Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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libation, the pouring out of wine (and occasionally other liquids: water, oil, honey) as a religious act. The practice of offering a libation to a god was universal in the Greek and Roman world. Whenever wine was drunk in formal gatherings, such as symposia, a libation was poured while a prayer was said to invoke a chosen god. Libations also regularly accompanied prayers and sacrifices on all sorts of occasions. The origins of the practice are to be found in the offering of the first fruits to gods; but libation should also be seen in the context of the way in which social intercourse between humans (and by analogy between humans and gods) was maintained by the mutual exchange of gifts. Libations poured on the ground were also specifically seen as a gift for the dead. ‘The souls are nourished by libations’, as Lucian says.