In ancient Greece, Sparta was famous for two things: The bravery of its warriors in battle and its atrocious food, says chef Max Miller who prepared the infamous black broth or melas zomos.
During the communal daily meal, bread, called maza, a thin toasted wheat flatbread, was served along with black broth containing pork and the blood of the pig (which gave it its dark color).
Although a recipe for the dish has not survived through the millennia, we have a good idea of the main ingredients used. Miller used his skills to recreate the ancient dish below:
Black broth was the most important element of daily life in Sparta
The rigidity and strictness of Spartans were always reflected in the various elements of gastronomy as well.
Spartans would traditionally have wine, which, unlike other Greek city-states, was offered to women as well as men.
Not surprisingly, food in the city-state of Sparta was seen as a means of sustenance only; it didn’t exist for luxury, entertainment, or overindulgence.
Black broth is still recognized as the most important element in the daily Spartan diet and of warriors in battle.
Prepared with pork and blood, vinegar, onions, and bay leaf, the concoction was considered a “culinary horror” by other Greek poleis and further afield since ancient times.
A traveler from Sibari of southern Italy, after having tasted the dish, famously said: “Now I perceive the reason for the lightness with which Spartan warriors go to death: after it they will not have to eat melas zomos anymore.”
Related: The Decline of Sparta as Seen Through Its Food