: in Latin
corresponds to some
extent, but not entirely: see below), by etymology the nonfarinaceous part of a meal
(that which was cooked), but by
usage almost restricted in post-Homeric times to fish.
It must be remarked that in the Homeric age fish does not seem
to have been regarded as a proper article of food for those who could get
anything else, even when they lived, as in Ithaca, close to the sea: this
has been noticed by Plato, Rep.
iii. p. 404 B, and Plutarch
(de Is. et Osir.
d), and the same also is asserted of the old Italians
(Ov. Fast. 6.173
). It cannot be said
that fish was unknown as food, for we have fishermen (Od. 12.251
, where it is. cheap, gratuitous
22.384: compare the gruesome simile in Od.
); and Odysseus and his companions eat fish in Thrinacia; but
that is only, as we are told, “under stress of gnawing hunger,”
when they were wind-bound and had eaten all their provisions. In Il. 9.489
, &c., ὄψον
meat: in, Il. 11.630
the word is used in a
sense more like that of later times, of an onion prepared as a
“relish” or seasoning, in or with wine. In later times, at any
rate at Athens, it is easy to trace its acquired meaning. Those who could
afford nothing better had bread in some shape or other as their food and
their only staff of life, but all who had the means added something to eat
with it, and this naturally took the form of something cooked, ὄψον
properly so called: the term, however,
became so far conventional that it was possible
use it for any dainty which helped to make the bread more palatable (and for
which, in default of anything else, λιμὸς
is proverbially used, Xen. Cyr.
, 12); so Plato, Rep.
ii. p. 372 C, in describing
an imaginary vegetarian diet of a simple people, gives them “salt,
olives, cheese, and onions” as ὄψον:
but just below, when he returns to ordinary life, he uses
in the more usual sense of meat,
or rather fish. What we should call “butcher's meat” played a
comparatively small part in the Athenian diet; it was of course eaten (in
early times chiefly when a sacrifice had been offered: Athen. 5.192
b; Juv. Sat.
and birds and game of various kinds (especially thrushes and hares) appeared
at the dinner table: still, however, Professor Mahaffy rightly notices
(Social Life in Greece,
p. 306) that “the Attic
people ate little meat, and lived chiefly on fish and
vegetables.” Hence it was that ὄψον
is used almost exclusively of fish, and the derivatives ὀψωνεῖν,
&c. of buying fish,
&c., so that in the words of Athenaeus (vii. p. 276 e; cf. Plut.
4.2, p. 667 f.), πάντων τῶν
προπσοψημάτων ὄψων καλουμένων
[p. 2.277]ἐξενίκησεν ὁ ἰχθὺς διὰ
τὴν ἐξαίρετον ἐδωδὴν μόνος
) οὕτω καλεῖσθαι.
is an epicure in fish
(τὸν οὐ κρέας ἀλλὰ θάλασσαν τιμῶντα,
1.287; cf. Plut. l.c.
and in Hellenistic Greek ὀψάριον
modern Greek ψάρι
) may be used as
(At Sparta, however,
according to Athenaeus, iv. p. 141 b, the ὄψον
was commonly boiled pork.) As regards the cost, one obol
for a simple dinner of fish and vegetables, see Boeckh,
i.3 pp. 128, 141. As to the
fish supply, the commonest were the ἀψύαι,
caught off their own shores, which were so abundant that Athenaens (vii. p.
285 b) says that, though a delicacy elsewhere, they were looked down upon at
Athens as the ὄψον
of the poor: Lake
Copais produced the eels, regarded as the greatest of luxuries (Aristoph. Ach. 880
otherwise fresh-water fish were despised (
). We may notice especially the great
consumption of salt fish (τάριχος
became a proverb.
Of this supply the Euxine was the chief source (Athen.
b): there were ταριχεῖαι
(establishments for curing fish) at Byzantium (Dem. Lacrit.
p. 993.32; Strab. vii. p.310
; cf. ταριχόπωλος βόσπορος,
b) and at various places at the
mouths of rivers running into the Euxine, and as far as the Sea of Azov
(Strab. xi. p.493
): abundance also came
from Egypt, Sardinia, and Spain (Poll. 6.48; cf. Hdt.
; Boeckh, Staatshaus.
1.128). From these
places the salt fish was sent to Athens in jars (κεράμια
p. 934.34, or ἀμψορῆς
). The most useful fish for salting were
various sorts of thunny; the ἀντάκαιος
also was used, which seems to be a sturgeon. The roe was made into a sort of
caviare in early times: it is stated by Cell (Pomp.
that a jar containing caviare was found at Pompeii: fish sauce or pickle was
made principally from the σκόμβρος.
list of the names of the favourite fish will be found in Athen. 6.281
f., which need not
be given here: and indeed translating most Greek and Latin names for fish,
like Greek and Latin names for nearly all birds and flowers, is very
hazardous guess-work. (For the fish-market at Athens, see AGORA; MACELLUM.）
As regards the Latin use of obsonium (or opsonium
), it must be observed that among the Romans there was no
such common abstention from butcher's meat as among the Athenians, and
consequently no such limitation, in the ordinary use of the word, to one
kind of food. In the adapters or translators of Greek comedy, we naturally
find the word chiefly, though not exclusively, in the Greek sense (e. g.
2.2, 23 and 32), and so in Plautus and Terence
) is to go to market to buy fish: that, however, it was
not exclusively so used, even in these writers, is clear from the Aulularia
of Plautus, where there is much talk of
but in Act. 2.8 the “macellum” has
a choice of fish, veal, lamb, beef, and pork. In Horace, Sat.
2.2, 41, obsonium
refers to the fish which precedes, and in Juv.
it certainly does, but we may conclude that in Latin the word
could not be used by itself, apart from the context, to distinguish fish
from provisions generally: in Mart. 14.217
is clearly the slave sent to
market for provisions of any kind required for dinner, which at Rome was
certainly not by rule a fish dinner, and in this general sense we may
where it occurs in inscriptions
(C. I. L.
6.6246, 8753). In Pliny, 32.87
and 15.82, where obsonium
is used for salt
we have the Greek idea of it as something
added to give a seasoning to the bread, for which sense of sauce or
is the correct Latin word, and is
used to render the proverbs “hunger the best sauce,”
&c. in Latin, which the Greeks express by ὄψον:
see also Cato, Cat. Agr.
, which is wrongly cited sometimes as describing Roman
“family” life. Cato speaks of the economies of the slaves
), and says that you should pickle
for them, as the addition
to their bread
), the wind-fallen olives, and then those which will
not yield much oil, used very sparingly: if these too are all used up before
the year goes round, then the slaves must have the dregs of fish-brine
being the clear fish-brine). (For the
Roman fish supply, see PISCINA: for further
discussion and authorities on the subject of ὄψον,
see Becker-Göll, Charikles,
2.316; Blümner, Gr. Privatalt.
223 ff.; Marquardt,