I received a query from a reader the other day about the use of the word corn. It's apparently a common source of confusion, so I thought I'd post the answer for all to see.
In The Pericles Commission, Nico reports seeing corn sold in the agora. This might look wrong to North Americans, who strongly associate the word corn with the squishy, sweet, yellow stuff that originated in the Americas, and could not possibly be in the agora of ancient Athens.
Has Gary blundered with an anachronism? Actually, no.
The word corn comes from Old Norse, I believe, certainly long before the European discovery of America, and means any type of cereal grain. In North America, dictionaries uphold that meaning, but people usually only use the word to refer to the grain that is more precisely known as maize. There are of course grains other than maize, and they all fall under the general term of corn.
This is why, for example, Demeter is called the goddess of corn, but when you see images of her she is invariably holding sheafs of what you might call wheat. Likewise, it's always written that Vespasian in Roman times came to power by withholding the corn shipments from Egypt, even though the grain on board was definitely not yellow. The Golden Bough by James Frazier is probably the most important book ever written on ancient mythology, and he uses corn to refer to all cereal grains. These are all correct usage!
So when Nico sees corn in the agora, he does indeed. The specific type of corn is probably barley or wheat.