Last updated
Athenaeus of Naucratis
BornLate second century AD
Naucratis, Roman Empire (modern-day Egypt)
DiedEarly third century AD
OccupationWriter, grammarian, and rhetorician
Notable works Deipnosophistae

Athenaeus of Naucratis ( /ˌæθəˈnəs/ ; Ancient Greek : Ἀθήναιος Nαυκρατίτης or Nαυκράτιος, Athēnaios Naukratitēs or Naukratios; Latin : Athenaeus Naucratita) was a Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourishing about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD. The Suda says only that he lived in the times of Marcus Aurelius, but the contempt with which he speaks of Commodus, who died in 192, shows that he survived that emperor. He was a contemporary of Adrantus. [1]

Naucratis City of Ancient Egypt, on the Canopic branch of the Nile river

Naucratis or Naukratis was a city of Ancient Egypt, on the Canopic branch of the Nile river, and 45 mi (72 km) southeast of the open sea and Alexandria. It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Greek colony in Egypt; it was a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Greek and Egyptian art and culture.

The Greeks or Hellenes are an ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus, southern Albania, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world.

<i>Suda</i> literary work

The Suda or Souda is a large 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Soudas (Σούδας) or Souidas (Σουίδας). It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often derived from medieval Christian compilers. The derivation is probably from the Byzantine Greek word souda, meaning "fortress" or "stronghold", with the alternate name, Suidas, stemming from an error made by Eustathius, who mistook the title for the author's name.


Several of his publications are lost, but the fifteen-volume Deipnosophistae mostly survives.

<i>Deipnosophistae</i> work by ancient greek author Athenaios

The Deipnosophistae is an early 3rd-century AD Greek work by the Greco-Egyptian author Athenaeus of Naucratis. It is a long work of literary, historical, and antiquarian references set in Rome at a series of banquets held by the protagonist Publius Livius Larensis for an assembly of grammarians, lexicographers, jurists, musicians, and hangers-on. It is sometimes called the oldest surviving cookbook.


Athenaeus himself states that he was the author of a treatise on the thratta, a kind of fish mentioned by Archippus and other comic poets, and of a history of the Syrian kings. Both works are lost.

Archippus was an Athenian poet of the Old Comedy. His most famous play was the Fishes, in which he satirized the fondness of the Athenian epicures for fish. The Alexandrian critics attributed to him the authorship of four plays previously assigned to Aristophanes. Archippus was ridiculed by his contemporaries for his fondness for playing upon words.

The Deipnosophistes belongs to the literary tradition inspired by the use of the Greek banquet. Banqueters playing Kottabos while a musician plays the Aulos, decorated by the artist 'Nicias'/'Nikias' Symposium scene Nicias Painter MAN.jpg
The Deipnosophistes belongs to the literary tradition inspired by the use of the Greek banquet. Banqueters playing Kottabos while a musician plays the Aulos, decorated by the artist 'Nicias'/'Nikias'

The Deipnosophistae

Deipnosophistae, 1535 Deipnosophistae.tif
Deipnosophistae, 1535

The Deipnosophistae , which means "dinner-table philosophers," survives in fifteen books. The first two books, and parts of the third, eleventh and fifteenth, are extant only in epitome, but otherwise the work seems to be entire. It is an immense store-house of information, chiefly on matters connected with dining, but also containing remarks on music, songs, dances, games, courtesans, and luxury. Nearly 800 writers and 2500 separate works are referred to by Athenaeus; one of his characters (not necessarily to be identified with the historical author himself) boasts of having read 800 plays of Athenian Middle Comedy alone. Were it not for Athenaeus, much valuable information about the ancient world would be missing, and many ancient Greek authors such as Archestratus would be almost entirely unknown. Book XIII, for example, is an important source for the study of sexuality in classical and Hellenistic Greece, and a rare fragment of Theognetus' work survives in 3.63.

An epitome is a summary or miniature form, or an instance that represents a larger reality, also used as a synonym for embodiment. Epitomacy represents, "to the degree of." An abridgment differs from an epitome in that an abridgment is made of selected quotations of a larger work; no new writing is composed, as opposed to the epitome, which is an original summation of a work, at least in part.

Hetaira historical profession

Hetaira, also hetaera, was a type of prostitute in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek comedy

Ancient Greek comedy was one of the final three principal dramatic forms in the theatre of classical Greece. Athenian comedy is conventionally divided into three periods: Old Comedy, Middle Comedy, and New Comedy. Old Comedy survives today largely in the form of the eleven surviving plays of Aristophanes, while Middle Comedy is largely lost, i.e. preserved only in relatively short fragments by authors such as Athenaeus of Naucratis. New Comedy is known primarily from the substantial papyrus fragments of Menander.

The Deipnosophistae professes to be an account given by an individual named Athenaeus to his friend Timocrates of a banquet held at the house of Larensius (Λαρήνσιος; in Latin: Larensis), a wealthy book-collector and patron of the arts. It is thus a dialogue within a dialogue, after the manner of Plato, but the conversation extends to enormous length. The topics for discussion generally arise from the course of the dinner itself, but extend to literary and historical matters of every description, including abstruse points of grammar. The guests supposedly quote from memory. The actual sources of the material preserved in the Deipnosophistae remain obscure, but much of it probably comes at second-hand from early scholars.

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

The twenty-four named guests [2] include individuals called Galen and Ulpian, but they are all probably fictitious personages, and the majority take no part in the conversation. If the character Ulpian is identical with the famous jurist, the Deipnosophistae may have been written after his death in 223; but the jurist was murdered by the Praetorian Guard, whereas Ulpian in Athenaeus dies a natural death.

