International Conference

Food, Identity and
Cross-cultural Exchanges in Classical Antiquity

Ghent, Thu. 15th - Fri. 16th, 2011

Ghent University, Roman Society Research Center
and University of Exeter, Department of Classics and Ancient History


This conference is asserting that one food culture never appears ex nihilo nor independently from foreign culinary cultures and influences. We would like to go further than moralistic discourses on foreign food and the concept of decadence, luxury, barbarisation and try to understand how dietetic concepts, foreign ingredients, cuisine, table manners and cooking techniques are integrated in Greek and Roman cuisine/culture and understand where the truth lies in ethnic presumptions. Food items, cuisine and eating behaviours remain vectors of cultural and social identity. Therefore, we explore how foreign food choices, cuisine and behaviours are considered, interpreted, reinterpreted, recontextualized and/or given new semantic significations in a welcoming culture. But, instead of exploring this phenomenon with such concepts as "acculturation", "hellenisation", "romanisation", we propose instead the concept of cross-cultural exchanges. In sum, is there one very distinct and stereotyped Greek and Roman eating culture or is it a dynamic food culture opened and influenced by foreign cultures? The aim of this conference is to show how Ancient Greece and Rome, though great civilizations, were strongly influenced by foreign cultures and incorporated exogenous elements to make life easier. Foreign cuisine, foodstuffs and customs could also be re-contextualized, given a new sense in the welcoming culture. We will study how this was done and how people justified it. Borrowing never implied a loss of identity by itself, but implied new possibilities added to old customs and incorporated in daily life. The loss or gain of identity are, both, a creation of discourses following a political or ideological agenda; the influence of a foreign culture is not, in itself, positive or negative. If a practice was adopted, it served a purpose and made sense to the users. It could also be used to project one’s social selfimage.


Thursday 15/12/2011

12.30-14: Lunch

Friday 16/12/2011

12.30-14: Lunch

17: End of sessions

Registration and practicalities


Participation is free.

For practical reasons please register with .

If you want to join us for lunch please notify us before Dec. 5th and specify on which days. The price for lunch will be 10 euro for each conference day.

for any further information contact

Conference location

Het Pand
Zaal rector Vermeylen
Onderbergen 1
9000 Gent

For address and travel directions see

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