Αἰγυπτίους δὲ Ἑκαταῖος ἀρτοφάγους φησὶν εἶναι κυλλήστιας ἐσθίοντας, τὰς δὲ κριθὰς εἰς ποτὸν καταλέοντας.
Hecataeus says that the Egyptians are bread-eaters, eating kullestas, an Egyptian bread, and grinding grain into a drink.
This excerpt is part of a discussion about over-eating. It places the Egyptians against Lydians and Thracians who are(were?) notorious gluttons.
This is the earliest Greco-Roman reference to Egyptians as beer drinkers. This does not mean that the Egyptians were newcomers to the beer-scene at the time of this passage – the early fifth c. BCE. Archaeological, artistic, and literary evidence from elsewhere make it certain that the Egyptians had been drinking beer for millennia before Hecataeus came on the scene.
After this excerpt, Athenaeus continues to tell us that the Egyptians only ate moderate amounts of food on account of this diet.
Again, Hecataeus slings the sick burn, “bread-eaters,” at the Egyptians. He also did this in an earlier entry. In fact, today’s passage is almost identical to Athenaeus’s description in that earlier passage, using even similar vocabulary. Differences are found in the use of ποτὸν/πῶμα and the structure/word order of the sentence. It is most certain that Athenaeus is referencing the same passage from Hecataeus in each of these.
Hecataeus of Miletus (ca. 550-476 BCE)
Greek historian and geographer.
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