Ulpian Roman jurist

Ulpian was a prominent Roman jurist of Tyrian ancestry. He was considered one of the great legal authorities of his time and was one of the five jurists upon whom decisions were to be based according to the Law of Citations of Valentinian III.

Praetorian Guard Imperial Roman unit who guarded the emperors

The Praetorian Guard was an elite unit of the Imperial Roman army whose members served as personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors. During the era of the Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force for high-ranking officials such as senators or provincial governors like procurators, and also serving as bodyguards for high ranking officers within the Roman legions. With the republic's transition into the Roman Empire, however, the first emperor, Augustus, founded the Guard as his personal security detail. Although they continued to serve in this capacity for roughly three centuries, the Guard became notable for its intrigue and interference in Roman politics, to the point of overthrowing emperors and proclaiming their successors. In 312, the Guard was disbanded by Constantine the Great.

The complete version of the text, with the gaps noted above, is preserved in only one manuscript, conventionally referred to as A. The epitomized version of the text is preserved in two manuscripts, conventionally known as C and E. The standard edition of the text is Kaibel's Teubner. The standard numbering is drawn largely from Casaubon.

The encyclopaedist and author Sir Thomas Browne wrote a short essay upon Athenaeus [3] which reflects a revived interest in the Banquet of the Learned amongst scholars during the 17th century following its publication in 1612 by the Classical scholar Isaac Casaubon.


One of Athenaeus' friends, Timocrates, wrote about the untimely death of Athenaeus in the Athenaeum. It describes the tale of angry peasants who believed that Athenaeus' writings directly contradicted their personal beliefs of the Mithras cult. One night in 191 A.D., they kidnapped him and threatened to kill him if he did not stop writing. When they discovered that he continued writing the Deipnosophistae, twenty-three men stormed into his home and strangled him to death. It is unclear whether Athenaeus finished his work on his own or Timocrates finished it for him, as most of the Athenaeum is lost. [4]

First patents

Athenaeus described what may be considered the first patents (i.e. exclusive right granted by a government to an inventor to practice his/her invention in exchange for disclosure of the invention). He mentions that in 500 BC, in the Greek city of Sybaris (located in what is now southern Italy), there were annual culinary competitions. The victor was given the exclusive right to prepare his dish for one year. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Chalciope, in Greek mythology, is a name that may refer to several characters.

Aegimius was the Greek mythological ancestor of the Dorians, who is described as their king and lawgiver at the time when they were yet inhabiting the northern parts of Thessaly.

Aegle is the name of several different figures in Greek mythology:

Admete or Admeta, was in Greek mythology, a Mycenaean princess. She was the daughter of Eurystheus and Antimache and sister to Alexander, Iphimedon, Eurybius, Mentor and Perimedes.

In Greek mythology, Oxylus may refer to:

Lynceus of Samos brother of the historian Duris of Samos, was a classical Greek author of comedies, letters and humorous anecdotes. He lived in the late 4th and early 3rd centuries BC and was a pupil of Theophrastus. His works, especially his letters and the essay Shopping for Food, show a special interest in gastronomy. He was also the addressee of an important letter by Hippolochus on dining in Macedon. He would be practically unknown if it were not for numerous quotations from his works in the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus.

Alcyone, in Greek mythology, was the name of one of the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas and Pleione or, more rarely, Aethra. She attracted the attention of the god Poseidon and bore him several children, variously named in the sources: Hyrieus, Hyperenor, and Aethusa; Hyperes and Anthas; and Epopeus. By a mortal, Anthedon, Alcyone became the mother of the fisherman Glaucus, who was later transformed into a marine god. There are various etymological interpretations of her name's origin.

In Greek mythology, the name Chalcodon may refer to:

In Greek mythology, there were several people named Anthedon — at least two male and one female.

In Greek mythology, Calyce or Calycia is the name of several characters.

In Greek mythology, the name Apheidas may refer to:

Glaucus water deity

In Greek mythology, Glaucus was a Greek prophetic sea-god, born mortal and turned immortal upon eating a magical herb. It was believed that he commonly came to the rescue of sailors and fishermen in storms, having earlier earned a living from the sea himself.

In Greek mythology, Trambelus was a son of Telamon. His mother was the Trojan captive, Hesione or Theaneira.

In Greek mythology, the name Caucon may refer to:

In Greek mythology, Tiasa was a Naiad nymph of a river near Amyclae, Sparta. She was a Laconian princess as the daughter of King Eurotas and thus, sister to Sparta. By the river Tiasa was situated a temple of Cleta and Phaenna, the two Charites recognized in Sparta, which was purported to have been founded by Lacedaemon.

Nicobule or Nicobula was a Greek woman who may have authored a work on the life of Alexander the Great. No biographical details of her life have been preserved. Since her name is Greek, scholars tend to suggest that she was most probably writing during the first to third centuries AD, the period in which Hellenistic scholarship was most interested in Alexander.

Eurytus of Oechalia King of Oechalia

In Greek mythology King Eurytus of Oechalia, Thessaly, was a skillful archer who even said to have instructed Heracles in his art of using the bow.

In Greek mythology, Syceus was a giant son of Gaea (Earth) and eponym of the city of Sykea in Cilicia.


  1. Smith, William (1867), "Adrantus", in Smith, William (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology , 1, Boston, p. 20
  2. Kaibel, Georg (1890). Athenaei Naucratitae Dipnosophistarum Libri XV, Vol. 3. Leipzig: Teubner. pp. 561–564.
  3. Sir Thomas Browne, From a Reading of Athenaeus
  4. "Athenaeus." LacusCurtius •. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.
  5. M. Frumkin, "The Origin of Patents", Journal of the Patent Office Society, March 1945, Vol. XXVII, No. 3, pp 143 et Seq.

Further reading