Was There Cannibalism in Ancient Greece?

Cannibalism is a taboo subject that has fascinated and repulsed people for centuries. While it has been documented in some cultures throughout history, many have wondered if it occurred in Ancient Greece. Here, we will explore the evidence and theories surrounding the topic.

What is Cannibalism?

Before delving into the possibility of cannibalism in Ancient Greece, it’s essential to understand what cannibalism is. Cannibalism refers to the act of eating one’s own species, whether for survival or ritualistic purposes. There are various types of cannibalism, including endocannibalism (eating members of one’s own group) and exocannibalism (eating members of another group).

Theories of Cannibalism in Ancient Greece

While there is no definitive proof that cannibalism took place in Ancient Greece, there are theories as to why it could have occurred. One such theory revolves around the ancient Greeks’ belief in the power of consuming flesh.

According to Greek mythology, Cronus – the god of time and agriculture – ate his children to prevent them from overthrowing him. This story suggests that there was a belief that consuming flesh could provide immense power and strength.

Additionally, there are accounts of ancient Greek soldiers eating their enemies after battles. This act was believed to instill fear in their opponents and communicate a sense of dominance.

Evidence Supporting Cannibalism

While there is no concrete evidence supporting cannibalism in Ancient Greece, some archaeological findings suggest its possibility. For example, excavations at Phaistos on Crete revealed human bones with cut marks that indicated they were butchered for consumption.

Furthermore, a study conducted on bones discovered at an ancient Greek site revealed high levels of nitrogen-15 isotopes. These isotopes can indicate a diet high in protein – potentially human flesh.


Despite the evidence, many scholars and archaeologists argue against the theory of cannibalism in Ancient Greece. One argument suggests that the cut marks on human bones could have been made for ritualistic or burial purposes rather than consumption.

Another argument is that the high levels of nitrogen-15 isotopes in bones could have been due to other factors, such as a diet rich in seafood or livestock.


In conclusion, while there is no definitive proof of cannibalism in Ancient Greece, there are theories and evidence that suggest it could have occurred. The subject remains a topic of fascination and controversy among historians and archaeologists alike.