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Black Broth: What the Warriors of Ancient Sparta Ate

Sparta Black broth
Spartan warriors. Screenshot from “300” movie/Youtube

In ancient Greece, Sparta was famous for two things: the bravery of its warriors in battle and its atrocious food, says chef Max Miller who prepared the infamous black broth or melas zomos.

During the communal daily meal, bread, called maza, a thin toasted wheat flatbread, was served along with black broth containing pork and the blood of the pig, which gave it its dark color.

Although a recipe for the dish has not survived through the millennia, we have apretty good idea of the main ingredients used. Miller used his skills to recreate the ancient dish below.

Black broth was the most important element of daily life in Sparta

The rigidity and strictness of Spartans were always reflected in the various elements of gastronomy as well.

Spartans would traditionally have wine, which, unlike other Greek city-states, was offered to women as well as men.

Unsurprisingly, food in the city-state of Sparta was seen purely as a means of sustenance. It wasn’t considered a luxury, form of entertainment, or something on which to overindulge.

Black broth is still recognized as the most essential element in the daily Spartan diet and of warriors in battle.

Prepared with pork and blood, vinegar, onions, and bay leaf, the concoction was considered a “culinary horror” by other Greek poleis and further afield since ancient times.

A traveler from Sibari of southern Italy, who had tasted the dish, famously once said, “Now I perceive the reason for the lightness with which Spartan warriors go to death: after it they will not have to eat melas zomos anymore.”

Related: The Decline of Sparta as Seen Through Its Food

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