Spartans were fierce warriors who lived to fight. Boys were trained the ways of the sword and spear from an early age and by the time they joined the army, they were killing machines feared and admired by the enemy in equal measure. To complement their obviously formidable military training was a diet to match. That figures. Leonidas’ 300 repelled Xerxes’ enormous army of men and beasts not just by fighting skill but a stamina that’d make modern CrossFitters seem like casual morning joggers. That legendary endurance was likely based on a specific diet, or one vile dish in particular.
The Spartan Melas Zomos (Black Broth) comprised pigs’ legs and blood, salt and vinegar. Those are four of the historically recorded ingredients; it’s shuddering to think that there could have been more. Upon tasting it, one uppity non-Spartan food reviewer spat it straight back out, while another with the temerity to try it said thus: “Now I understand why the Spartans do not fear death.”
It would be a disservice to the proud history of Sparta to even assume that the populace survived solely on the Black Broth. In fact, it was just a part of a main course called aiklon. The second course comprised contributions from individual dinner guests and was called epaiklon. Guests willing to provide epaiklon had to either hunt it or bring it from his farm. Buying it from the market was an option that no proud Spartan would take. This second course included goose, lamb, blackbird or thrush, and was exclusive to adult men.
Of course, it is likely that Sparta’s less than stellar reputation regarding its cuisine had to do with comparisons to Greece whose cuisine was fish-heavy, had a greater sophistication and included an exotic variety of spices and sauces. Spartan cooking, on the other hand, was much simpler and inclined to hunted meat.