Ancient Greece: Early Greek literature

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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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In the poetry of homer and hesiod, the earliest Greek literature, wine is an essential part of life. It is naturally drunk by Greek and Trojan heroes at their feasts, but also used in the rituals of sacrifice, prayer, and burial, to solemnize agreements, and for therapeutic purposes; it is also the human drink, whereas gods drink nectar. A depiction of the vintage, in an enclosed vineyard, is part of the encapsulation of human life on the shield which Hephaestus makes for Achilles (Iliad 18. 561 ff.). Wine is the touchstone of civilization: even the Cyclopes in the Odyssey drink it, but without cultivating the vine, unlike the pleasure-loving Phaeacians, and, when offered the fine wine of Maron, Polyphemus swigs it neat until he falls into a stupor. Homer implies that the vine was widespread in Greece in his time, describing a number of places as ‘rich in vines’ (including Phrygia: in this as in other respects the Trojans are as civilized as the Greeks), and he gives us our earliest reference to specific wines, Pramnian and Ismarian, while Hesiod mentions Bibline. Advice on viticulture forms part of Hesiod’s Works and Days: he mentions pruning and the harvest, including drying the grapes before vinification to make early forms of dried-grape wines.