Dioscorides, with respect to the laws praised in Homer, says, "The poet, seeing that temperance was the most desirable virtue for young men, and also the first of all virtues, and one which was becoming to every one; and that which, as it were, was the guide to all other virtues, wishing to implant it from the very beginning in every one, in order that men might devote their leisure to and expend their energies on honourable pursuits, and might become inclined to do good to, and to share their good things with others; appointed a simple and independent mode of life to every one; considering that those desires and pleasures which had reference to eating and drinking were those of the greater power, and of the highest estimation, and moreover innate in all men; and that those men who continued orderly and temperate in respect of them, would also be temperate and well regulated in other matters. Accordingly, he laid down a simple mode of life for every one, and enjoined the same system indifferently to kings and private individuals, and young men and old, saying—
The tables in fair order spread,Their meat being all roasted, and chiefly beef; and he never sets before his heroes anything except such dishes as these, either at a sacred festival, or at a marriage feast, or at any other sort of convivial meeting. And this, too, though he often represents Agamemnon as feasting the chiefs. And Menelaus makes a feast on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Hermione; and again on the occasion of the marriage of his son; and also when Telemachus comes to him—
They heap the glittering canisters with bread,
Viands of simple kinds allure the taste,
Of wholesome sort, a plentiful repast.1
The table groan'd beneath a chine of beef,For Homer never puts rissoles, or forcemeat, or cheeseakes, or omelettes before his princes, but meat such as was calculated to make them vigorous in body and mind. And so too Agamemnon feasted Ajax after his single combat with Hector, on a rumpsteak; and in the same way he gives Nestor, who was now of advanced age, and Phœnix too, a roast sirloin of [p. 14] beef. And Homer describes Alcinous, who was a man of a very luxurious way of life, as having the same dinner; wishing by these descriptions to turn us away from intemperate indulgence of our appetites. And when Nestor, who was also a king and had many subjects, sacrificed to Neptune on the sea-shore, on behalf of his own dearest and most valued friends, it was beef that he offered him. For that is the holiest and most acceptable sacrifice to the gods, which is offered to them by religious and well-disposed men. And Alcinous, when feasting the luxurious Phæacians, and when entertaining Ulysses, and displaying to him all the arrangements of his house and garden, and showing him the general tenor of his life, gives him just the same dinner. And in the same way the poet represents the suitors, though the most insolent of men and wholly devoted to luxury, neither eating fish, nor game, nor cheesecakes; but embracing as far as he could all culinary artifices, and all the most stimulating food, as Menander calls it, and especially such as are called amatory dishes, (as Chrysippus says in his Treatise on Honour and Pleasure,) the preparation of which is something laborious.
With which the hungry heroes quell'd their grief.2