Andrew Dalby

Andrew Dalby, FCIL (born 1947 in Liverpool) is an English linguist, translator and historian who has written articles and several books on a wide range of topics including food history, language, and Classical texts.

Andrew Dalby
Andrew Dalby

Education and early career

Dalby studied Latin, French and Greek at the Bristol Grammar School and University of Cambridge. Here he also studied Romance languages and linguistics, earning a bachelor's degree in 1970.

Dalby worked for fifteen years at Cambridge University Library, eventually specialising in Southern Asia. He gained familiarity with some other languages because of his work there, where he had to work with foreign serials and afterwards with South Asia and Southeast Asian materials. He also wrote articles on multilingual topics linked with the library and its collections.

In 1982 and 1983, he collaborated with Sao Saimong in cataloguing the Scott Collection of manuscripts and documents from Burma (especially the Shan States) and Indochina. Dalby later published a short biography of the colonial civil servant and explorer J. G. Scott, who formed the collection.[1] To help him with this task, he took classes in Cambridge again in Sanskrit, Hindi and Pali and in London in Burmese and Thai.

Regent's College and food writing

After his time at Cambridge, Dalby worked in London helping to start the library at Regent's College and on renovating another library at London House (Goodenough College). He also served as Honorary Librarian of the Institute of Linguists, for whose journal The Linguist he writes a regular column. He later did a part-time PhD at Birkbeck College, London in ancient history (in 1987–93), which improved his Latin and Greek. His Dictionary of Languages was published in 1998. Language in Danger, on the extinction of languages and the threatened monolingual future, followed in 2002.

Meanwhile, he began to work on food history and contributed to Alan Davidson's journal Petits Propos Culinaires; He was eventually one of Davidson's informal helpers on the Oxford Companion to Food. Dalby's first food history book, Siren Feasts, appeared in 1995 and won a Runciman Award; it is also well known in Greece, where it was translated as Seireneia Deipna. At the same time he was working with Sally Grainger on The Classical Cookbook, the first historical cookbook to look beyond Apicius to other ancient Greek and Roman sources in which recipes are found.

Dangerous Tastes, on the history of spices, was the Guild of Food Writers Food Book of the Year for 2001. Work on this also led to Dalby's first article for Gastronomica magazine, in which he traced the disastrous exploration of Gonzalo Pizarro in search of La Canela in eastern Ecuador, showing how the myth of the "Valley of Cinnamon" first arose and identifying the real tree species which was at the root of the legend.[2] Dalby's light-hearted biography of Bacchus includes a retelling, rare in English, of the story of Prosymnus and the price he demanded for guiding Dionysus to Hades. In an unfavorable review of Bacchus in The Guardian, Ranjit Bolt argues that Dalby's "formidable learning" overwhelmed his ability to off the reader an appealing narrative.[3] His epilogue to Petronius' Satyrica combines a gastronomic commentary on the "Feast of Trimalchio" with a fictional dénouement inspired by the fate of Petronius himself.[4]


Dalby's Rediscovering Homer developed out of two academic papers from the 1990s in which he argued that the Iliad and Odyssey must be seen as belonging to the same world as that of the early Greek lyric poets but to a less aristocratic genre.[5] Returning to these themes, he spotlit the unknown poet who, long after the time of the traditional Homer, at last saw the Iliad and Odyssey recorded in writing. As he teasingly suggested, based on what we can judge of this poet's interests and on the circumstances in which oral poetry has been recorded elsewhere, "it is possible, and even probable, that this poet was a woman."[6]


Dalby's book Language in Danger: The Loss of Linguistic Diversity and the Threat to Our Future, focuses on the decline and extinction of languages from ancient times to the modern era. Dalby attributes the loss to the emergence of large centralised political groupings, the spread of communications technologies, and the hegemony of the English language.[7] According to Mario Basini, Dalby argues that the loss of a language is a loss to all of humanity, because each language embodies a unique view of the world and contains unique information about the manner in which is speakers interact with a unique place, knowledge and perspectives that are lost when a language goes extinct.[8]

Dalby profiles endangered languages and discusses the significance of their disappearance, which he estimates occurs at a rate of one every two weeks. He states that the world is diminished by each language lost because they encapsulate "local knowledge and ways of looking at the human condition that die with the last speaker." He also discusses the way stronger languages "squeeze out" others, using the rise of Latin and the extinctions that occurred around the Mediterranean in classical times as an example, and notes a similar pattern that Irish, Welsh, and various Native American languages and indigenous Australian languages have faced in the English-speaking world, where they "were banned in school to force minority groups to speak the language of the majority". Dalby writes that preferences have shifted toward encouraging minority languages and that many can be saved. His account was described as engrossing by The Wall Street Journal.[9] The book disputes advocacy of a single common language as a means to a happier, more peaceful, and improved world.[10]


