- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens Paperback – 1 Jun 2009
Special offers and product promotions
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
‘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.’
From the Back Cover
“A most enjoyable book about enjoyment.”
PETER STOTHARD,'The Times'
“James Davidson’s concern is with ancient appetites: food, drink and sex in classical Athens. At one level, he provides a guided tour from bordello to Billingsgate; at another, an essay on the politics of consumption. Fish did loom large: it was the gourmet food, and therefore the social indicator. Literary critics found it extraordinary that the heroes of the Iliad lived on kebabs, though they were camped near the rich fishing grounds of the Dardanelles. This is a book of many pleasures, both in analysis and in anecdote. You can meet heroes of hedonism and martyrs of sensuality: Melanthios, who prayed for a neck like a heron’s, so that he could linger long on the delicious mouthfuls; Philoxenos, who consumed a three foot octopus (except for the head), and nearly died of dyspepsia; the anonymous alcoholic immortalised by Aristotle, who put eggs under his mat and sat on them and drank continuously until they hatched. Davidson presents a superior class of hedonist … His invigorating book paints the scene with polished scholarship and fine Hellenic gusto.”
PETER PARSONS'London Review of Books'
“Davidson blows away a whole heap of cobwebs, and at the same time shows up with merciless clarity the dissimulation and hypocrisy at the heart of some modern attitudes. We learn about where tarts took their clients, their tarifs and repertoire of sexual positions (the one called ‘lion on the cheesegrater’ is a puzzler); about the quaint games of kottabos (flicking the remains of one’s wine at a target) and quail tapping (you rapped a quail on the head and bet on whether it stood its ground or backed off); about the price of fresh eels and barracuda; about plonk and best vintage Chian wine. All students of antiquity will have to have this book.”
CHRISTOPHER STACE, 'Daily Telegraph'
“If little boys are still being made to learn dead languages, and expected to enjoy 'Everyday Life in Ancient Greece', I hope their Greek master reads James 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.”
HUMPHREY CARPENTER,'Sunday Times'
“An excellent and learned exploration of a subject which for 50 years has crumbled to dust whenever touched. 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.”
PETER LEVI, 'Spectator'
Top customer reviews
'Courtesans and Fishcakes' would interest a lot of readers, regardless of any previous knowledge of the period.
Forget Rubicon, Persian Fire and all the other 'pseudo-history books' - this is the real thing and an excellent read.
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.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
It was interesting to learn that they didn't just give the world great philosophy, maths and science...Read more