Cassius Dio, Historiae Romanae 49.36

οἱ δὲ δὴ Παννόνιοι νέμονται μὲν πρὸς τῇ Δελματίᾳ, παρ᾽ αὐτὸν τὸν Ἴστρον, ἀπὸ Νωρικοῦ μέχρι τῆς Μυσίας τῆς ἐν τῇ Εὐρώπῃ, κακοβιώτατοι δὲ ἀνθρώπων ὄντες ῾οὔτε γὰρ γῆς οὔτε ἀέρων εὖ ἥκουσιν: οὐκ ἔλαιον, οὐκ οἶνον, πλὴν ἐλαχίστου καὶ τούτου κακίστου, γεωργοῦσιν, ἅτε ἐν χειμῶνι πικροτάτῳ τὸ πλεῖστον διαιτώμενοι, ἀλλὰ τάς τε κριθὰς καὶ τοὺς κέγχρους καὶ ἐσθίουσιν ὁμοίως καὶ πίνουσιν᾽ ἀνδρειότατοι δ᾽ οὖν διὰ πάντων ὧν ἴσμεν νομίζονται: θυμικώτατοι γὰρ καὶ φονικώτατοι, οἷα μηδὲν ἄξιον τοῦ καλῶς ζῆν ἔχοντες, εἰσί.

The Pannonians possess Dalmatia along the Ister River from Noricum to Moesia in Europe, and have the worst life among men because they have neither good land nor climate. They cultivate neither olive oil or wine, except only the least amount and the worst type; since they live in harsh winter for much of the year. But, they eat and drink barley and millet. For they are thought the most manly of all [the people] we know: they are angry and murderous, of the sort which have nothing that is worthy for a good life.


Pannonia Map.jpg
Map by Megistias

Before Octavian (soon-to-be Emperor Augustus) fights his civil war against Marc Antony and Cleopatra, he campaigns against several people in Europe. In this instance, Octavian battles the Pannonians, a group who lived in parts of the modern states of Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, and other countries. Cassius Dio tells us that there was no outside instigation for this war – Octavian simply wanted to give his soldiers practice against a fierce army. Cassius Dio also supports his perceptions of the Pannonians with personal experience: he was former a governor of the Roman province of Upper Pannonia.

Another group of millet and barley beer drinkers. Not to be confused with the Paeonians who drank a similar beverage with elecampane (that we recreated), the Pannonians were sited not too distant from other millet beer lovers. It is certain that Cassius Dio is not confusing these two groups because he comments on the similar names and etymological differences in a subsequent passage. He also speaks about their diet and attitudes from personal experience as the former governor of Upper Pannonia. Because of this experience, it is unclear if the stated dietary preferences of the Pannonians is accurate to the historical period under discussion (1st c. BCE), as well as Cassius Dio’s time (early 3rd c. CE).

Cassius Dio implies that the liquid and solid diet of these grains has contributed to the harsh temperament of the Pannonians. The association between strength (mental, physical, and hygienic) and diet is well attested on this blog (see Celsus, for instance), and millet and barley were both considered bad for the digestion. Wine and olive oil (“good juices”), however, are staples of the Roman (and Greek) diets offering far more benefits than the barbaric Pannonian gastronomy.

Author’s Note
Cassius Dio (ca. 155-235 CE)
Cassius Dio was of Greek descent who lived under the Roman Empire. He became a Roman statesman, but maintained his native Greek for his historical writings. The cited text took 22 years to write and spanned more than 1,000 years of Roman history. This manuscript spanned 80 separate books, many of which still survive.

Images Sources
All images from wikimediacommons
Featured Image: Ptolemy’s 5th European Map




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