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According to Herodotus, the historian who described the Greek-Persian wars in detail, when the Spartan Commander-in-Chief Pausanias, after the victorious battle of Plataea, entered the scene of the killed Persian General Mardonius:

"... he ordered the bakers and the cooks to prepare the dinner Mardonius usually enjoyed. When Pausanias saw the luxurius daybeds, as well as the gold and silver tables loaded with the majestic dinner, he was surprised. As a joke, he ordered his own servants to prepare a Spartan dinner. The difference was so great that he laughed, called all the Generals of the Greeks and said to them, pointing to the two dinners: "Greeks, I called you here to show you the foolishness of the Median ruler who dines like this everyday and moved against us to steal our poverty."

We know today many nutritional details of the above scene, namely that the Greek General's meal did not stand out from the hoplites battling under his command. The ration was based on barley bulgur and unleavened barley bread, olives preserved in brine, onions and cured fish wrapped in fig leaves. In his haversack every soldier had salt and thyme to flavor the food, dried figs and a small spit perhaps, for the rare occasion that he would find meat. The army's logistics provided also goat cheese, fresh fruit (figs and grapes in the case of the Battle of Plataea, which took place in late August) and wine diluted with water to give courage to the fighters.

The Persians, who, in their vast and multinational troops, served Greeks, Indians and Ethiopians, were supplied by their Theban allies. They also ate barley bread, along with some goat meat, dried dates and almonds. However, the pyramidal structure of the Persian army required Mardonius and his high rank officers to enjoy roasted ducks and peacocks, pilaf flavored with cardamom, honey dripping sweets, wine made from dates and strong barley beer.



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