  • 1993: South East Asia: a guide to reference material
  • 1995: Siren Feasts: a history of food and gastronomy in Greece
  • 1996: The Classical Cookbook
  • 1998: Cato: On Farming (translation and commentary)
  • 1998: Dictionary of Languages
  • 1998: Guide to World Language Dictionaries
  • 2000: Empire of Pleasures: Luxury and Indulgence in the Roman World
  • 2000: Dangerous Tastes: the story of spices
  • 2002: Language in Danger; The Loss of Linguistic Diversity and the Threat to Our Future Columbia University 329 pages[10][11]
  • 2003: Flavours of Byzantium
  • 2003: Food in the ancient world from A to Z
  • 2005: Bacchus: a biography[3]
  • 2005: Venus: a biography
  • 2006: Rediscovering Homer
  • 2009: The World and Wikipedia
  • 2009: Cheese: a global history
  • 2010: Tastes of Byzantium: The Cuisine of a Legendary Empire


  1. ^ "Sir George Scott, 1851–1935: explorer of Burma's eastern borders" in Explorers of South-East Asia ed. V.T. King (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press/Penerbit Fajar Bakti, 1995).
  2. ^ "Christopher Columbus, Gonzalo Pizarro, and the search for cinnamon" in Gastronomica vol. 1 no. 2 (2001) pp. 40–49.
  3. ^ a b Bolt, Ranjit (8 November 2003). "Bacchus: A Biography by Andrew Dalby (book review)". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  4. ^ "The Satyrica concluded" in Gastronomica vol. 5 no. 4 (2005) pp. 65–72.
  5. ^ "The Iliad, the Odyssey and their audiences" in Classical quarterly NS vol. 45 no. 2 (1995); "Homer's enemies: lyric and epic in the seventh century" in Archaic Greece: new approaches and new evidence ed. Nick Fisher and Hans van Wees (London: Duckworth, 1998).
  6. ^ The idea has been dismissed as "far-fetched" by Anthony Snodgrass on the grounds that a woman would have been "bored out of her mind" when composing the Iliad ( [1]).
  7. ^ Macfarlane, Robert A crossroads with two signposts: diversity and uniformity 25 May 2002 Spectator
  8. ^ Basini, Mario (10 August 2002). "Future of humanity may be worse for loss of languages". Western Mail (Wales). Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  9. ^ Books on Language 18 April 2009 Wall Street Journal
  10. ^ a b Michael Dirda A scholar explains why we don't want to teach the world to speak in perfect harmony 25 May 2003 The Washington Post
  11. ^ Rottet, Kevin J. Language in Society 33, no. 5 (2004): 783-85.

External links


Abkhazians or the Abkhaz (Abkhaz: Аҧсуа, Apswa;) are a Northwest Caucasian ethnic group, mainly living in Abkhazia, a disputed region on the Black Sea coast. A large Abkhaz diaspora population resides in Turkey, the origins of which lie in the population movements from the Caucasus in the late 19th century. Many Abkhaz also live in other parts of the former Soviet Union, particularly in Russia and Ukraine.

Cheshire cheese

Cheshire cheese is a dense and crumbly cheese produced in the English county of Cheshire, and four neighbouring counties, Denbighshire and Flintshire in Wales and Shropshire and Staffordshire in England.

Chian wine

Chian wine was a product of the Greek island of Chios. It was among the most prized wines in classical antiquity and, according to Theopompus and Greek mythology, was the first red wine, then called "black wine".


Conditum, piperatum, or konditon (κόνδιτον) is a family of spiced wines in ancient Roman and Byzantine cuisine.

The Latin name translates roughly as "spiced". Recipes for conditum viatorium (traveler's spiced wine) and conditum paradoxum (surprise spiced wine) are found in De re coquinaria. This conditum paradoxum includes wine, honey, pepper, mastic, laurel, saffron, date seeds and dates soaked in wine.

