Monday, July 12, 2021

The Ancient Greek Way of Drinking Wine

The Ancient Greeks believed that only the barbarians would drink their wine unmixed with water. They had the theory that drinking unmixed wine results in insanity and even death. They asserted that mixing water in wine before drinking is the hallmark of a civilized person. Since the Macedonians and the Thracians drank their wine unmixed (according to the Athenian accounts), the Athenians and the Spartans regarded them as barbarians, and tried to avoid their company. The Athenian texts make fun of the drinking habits of the Macedonians and the Thracians.

The Greek mythology of that time used to reflect on the barbaric impact of unmixed wine. There is the mythological story of Lapiths battle with the Centaurs, in which the centaurs became roaring drunk after taking too much unmixed wine during the wedding feast of Pirithous at the city of Thessaly. They started misbehaving with the women at the feast. Centaur Eurytion tried to abduct the bride. Other centaurs tried to abduct other ladies. The men rushed to save their women, and a major battle ensued. The Homeric Demigod Theseus joined the battle on the side of the men and the centaurs were defeated. The nose and ears of Eurytion and other offending centaurs were cut off and they were banished from Thessaly.

In his book, Vintage: The Story of Wine, Hugh Johnson writes: “The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine.”

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