Ancient Greece: Mycenae

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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There is no doubt of the importance of wine in Mycenaean culture (c.1600–1150 bc), which followed and developed on the mainland from Minoan culture: evidence from Mycenae, Tiryns, and Sparta includes grape pips and residues of wine, as well as the seal of a jar bearing the impression of vine leaves, while the palaces have revealed many storage jars, including a complete cellar at Pílos which contained at least 35 large jars, some labelled as containing wine. The evidence of the Linear B script, preserved on clay tablets fired hard in the destruction of the palaces, confirms that wine was important: the palace records contain many references to it, and include words for ‘wine’, ‘vineyard’, and, apparently, ‘wine merchant’, not to mention allusions to the god dionysus. Finds of Mycenaean pottery abroad imply that they were exporting wine and oil to Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Sicily, and southern Italy, while the discovery of a few small canaanite jars (the earliest amphorae) at Mycenae may suggest that connoisseurs were also importing foreign wines; certainly wine appears to have been a luxury item largely restricted to the élite.