Dalby (surname)

Dalby is a Scandinavian place name meaning "valley settlement", during the Viking Age, the name was brought to England and it later also became an English surname. It can be a locational surname for those from Dalby, Lincolnshire, near Spilsby; in Dalby, Leicestershire near Melton Mowbray, and in Dalby, North Yorkshire near Terrington. Notable people with the surname include:

Amy Dalby, British actress

Andrew Dalby, Culinary writer

Andy Dalby, guitarist

Claire Dalby, British artist

Dave Dalby, former NFL football player

David Dalby, British linguist, founder of Linguasphere Observatory

Greg Dalby, American soccer player

Håkan Dahlby, Swedish double trap shooter

Irene Dalby, Norwegian swimmer

John Dalby (1929–2017), English singer and composer

John Dalby (painter) (1810–1865), English painter

Liza Dalby, American anthropologist and writer

Matthew Dalby, British scientist

Mark Dalby (1938–2013), British Anglican Archdeacon

Martin Dalby (1942–2018), Scottish composer

Nicolas Dalby, Danish mixed martial artist

Robert Dalby, English martyr

William Bartlett Dalby (1840–1918), British aural surgeon and otologisthe

James George Scott

Sir James George Scott (pseudonym Shway Yoe, 25 December 1851 – 4 April 1935) was a Scottish journalist and colonial administrator who helped establish British colonial rule in Burma, and in addition introduced football to Burma.

Kru languages

The Kru languages belong to the Niger–Congo language family and are spoken by the Kru people from the southeast of Liberia to the east of Ivory Coast.

The term "Kru" is of unknown origin. According to Westermann (1952) it was used by Europeans to denote a number of tribes speaking related dialects. Marchese (1989) notes the fact that many of these peoples were recruited as "crew" by European seafarers; "the homonymy with crew is obvious, and is at least one source of the confusion among Europeans that there was a Kru/crew tribe"Andrew Dalby noted the historical importance of the Kru languages for their position at the crossroads of African-European interaction. He wrote that "Kru and associated languages were among the first to be encountered by European voyagers on what was then known as the Pepper Coast, a centre of the production and export of Guinea and melegueta pepper; a once staple African seaborne trade". The Kru languages are known for some of the most complex tone systems in Africa, rivaled perhaps only by the Omotic languages.


Lakerda is a pickled bonito dish eaten as a mezze in the Balkans and Middle East. Lakerda made from one-year-old bonito migrating through the Bosphorus is especially prized.

Maba people

The Burgu people (also Bargo, Bergo) are a minority ethnic group found primarily in the mountainous Ouaddaï region of eastern Chad, Sudan. Their population is estimated to be about 300,000 in Chad. Other estimates place the total number of Burgu people in-Sudan to be about 700,000.The Burgu today primarily adhere to Islam, following the Maliki Sunni denomination. They supported the Sultans of Abeche and the Sudanic kingdoms, who spoke their language. Little is certain about their history before the 17th century. They are noted as having helped expel the Christian Tunjur dynasty and installed an Islamic dynasty in their region in the early 17th-century. Their homelands lie in the path of caravan routes that connect the Sahel and West Africa with the Middle East. The Burgu people are an Arabized African people. They are traditionally pastoral and farmers who are clan-oriented.The Burgu people have also been referred to as the Wadai, a derivative of Ouaddaï. They speak Maba, a Nilo-Saharan language, of the Maban branch. Locally this language is called Bura Mabang. The first ten numerals in Maba language, states Andrew Dalby, are "tek, bar, kungal, asal, tor, settal, mindri, rya, adoi, atuk", and this is very distant from other Nilo-Saharan languages. Although a small ethnic group, their Maba language was the state language of the Islamic state of Wadai, and continued to be an important language when the Islamic Bornu Empire conquered these lands. Many Burgu people also speak Arabic, as their traditional trade language.The Burgu people rebelled against the tribute demands of the Bornu Empire, and became sovereign people. They then led raids to southern regions for plunder and slaves from non-Muslim African ethnic groups. The African slaves of the Burgu people were absorbed in the Burgu tribal culture, and often they converted to escape slavery. In the 19th century, a powerful Burgu Sultanate on slave trading caravan route emerged under rulers such as Muhammad al-Sharif and Doud Murra. The Burgu Sultanate was abolished by the French in 1912, and the Burgu people's region thereafter annexed into the Ubangi-Shari colony. The Burgus participated in the efforts to end the colonial rule and then in the civil wars in Chad.The Burgu people are subdivided into many sub-clans, each controlling certain grazing lands and sources of water. Among the various sub-clans, the largest are the Marfa, Djene and Mandaba.


