The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

1-206

VINUM.

not conducted with care, and the amphorae not stoppered down perfectly tight, a disagreeable effect would be produced on the contents, and it is in consequence of such carelessness that Martial pours forth his maledictions on the fumaria of Marseilles (x. 36, iii. 82, xii. 123).

The year b. c. 121 is said to have been a season singularly favourable to all the productions of the earth ; from the great heat of the autumn the wine was of an unprecedented quality, and remained long celebrated as the Vinum Opimianum, from L. Opimius the consul of that year, who slew C, Gracchus. A great quantity had been treasured up and sedulously preserved, so that samples were still in existence in the days of the older Pliny, nearly two hundred years afterwards. It was reduced, he says, to the consistence of rough honey, and, like other very old wines, so strong and harsh and bitter as to be undrinkable 7111 til largely diluted with water. Such wines, however, he adds, were useful for flavouring others when mixed in small quantities.

Our most direct information with regard to the price of common wine in Italy is derived from Columella (iii. 3. § 12), who reckons that the lowest market price of the most ordinary quality was 300 sesterces for 40 urnae, that is 15 sesterces for the amphora, or 6d. a gallon nearly. At a much earlier date, the triumph of L. Metellus during the first Punic war (b. c. 250), wine was sold at the rate of 8 asses the amphora (Varro, ap. Plin. H. N. xviii. 4), and in the year b. c. 89 the censors P. Licinius Crassus and L. Julius Caesar issued a proclamation that no one should sell Greek and Aminean wine at so high a rate as 8 asses the amphora ; but this was probably intended as a prohibition to their being sold at all, in order to check the taste then beginning to display itself for foreign luxuries, for we find that at the same time they positively forbade the use of exotic unguents. (Plin. H. N. xiv. 16, xiii. 3.)

The price of native wine at Athens was four drachmas for the metretes, that is about 4^d. the gallon, when necessaries were dear, and Bb'ckh con­siders that we may assume one half of this sum as the average of cheaper times. In fact, we find in an agreement in Demosthenes (In Lacrit. p. 928) 300 casks (icepd/ma') of Mendaean wine, which we know was used at the most sumptuous Macedonian entertainments (Athen. iv. p. 129, d.), valued at 600 drachmas, which gives two drachmas for the metretes, or little more than 2d, a gallon ; but still more astonishing is the marvellous cheapness of Lusitanian wine, of which more than ten gallons were sold for 3d. On the other hand high prices were given freely for the varieties held in esteem, since, as early as the time of Socrates, a metretes of Chian sold for a mina. (Plut. de Anim. Tran-quilL 10 ; Bockh, Pull. Econ. of Athens, vol. i. p. 133,-lBted.)

With respect to the way in which wine was drunk, and the customs observed by the Greeks and Romans at their drinking entertainments, the reader is referred to the article symposium.

It now remains for us to name the most esteemed •wines, and to point out their localities ; but our limits will allow us to enumerate none but the most celebrated. As far as those of Greece are concerned, our information is scanty ; since in the older writers we find but a small number defined by specific appellations, the general term

VINUM.

usually standing alone without any distinguishing epithet. The wine of most early celebrity was that which the minister of Apollo, Maron, who dwelt upon the skirts of Thracian Ismarus, gave to Ulysses. It was red (<$pv6p6v), and honey-sweet (/.leAnjSea), so precious, that it was unknown to all in the mansion, save the wife of the priest and one trusty housekeeper ; so strong, that a single cup was mingled with twenty of water ; so fragrant, that even when thus diluted it diffused a divina and most tempting perfume. (Od. ix. 203.) Pliny (H.N. xiv. 6) asserts that wine endowed with similar noble properties was produced in the same region in his own day. Homer mentions also more than once (II. xi. 638, Od. x. 234) Pramnian wine (olvos npajuvetbs), an epithet which is variously interpreted by certain different writers. (Athen. i. p. 28, f.) In after times a wine bearing the same name was produced in the island of Icaria, around the hill village of Latorea, in the vicinity of Ephe-sus, in the neighbourhood of Smyrna near the shrine of Cybele, and in Lesbos. (Athen. i. p. 30, c. &c.; Plin. xiv. 6.) The Pramnian of Icaria ia characterized by Eparchides as dry (cr/cATjpos), harsh (aucrrTjpo's), astringent and remarkably strong, qualities which, according to Aristophanes, ren­dered it particularly unpalatable to the Athenians. (Athen. i. p. 30, c.)

But the wines of greatest renown during the brilliant period of Grecian history and after the Roman conquest were grown in the islands of Thasos, Lesbos, Chios and Cos, and in a few fa­voured spots on the opposite coast of Asia (Strabo, xiv. p. 637), such as the slopes of Mount Tmolus, the ridge which separates the valley of the Hermus from that of the Cayster (Plin. v. 29 ; Virg. Geory, ii. 97 ; Ovid. Met. vi. 15), Mount Messogis, which divides the tributaries of the Cayster from those o( the Maeander (Strabo, xiv. p. 650), the volcanic region of the Catacecaumene (Vitruv. iii. 3) which still retains its fame (KeppelPs Travels, ii. p. 355), the environs of Ephesus (Dioscorid. v. 12), of Cni-dus (Athen. i. p. 29, a.), of Miletus (Athen. /. c.), and of Clazomenae. (Plin. xiv. 9.) Among these the first place seems to have been by general con­sent conceded to the Chian, of which the most de­licious varieties were brought from the heights of Ariusium, in the central parts (Virg. Eel. v. 71 ; Plin. //. N. xiv. 7 ; Silius, vii. 210), and from the promontory of Phanae at the southern extremity of the island. (Virg. <7eor</. ii. 97.) The Thasianm\& Lesbian occupied the second place, and the Coan dis­puted the palm with them. (Athen. i. pp. 28,29, &c.) In Lesbos the most highly prized vineyards were around Mytilene (Athen. i. p. 30, b., iii. p. 86, e. ; p.92,d.), and Methymna. (Athen. viii. p. 363, b. ; Pausan. x. 19 ; Virg. Georg. ii. 89 ; Ovid. Ar. Am. i. 57.) Pliny (xiv. 9), who gives the preference over all others to the Clazomenian, says that the Lesbian had naturally a taste of salt water, while the epithet " innocens," applied by Horace, seems to point out that it was light and wholesome.

It may here be observed that there is no foun­dation whatever for the remark that the finest Greek wines, especially the products of the islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas, belonged for the most part to the luscious sweet class. The very reverse is proved by the epithets av&Trjpos, aK\7]~ pos, AeTTTffc, and the like, applied to a great num­ber, while yXvitvs and yXvxdfav are designations comparatively rare, except in the vague language

Pages
About | First | English Index | Classified Index | Latin Index | Greek Index

1205

1206

1207
letter/word  
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.