In their classic study of The Cuisine of Sacrifice Among the Greeks (13), Detienne and Vernant describe how the distribution of meat from a sacrificed animal traces the boundaries and ranks of a social order:
“The commensal meal begins with division. Two systems seem to compete, both in the carving of the meat and its distribution. The first is centered on privilege, the geras, the meat privilege. The choice pieces – thigh, hindquarter, shoulder, and tongue – are given to the priest, king, or high magistrates of the city. In this case, the butcher’s art is to divide the victim along its natural joints, detaching the limbs one after another. In contrast, in the other system corresponding to the Homeric model of a ‘meal in equal parts,’ the animal, it appears, is divided entirely into pieces of equal weight, which are distributed by lottery.” These systems are later combined, so that the nobles are given a piece of the meat that displays their honor first, and then the rest is equally divided.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 4:57 am
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