Thoth, Egyptian god of wisdom

"The nature of papyrus too is to be recounted, for on its use as rolls human civilization depends, at the most for its life, and certainly for its memory." - Pliny [the Elder].

This section includes collections and anthologies of shorter works, such as the Egyptian Miscellanies. We also have books of essays, such as Seneca the Younger's Dialogues.

We also have numerous works about library history and language. Terentius Varro (c 27 B.C.) wrote about libraries in his De bibliothecis. He also wrote a 25-volume work called On the Latin Language. Verrius Flaccus wrote On the Significance of Words, a dictionary which arranged words alphabetically rather than by subject. What a great idea!

Having lived in many different countries, I have come to see the value of learning another language. For those Greeks or foreigners (barbaroi) who would like to read works in their original language, we have a variety of dictionaries to help you translate foreign words. Traders and merchants may also find these of use.

I have arranged the languages by how similar or different they sound. Languages that are similar to Greek are all grouped into one category. No doubt, future scholars will give this group of languages a grand name, perhaps something like "Indo-European". These languages are Greek, in its Mycenaean, Classical, and current forms, Latin, Hittite, Luwian (southern Anatolia), and the Keltoi languages of Gaul, Tartessos (Hispania), Brettanike, Alba, Hibernia, and Galatia (Anatolia).

Another group of languages might have another name, say, "Semitic". Into this category I have put Hebrew, Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian), Ugaritic (early Canaanite), Phoenician, Punic (the language of the Phoenician colonies), and Aramaic. Egyptian, in its Old, Middle, New, Late, and Demotic forms, does not quite fit with my "Semitic" category. Perhaps this language will one day be called "Hamito-Semitic" or "Afro-Asiatic". Hurrian (from Mitanni) and Urartian might one day be called "Caucasian" languages. But then again, maybe another name will be found for them. Elamite might be called a "Dravidian" language and might be related to languages further east.

Then, finally, there are the languages that just don't seem to be like any other language. One might call them, "language isolates". Into this category I have put Sumerian, Minoan, Etruscan, and a relatively unknown language called Iberian. Iberian is spoken in southern and eastern Spain.

We also have cookbooks from various cultures. One of our modern Roman cookbooks is the famous De re coquinaria (Of Things Culinary) by M. Gavius Apicius, who was born earlier this century. The goal of many Roman chefs is to use so many ingrediants and blend so many flavors that no one can guess a dish's ingrediants. Almost every dish uses a salty fermented fish sauce called liquamen. Pepper is a favored Roman garnish that is even used in desserts. Roman feasts include the appetizer or gustatio (usually vegetables, seafood, and egg dishes), the main course or mensae primae (various roasted and broiled meats), and dessert or mensae secundae (fruit, cakes, custards, etc.). Mulsam, a sweet honeyed wine, usually starts a meal. Resined and unresined wines are then served during the meal or feast. A typical menu might include mussels in liquamen (salt sauce), cabbage salad with oil, wine, liquamen, cumin, and coriander, and lentils with chesnuts and spices for the appetizer. The main dish might include chicken with dill, leeks, coriander, and grape juice and pork with mint, dill, honey, pastry crumbs, and apricots. Dessert could include pears cooked in cumin, pepper, honey, grape juice, and liquamen and dates stuffed with nuts and pine-kernels and fried in cooked honey. Drinks might include honeyed rose wine (made from rose leaves steeped in wine) and passum, a sweet raisin wine.

Return to the main room of the Peiraeus Public Library.

Updated November 20, 2009