Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

Tell the Publisher!
Id like to read this book on Kindle

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Courtesans & Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens [Paperback]

James Davidson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 18.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Only 3 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
Want it Saturday, 23 Aug.? Choose Express delivery at checkout. Details


Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover --  
Paperback 9.99  
Paperback, 5 July 2011 18.00  

Book Description

5 July 2011
The luxury of the ancient world is legendary, but the Athenian reputation is sober because this wealthy, successful city-state spent all its money on the conspicuous consumption of ephemeral things. Their consuming passions for food, wine and sex drove their society, as well as generating the rich web of privilege, transgression, guilt and taboo for which they are remembered today. Using pamphlets, comic satires, forensic speeches - from authors as illustrious as Plato and as ignored as Philaenis - as source material - this study combines a traditional classicist's rigour with an appreciation of the new analytical techniques pioneered in gender and cultural studies to provide an alternative view of ancient Athenian culture and to bring its reality into a focus easier on the modern eye.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Frequently Bought Together

Courtesans & Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens + Goddesses, Whores, Wives And Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity
Buy the selected items together

Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (5 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226137430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226137438
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,144,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description


‘Davidson is the best thing to happen to ancient history writing for decades’
Andrew Roberts, Mail on Sunday

‘There are pleasures and authors who lie dormant for a century or more until a new kind of vividness, a super-freshness descends on them. James Davidson has that skill.’

‘If little boys are still being made to learn dead languages, and expected to enjoy them, I hope their Greek master reads Davidson’s fascinating and witty book, and tells them the best stories from it. This certainly ought to wake them up at the back of the class.’
Sunday Times

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

The lifestyle of the classical Greeks often seems disappointingly modest. Where are the marbled floors, the pillared halls, the gilded rooms? Even the Athenians, the richest and most powerful of the Greeks, were said by one contemporary to dress no better than slaves.

Athenians, however, were as skilled at spending as their tragedians were at tragedy. Vast estates disappeared overnight, squandered not on material luxury, but on eating, drinking and sex, ephemeral pleasures that left no monuments but are remembered in numerous ancient texts.

Much of what they describe seems familiar – the pleasures of wine, the dangers of seduction, a mouth-watering plate of squid – but some stories are more puzzling: savages on the shores of the Persian Gulf who live off bread made from fish-flour; Alexander the Great drinks a toast that kills him; Socrates interrogates a beautiful woman who lives in luxury with no obvious means of support.

By unravelling these strange anecdotes James Davidson throws new light not only on ancient pleasures but on the Ancient World in general, unearthing surprising insights into Athenian society and the politics of the world's first democracy.

James Davidson lectures in Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He was previously Research Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. 'Courtesans and Fishcakes' is his first book.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Sell a Digital Version of This Book in the Kindle Store

If you are a publisher or author and hold the digital rights to a book, you can sell a digital version of it in our Kindle Store. Learn more

Customer Reviews

4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
5.0 out of 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
As a classics undergraduate, I understand the importance of a classics book which grabs and maintains interest from the beginning. The author, James Davidson, appears to have the ability to write such a book as this in spades. Admittedly, Davidson is not hindered by the subject matter, which mainly centres upon sex and alcohol, as well as other forms of depravity. However, this is not to say that it is as easy to read as a bodice-ripper. Although it is very entertaining, this is not an easy read and a good deal of concentration has to be dedicated to it. If you have any interest in classics or ancient history, then this book is a must.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy from cover to cover! 20 Oct 2009
By Stromata VINE VOICE
Erudite, well written and shockingly funny, James Davidson's book on ancient Greek consumption is a joy to read. This is, I feel, a much better work than his latest offering 'The Greeks and Greek Love: A Radical Reapprasial of homosexuality in Ancient Greece'. which I found rather hard going.

'Courtesans and Fishcakes' would interest a lot of readers, regardless of any previous knowledge of the period.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Athens brought brilliantly back to life 13 May 2011
I thought I knew most of what was worth knowing about Classical Greece. Wrong. In this lucid, intelligent and briliant - if sometimes quite hard to read - book, James Davidson comes up with far, far more. From their passion for eating fish and the reasons behind it to the role of the female hetaerae, he comes up with new insights all the time, debunking many of the misperceptions overlaid on an ancient era with so much resonance in the modern world, particularly those by Michel Foucault and Kenneth Dover.

It probably takes a gay man like Davidson to debunk the exaggerated focus that has been placed on homosexuality in the Greek world. Whilst this was possibly the first known human society to encourage such relationships, you come away aware that it was always a minority pursuit, largely among an aristocratic elite. Female prositution in all its forms, from a knee-trembler with a slave girl by the city wall to ruining yourself to win over a top hetaera, was still the norm.

What also made me sit up and re-examine my views was Davidson's brilliant insight into Athenian democracy. This was not the result of class struggle but the systematic weakening of ties to kin and the land in favour of the polis. And, among adult male citizens, it was truly democratic - in some ways rather totalitarian - in ways that went way beyond participation in debate: the relatively rich were corraled into funding state activity and even the suspicion that they might be hiding their wealth away or flaunting it too much could lead to rapid ruin.

Not easy going for someone with no previous knowledge of the period, but a quite superb book that I will come back to again and again. Highly recommended.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty History 16 Jan 2011
By The Emperor TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A stylish and well written look at the more seamy side of Ancient Greece.
It was interesting to learn that they didn't just give the world great philosophy, maths and science but also the type of behaviour and gossiping that you get on reality shows.

I was surprised to read that eating too much fish was so frowned upon and it was considered a terrible vice.
There are numerous fascinating and often very amusing anecdotes throughout but he also provides plenty of scholarly analysis.

After reading this book I am never going to look at radishes in the same way again.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Davidson, in this fascinating, elegantly written, amusing and yet academically-rigorous book, gives the perfect object lesson in how to write for both the professional classicist and the amateur historian without ever losing credibility or talking down to his audience. Whatever your interest, he surveys fifth century Athens and takes you from the aristocratic male environment of the symposium, to the back lanes of the city via pottery shops, food stalls and brothels. Exposing the Athenian discourse on appetite in all its variety, he tackles the perennially- fascinating subjects of food, drink and sex - and succeeds in making us feel that the classical Athenians are both just like us and yet simultaneously utterly alien.

Forget Rubicon, Persian Fire and all the other 'pseudo-history books' - this is the real thing and an excellent read.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for similar items by category