Macaroni (, Italian: Maccheroni) is dry pasta shaped like narrow tubes. Made with durum wheat, macaroni is commonly cut in short lengths; curved macaroni may be referred to as elbow macaroni. Some home machines can make macaroni shapes, but like most pasta, macaroni is usually made commercially by large-scale extrusion. The curved shape is created by different speeds of extrusion on opposite sides of the pasta tube as it comes out of the machine.

In North America, the word "macaroni" is often used synonymously with elbow-shaped macaroni, as it is the variety most often used in macaroni and cheese recipes. In Italy, the noun maccheroni refers to straight, tubular, square-ended pasta corta ("short-length pasta"). Maccheroni may also refer to long pasta dishes such as maccheroni alla chitarra and frittata di maccheroni, which are prepared with long pasta like spaghetti.


Pastrami (Romanian: pastramă) is a meat product usually made from beef, and sometimes from pork, mutton, or turkey. The raw meat is brined, partially dried, seasoned with herbs and spices, then smoked and steamed. Beef plate is the traditional cut of meat for making pastrami, although it is now common in the United States to see it made from beef brisket, beef round, and turkey. Like corned beef, pastrami was originally created as a way to preserve meat before refrigeration.

Phantasia (poet)

Phantasia is the name of an ancient Egyptian woman who was said to have been the author of the immediate sources of the two ancient Greek epics, Iliad and Odyssey, attributed to Homer.

According to a fiction retold by the Byzantine scholar Eustathius of Thessalonica and attributed by him to "a certain Naucrates", Phantasia, daughter of Nicarchus of Memphis, an inspired poet, wrote poems about the war in the plains of Troy and the wanderings of Odysseus, and deposited these books in the temple of Hephaestus at Memphis. Homer afterwards visited the shrine, persuaded the priests to make copies of the books for him, and afterwards wrote the Iliad and Odyssey. "Some say" [Eustathius adds] "that Homer himself was Egyptian; others, that he visited the country and was taught by Egyptians."

The story is one of the least known of the biographical fictions about Homer; it is mentioned neither by Samuel Butler nor by Andrew Dalby, both of whom have developed the argument that a woman poet was responsible for the Odyssey.

Note: An earlier author, Photius of Constantinople, attributes this to Ptolemy Chennus (a Greek mythographer active 1st to 2nd century AD?).

Phantasia, a woman of Memphis, daughter of Nicarchus, composed before Homer a tale of the Trojan War and of the adventures of Odysseus. The books were deposited, it is said, at Memphis; Homer went there and obtained copies from Phanites, the temple scribe, and he composed under their inspiration.

Placenta cake

Placenta is a dish from ancient Rome consisting of many dough layers interspersed with a mixture of cheese and honey and flavored with bay leaves, then baked and covered in honey. Cato included a recipe in his De Agri Cultura (160 BC). Cato writes: Shape the placenta as follows: place a single row of tracta along the whole length of the base dough. This is then covered with the mixture [cheese and honey] from the mortar. Place another row of tracta on top and go on doing so until all the cheese and honey have been used up. Finish with a layer of the placenta in the oven and put a preheated lid on top of it ... When ready, honey is poured over the placenta. It derives from the Greek term plakous (Ancient Greek: πλακοῦς, gen. πλακοῦντος – plakountos, from πλακόεις - plakoeis, "flat") for thin or layered flat breads, and Andrew Dalby considers it, and surrounding dessert recipes in Cato, to be in the "Greek tradition," possibly copied from a Greek cookbook. A flowery description of plakous was left by the Greek poet Antiphanes (fl. 3rd century BC).A number of scholars suggest that the Roman dessert's Eastern Roman (Byzantine) descendants, plakountas tetyromenous ("cheesy placenta") and koptoplakous (Byzantine Greek: κοπτοπλακοῦς), are the ancestors of modern tiropita (börek or banitsa) and baklava respectively. The name placenta (Greek: "πλατσέντα") is used today on the island of Lesbos in Greece to describe a baklava-type dessert of layered pastry leaves containing crushed nuts that is baked and then covered in honey. Another variant of the Roman dish survived into the modern era as the Romanian plăcintă cake.

Through its Greek name plakountos, it was adopted into Armenian cuisine as plagindi, plagunda, and pghagund, all "cakes of bread and honey." From the latter term came the later Arabic name iflaghun, which is mentioned in the medieval Arab cookbook Wusla ila al-habib as a speciality of the Cilician Armenians settled in southern Asia Minor and settled in the neighboring Crusader kingdoms of northern Syria. Thus, the dish may have traveled to the Levant in the Middle Ages via the Armenians, many of whom migrated there following the first appearance of the Turkish tribes in medieval Anatolia.

