Courtesans and Fishcakes - James Davidson

Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens - James Davidson

So this has been on my TBR for an embarrassingly long time. About four years, actually. I was kind of worried it would be rather dull and dry - it being a book about classical Athens - but it was, in fact, quite interesting.


Because, of course, it's not just a book about classical Athens; it's a book about food and drink and sex in classical Athens, a fascinating and slightly alien society obsessed, apparently, with fish. Personally, I find social history a lot more interesting than political history, and, well, any book about food is a winner, really.


Davidson has an engaging prose style, accessible and occasionally delightfully sardonic, as when he takes a number of digs at Foucault's much-vaunted and apparently completely made-up theory of penetration in Athenian society (broadly: you could sleep with whoever you wanted, so long as you weren't the penetrated one). I did find the first half of the book - the detailed, specific bits about who ate what food or drank what drink or slept with whom, and what they paid for it - more interesting than the more politics-focused second half, but that's a personal thing.


I don't read much history, and certainly not much about Ancient Greece, so Courtesans and Fishcakes could conceivably be so much BS. But if it is it's convincing BS.