow by the couches; conduits full of piquant sauces for the meat were close at hand for the asking, so that there was plenty for moistening a mouthful and swallowing it tender. On dishes there would be honey-cakes all spinkled with spices, and roast thrushes served up with milk-cakes were flying into the gullet. The flat-cakes jostled each other at the jaws and set up a racket, the slaves would shoot dice with slices of paunch and tid-bits. Men were fat in those days and every bit mighty giants.


Athenaeus (c. AD200) was a Greek grammarian and writer. The Deipnosophists ('The Gastronomers') describes a banquet in which a number of learned men - some known, some imaginary - meet to discuss a wide range of topics. The work contains a great number of quotations from ancient literature (nearly 800 writers are quoted).

The Amphictyons by Telecleides, a Greek comic poet of the 5th century BC, is quoted here. Telecleides presents a Golden Age of impossibly effortless plenty. He plays on his audience's understanding that this ideal era never truly existed and never would. By presenting one extreme satirically he implies a belief in the opposite idea - that prosperity is the result of hard work.

Taken from: The Deipnosophists of Athenaeus of Naucratis
Author / Creator: Athenaeus (translated by Charles Burton Gulick)
Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd
Date: 1929
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 2282.d.98