Rediscovering Homer

Rediscovering Homer is a 2006 book by Andrew Dalby. It sets out the problems of origin, dating and authorship of the two ancient Greek epics, Iliad and Odyssey, usually attributed to Homer.

Rediscovering Homer originated as a development and expansion of two academic papers published in the 1990s in which Dalby argued that the Iliad and Odyssey must be seen as belonging to the same world as that of the early Greek lyric poets but to a less aristocratic genre. This contradicted a widespread assumption that the epics come from an older stage of civilization and literature than the personal poetry of Archilochus, Sappho and others.

Returning to these themes, Dalby summarizes the contents and significance of the two epics and hypothesizes the transmission they probably followed, from oral invention and circulation to written versions.

He then spotlights the unknown poet who, long after the time of the traditional Homer, at last saw the Iliad and Odyssey recorded in writing. Dalby notes that "no early author describes or names the singer who saw these two poems written down. We are given no sex and no name -- certainly not Homer, who is seen as a singer of the distant past." Based on what we can judge of this poet's interests and on the circumstances in which oral poetry has been recorded elsewhere, "it is possible, and even probable, that this poet was a woman. As a working hypothesis, this helps to explain certain features in which these epics are better -- more subtle, more complex, more universal -- than most others."The idea is not new. Eustathius of Thessalonica recounted an ancient fiction in which both epics were composed by an Egyptian priestess, Phantasia; Samuel Butler, in The Authoress of the Odyssey, attributed the Odyssey to a Sicilian woman between 1150 and 1050 BC; and Robert Graves in his novel Homer's Daughter made a similar proposal.

Even before the appearance of Rediscovering Homer the idea was dismissed as "far-fetched" by Anthony Snodgrass on the grounds that a woman would have been "bored out of her mind" when composing the Iliad. Reviewers, even when praising the book, have continued to be sceptical of this proposal:

As Dalby notes, the Muses can "tell many lies as if true". This applies to ancient songsters and the modern scholars who study them.

Supplements to the Satyricon

Petronius's Satyricon, the only extant realistic classical Latin novel (probably written c. AD 60), survives in a very fragmentary form. Many readers have wondered how the story would begin and end.

Between 1629 and the present several authors in various languages have attempted to round the story out. In certain cases, following a well-known conceit of historical fiction, these invented supplements have been claimed to derive from newly discovered manuscripts.

The Linguist

The Linguist (formerly The Incorporated Linguist) is the bimonthly journal of the UK's Chartered Institute of Linguists. The headquarters is in London.

The World and Wikipedia

The World and Wikipedia: How We are Editing Reality is a book written by the British linguist Andrew Dalby and published by Siduri Books in 2009.The author provides a context for the birth and growth of Wikipedia through an examination of the wider encyclopedia tradition. The work and community behaviour of its expert and non-expert contributors are discussed, as are the question of reliability and the problem of vandalism. Dalby covers numerous incidents from English, French and German Wikipedias and closes with an optimistic outlook on the central and responsible role he believes Wikipedia will assume in the media.The book follows an "anecdotal approach" to argue that "disproportionate emphasis on popular culture [...] does happen but that over time substance is added and entries are extended" and why "we will come to rely on it more and more and that it will come to serve us better than its predecessors." He "claims Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, as a proto-Wikipedian", and makes the case "that Wikipedia [...] has become more reliable as more people use it".

Tracta (dough)

Tracta, tractum (Ancient Greek: τρακτὸς, τρακτόν), also called laganon, laganum, or lagana (Greek: λάγανον) was a kind of drawn out or rolled-out pastry dough in Roman and Greek cuisines.

What exactly it was is unclear: "Latin tracta... appears to be a kind of pastry. It is hard to be sure, because its making is never described fully"; and it may have meant different things at different periods. Laganon/laganum was at different periods an unleavened bread, a pancake, or later, perhaps a sort of pasta.Tracta is mentioned in the Apicius as a thickener for liquids. Vehling's translation of Apicius glosses it as "a piece of pastry, a round bread or roll in this case, stale, best suited for this purpose." Perry compares it to a "ship's biscuit".It is also mentioned in Cato the Elder's recipe for placenta cake, layered with cheese.Athenaeus's Deipnosophistae mentions a kind of cake called καπυρίδια, "known as τράκτα", which uses a bread dough, but is baked differently.Some writers connect it to modern Italian lasagne, of which it is the etymon, but most authors deny that it was pasta.There is a modern Greek leavened flatbread called lagana, but it is not clear when the name was first applied to a leavened bread.

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