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Greek Bread-Baking Bells

Ceramic bell-shaped covers used by the Greeks to bake bread under, 47 KB

Source: "Cooking Bells: Pottery ovens were placed over the dough and then surrounded with coals" (Photograph and quotation below by Agora Excavations, American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Reproduced in Brumbaugh, The Philosophers of Greece (1966), p. 127)

"Aristophanes, making fun of the new science and its models, wrote in The Clouds, referring to Socrates' Thought-Shop:

"That is the reflectory of wise souls.
In there live men who state convincingly
That heaven's a cooking bell which sits
Around us and we, within it, coals."

Benjamin Bickley Rogers' translation into English verse renders c. lines 79-82 very differently, apparently mistaking the purpose of the ceramic bells.

STREPSIADES: That is the thinking-house of sapient souls.
There dwell the men who teach -- aye, who persuade us,
That Heaven is one vast fire-extinguisher
Placed round about us, and we're the cinders.

A Roman bread-baking method

The yeast-leavened flat-bread called in Italian focaccia, a word which is derived from the Latin word for "hearth", namely focus, was baked without a cover. A fire was built on a flat rock or surface of a fireplace, and when the surface was hot the cinders were brushed away and the dough was set on the hot surface to bake.

Allusion to The Clouds in Plato's Apology

It goes something like this: Socrates is guilty of wrongdoing in that he busies himself studying things in the sky and below the earth ... You have seen this yourselves in the comedy of Aristophanes, a Socrates swinging about there, saying he was walking on air and talking a lot of other nonsense about things of which I know nothing at all. (Plato, Apology 19b-c, tr. Grube)


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