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milk  

Robert Sallares

Fresh milk (γάλα, lac) was not very important in the Greek and Roman diet, for climatic reasons, and many people in southern Italy and Greece cannot digest lactose in milk. However, northern *barbarians, especially nomads like the *Scythians, were known to drink milk. The milk that was consumed, normally in the form of cheese or curds (ὀξύγαλα), was usually that of goats or sheep. Cows' milk found little favour. Butter (βούτυρον) was used only by barbarians, since the Greeks and Romans preferred *olive oil. Horses' milk was also known. Receptacles identified as feeding-bottles for infants have been found on archaeological sites, but breast-milk was much more important (see breast-feeding). Milk was highly valued in medicine. The physicians recommended the internal or external use of milk (both human and animal) or whey for numerous ailments. It was also used for *cosmetic purposes, and in religious ceremonies as a first-fruit offering (see aparchē), although its early use in this domain was often superseded by that of *wine.