Homer's Wine of the Coast of Thrace - Pramnian Wine - Psithian, Capnian, Saprian, and other Wines - The Mixing of Wines - Use of Pitch and Rosin - Undiluted Wine - Wine Making -Spiced Wines - A Greek Symposium.
The only wine upon which Homer dilates, in a tone of approval approaching to hyperbole, is that produced on the coast of Thrace, the scene of several of the most remarkable exploits of Bacchus. This wine the minister of Apollo, Maron, gave to Ulysses. It was red and honey sweet, so strong that it was mingled with twenty times its bulk of water, so fragrant that it filled even when diluted the house with perfume (Od. ix. 203). Homer's Pramnian wine is variously interpreted by various writers.
1 Information on this subject is given by Sir Edward Barry, Observations on the Wines of the Ancients; Henderson, History of Ancient and Modern Wines; and Becker's Charicles.
The most important wines of later times are those of the islands Chios, Thasos, Cos, and Lesbos, and a few places on the opposite coast of Asia. The Aminean wine, so called from the vine which produced it, was of great durability. The Psithian was particularly suitable for passum, and the Capnian, or smoke-wine, was so named from the colour of the grapes. The Saprian was a remarkably rich wine, "toothless," says Athenseus, "and sere and wondrous old."
Wine was the ordinary Greek drink. Diodorus Siculus says Dionysus invented a drink from barley,
A mead-like drink called
But there is nothing to show that this was ever introduced into Greece. The Greek wine was conducive to inebriety, and Mu-saeus and Eumolpus (Plato, Rep. ii.) made the fairest reward of the virtuous an everlasting booze-
Different sorts of wine were sometimes mixed together; sea water was added to some wines. Plutarch (Qucest. Nat. 10) also relates that the casks were smeared with pitch, and that rosin was mixed with their wine by the Euboeans.
Wine was mingled with hot water as well as with cold before drinking. To drink wine undiluted was looked on as a barbarism. Straining, usual among the Romans, seems to have been the reverse among the Greeks. It is seldom mentioned. The Roman wine was most likely filtered through wool. The Spartans (Herodotus, vi. 84) fancied Cleomenes had gone mad by drinking neat wine, a habit he had learned from the Scythians. The proportions of the mixture varied, but there was always more water, and half and half
was repudiated as disgraceful.
The process of wine-making was essentially the same among the Greeks and the Romans. The grapes were gathered, trodden, and submitted to the press. The juice which flowed from the grapes before any force was applied was known as
and was reserved for the manufacture of a particular species of rich wine described by Pliny (H. N. xiv. I I), to which the inhabitants of Mitylene gave the name of
The Greeks recognised three colours in wines - black or red, white or straw-colour, and tawny brown
When wine was carried,
or bags of goat-skin, were used, pitched over to make them seam-tight. The cut below, from a bronze found at Herculaneum (Mus. Borbon. iii. 28). exhibits a Silenus astride one of them.
The mode of drinking from the
bottle or amphora, and from a wine skin, is taken from a painting on an Etruscan vase.
A spiced wine is noticed by Athenaeus under the name of
or medical wines, drugs, such as horehound, squills, wormwood, and myrtle-berries, were introduced to produce hygienic effects. Essential oils were also mixed with wines. Of these the
is mentioned by Aelian
( V. H. xii. 31). So in the early ages when Hecamede prepares a drink for Nestor, she sprinkles her cup of
Pramnian wine with grated cheese, perhaps a sort of Gruyere, and flour. The most popular of these compound beverages was the
(mulsum), or honey wine, said by Pliny (xiv. 4) to have been invented by Aristaeus. Greek wines required no long time to ripen. The wine drank by Nestor (Odyss. iii. 391) of ten year old is an exception.
The sweet wines of the Greeks (the produce of various islands on the Aegean and Ionian Seas) were probably something like modern Cyprus and Con-stantia, while the dry wines, such as the Pramnian and Corinthian, were remarkable for their astringency, and were indeed only drinkable after being preserved for many years. Of the former of these Aristophanes says that it shrivelled the features and obstructed the digestion of all who drank it, while to taste the latter was mere torture.
1 This is probably the murrhina of Plautus (Pseudol. ii. 4, 50)
2 This drink must not be confounded with
honey and water, our mead, or