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date: 30 November 2022



  • Robert Sallares


The most important component of the diet (see food and drink). The Greeks and Romans cultivated wheat, barley, oats, rye, and millets, using dry-farming methods. Greek and Roman farmers did not understand wet-rice cultivation, which was practised in the near east in antiquity. Maize only reached Europe from America after Columbus. The botanical works of *Theophrastus, the Roman agronomists (see agricultural writers), and medical writers provide a lot of information on cereals. These sources may be supplemented with the evidence of palaeobotanical remains of cereals found on archaeological sites.By the end of antiquity wheat was the most important cereal. Innovations such as the spread of the rotary grain-mill (see mills), from the 4th cent. bce onwards, and the use of finer sieves to separate grain from chaff, made it possible to produce purer flour, although it was still coarse by modern standards. Wheat came to be preferred to the other cereals because it contains a higher proportion of gluten (which raises loaves during baking) than other cereals. This development led to the gradual displacement of the original Greek and Latin words for wheat (πυρός and triticum) by the words for ‘grain’ in general (σῖτος and frumentum).


  • Ancient Economy

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