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Wine and the Ancient Greeks

Published on 12/10/16 in Reading

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wine and the Ancient Greeks

October, the grape harvest in Tuscany - I revel in the beauty of the orderly vineyards swaying in the valleys. And then my thoughts go to the vineyards that were situated around ancient Athens, some of which still exist – and so my mind is set to work...  

Oinos, οίνος in Greek means wine.

Spirit translates as πνεύμα in Greek.

When you combine the two words in οινό-πνευμα, you have the Greek word for “alcohol”, but for the ancient Greeks, the word meant the spirit of wine. My ancestors did not drink wine during the meal – they enjoyed it afterwards! Half-lying on their triclinia (ancient sofas) they refrained from eating much, because food was to stimulate the stomach, not burden it, and then began to converse. These kinds of venues became known as Symposia (banquets): in ancient Greek, the term was used to refer to a meeting amongst friends or acquaintances who drank. It began with a libation to Dionysus, the god Bacchus of the Romans. During conversations, a servant, οινοχόος (cup-bearer) was entrusted with the task of pouring the wine into the cup of each participant, being capable at all times to fathom the extent to which the guest could drink without getting drunk.

The ancient Greeks loved wine, but never drank to excess, so conversation around the issues which they loved could go on and on with a clear mind. On the other hand, the ancient Romans had a tendency to drink way too much at banquets. However, unlike the Greeks, they had more refined ways of eating, using plates of precious metal or glass. For the Greeks, a flatbread like a pizza served as plate and small pieces of bread as napkins.

Athenian women were not permitted to attend banquets, only musicians and courtesans.

The best wine came from the islands of Chios and Lesbos.

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