Mint sauce was a Greek sauce used for dipping bread in the beginning of the meal. This sauce was most probably used by Jews during the Second Temple period and soon after in the dipping ritual of the Passover Seder, when Matza was dipped into various sauces in the beginning of the meal. The Karpas ritual, dipping of the vegetable in salt water, in the medieval and modern Passover Seder is a vestige memory of these Greek sauces used in the Symposium meal.
This recipe for Mint Sauce is based on a description of such a sauce in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists Book 2, Chapter 66, d-e, quoted from Nicander of Colophon in his poem Theriaca (lines 875-876), from the 2nd century BCE. Of course Nicander was not talking about appetizers. He was talking about remedies from snake bites. But Athenaeus adopted his words into an appetizer.
ὅτι εἰς τὸ πρόπομα καὶ ταῦτα ἐνεβάλλοντο, πέπερι, φυλλίς, σμύρνα, κύπειρον, μύρον Αἰγύπτιον.
ἢ καὶ λεπτοθρίοιο πολύχνοα φύλλα κονύζης,
πολλάκι δ᾽ ἢ πέπερι κόψας νέον ἢ ἀπὸ Μήδων
Into the appetizer these ingredients also were put, — pepper, a salad leaf, myrrh, sedge, and Egyptian perfume. … Nicander in the Theriaca: “or even the downy leaves of than flea-bane — often again, chopping up fresh pepper or Median cress.”
Greek text and translation is by Charles Burton Gulick, from Loeb Classical Library, Vol 1, 1927.
Nicander’s poetry in Theriaca (lines 872-878) sounds like this:
ἄλλοτε δ’ ὕσσωπός τε καὶ ἡ πολύγουνος ὄνωνις,
φύλλα τε Τηλεφίοιο νέον τ’ ἐν βότρυσι κλῆμα,
ἀγλῖθες καὶ καρπὸς ὀρειγενέος κορίοιο,
ἢ καὶ λεπτοθρίοιο πολύχνοα φύλλα κονύζης.
πολλάκι δ’ ἢ πέπεριv κόψας νέον ἢ ἀπὸ Μήδων
κάρδαμον έμπίσαιο· σέ δ’ ἂν πολvάvθεα yλήχωv
στρvχvοv τ’ ή6έ σίvηπι κακηπελέοvτα σαώσαι.
at another time HYSSOP and the manybranched REST-HARROW and the leaves of LOVE-IN-ABSENCE and
the fresh tendril on the GRAPE CLUSTER, CLOVES OF GARLIC, and
the seed of. the mountain-born CORIANDER, or even the downy
leaves of the delicate FLEABANE. Often too you may cut off
some fresh PEPPER or Persian GARDEN-CRESS and administer it in a drink; and the flowering PENNYROYAL and DEADLY NIGHT
SHADE and MUSTARD too may save one in evil plight.
Greek text and translation is from Gow, Andrew Sydenham Farrar, and Alwyn Faber Scholfield, Nicander – The Poems and Poetical Fragments, Cambridge University Press, 1953.