La dieta del saggio: una lettura antropologica delle prescrizioni alimentari senecane

Maria Caterina Mortillaro


In this paper, I consider Seneca's ideas about the prevention of diseases and particularly prescriptions about diet within a comparative anthropological perspective. Food is a very powerful symbolic mechanism of identity construction. As in many cultures, so too in ancient Rome food preferences were utilized as markers of identity. Certain alimentary practices were criticized by Seneca in order to condemn contemporary society and to propose a reversion to the past, idealized as a time of purity and moral strength. The consumption of luxury foods is associated with moral decadence. From a structuralist point of view, the rejection of some foods can also be linked to purity and danger (cf. Mary Douglas), but an approach based on concepts of analogy or on, as Frazer classifies it, "sympathetic magic", or on poststructuralism (cf. Marshall Sahlins), better explains some of the philosopher's statements.

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