The ancient Greeks believed that their society and its customs were superior to those of their neighbors. The Athenians even thought that customs of residents from other Greek regions were "barbaric," a word which may derive from the Greek "barbarophonoi" meaning "of barbarous diction," used in the Homer's Iliad to describe non-Greek speakers. Anyone who couldn't speak Greek was excluded from some of ancient Greece's most important rites, such as the Olympic games and the religious Eleusinian mysteries. The ancient Greeks avoided adopting foreign customs -- it appears drinking milk was seen as one of those.

Ancient Greek Refreshments

The ancient Greeks drank wine, but it had to be watered down. They considered drinking undiluted wine a barbaric practice, because people who were not Greeks did this. The same reasoning applies to the belief that drinking milk was barbaric. The Greeks did use sheep and goat's milk to make cheese, but only barbarians drank it. In Homer's "Odyssey," the one-eyed monster Cyclops lives on milk when he isn't eating men. This use of milk reinforces the idea that the Cyclops is barbaric and suggests Homer's readers also felt that drinking milk ran afoul of civilized customs, according to the Encyclopedia of Society and Culture in the Ancient World.