Lecture 2 Tuesday, September 17, 2013
• Pick book soon (for the book review)!
• A guide to low-risk drinking
o These are the latest expression of thousands of years’ attempt to find right
amount of alcohol that allows people to enjoy it and prevents them from going
over the line
o That line has been drawn in different places in different times and cultures
o The Canadian guidelines tend to be lower than the French, who believe that
drinking is safe
o Suggesting 10 drinks per week for women, 15 drinks for men. Spread across the
• Ancient alcohol—we’ll cover a lot of ground in terms of time and space. Jumping from
3000BC to 500AD, from Mesopotamia/Middle East to Europe.
• We see the beginnings of the history of alcohol (that we know of, what we have records
for). Although we know people were consuming it for tens of thousands of years.
• Major themes for the history of alcohol show up in ancient period.
• A map of the spread of wine in this period
• Fermented beverages made by yeast attacking sugar in produce (sugars in grapes,
grain to make beer, etc.)—we’ll focus on beer and wine. Although there are others: mead
(made from diluted honey), cider (made from apples), etc.
• Africa—the sap of palm trees used to make palm wine. Dates, pomegranates were used
to make wine in the Middle East.
• But beer and wine are most important
• Beer consumed more widely than wine—more popular
o Beer available all year round—made form grain, which you can store.
o Can’t store grapes. Or you can, as raisins, but you can’t make as much wine
from raisins because they’re dry.
o Beer didn’t last that long—depending o the season, probably had a shelf life of a
week or two. Made in lots of small batches, frequently. Beer available all year
o But there’s only a short time in fall to harvest all the grapes, and that wine has to
last you until the next fall.
o Can grow grapes in many places, but only in certain climactic conditions. But you
can grow grain all across Canada. o Scarcity of wine—more expensive—elites tended to drink wine, commoners
drank beer. But keep in mind that elites also drank beer. They were just
impressed with wine because it was the one thing they could consume that
o But because elites drank wine (had higher status), had more records for it. We
know more about wine manufacturing, processing, production, transportation.
Beer wasn’t transported—made locally, consumed locally. But wine became part
of international commerce, long-distance shipping—records of the shipping,
taxation. So we tend to know more about wine than we do about beer.
o Records: people write more about wine than beer. Just because records are
much better. Bias in the history of alcohol comes from the records we have
• We know how wine moved from place to place—the technology of wine-making
o Two main areas that we find first evidence of alcohol: northern China and the
o Earliest evidence: from Mesopotamia.
o But earliest evidence of actual wine production facility is a little up north from
there, in Armenia.
o So this whole area seems to be implicated with wine production (and very early
o This is the same region where the Arc landed after the flood (on Mount Ararat)—
some say this is evidence that the Noah story is true. After the ark landed, Noah
planted a vineyard and made wine.
o Christians say that the area around Mount Ararat is area of first-known wine in
o SPREAD OF WINE TECHNOLOGY AND PRODUCTION
o Wine is made in Armenia, shipped down the two rivers (the Tigris and the
Euphrates). Goes down the Tigris, east of Mesopotamia, to cities like Babylon.
o More interestingly, goes down the Euphrates, west of Mesopotamia, through
Lebanon, modern Israel/Palestine, to Egypt. From Egypt across the
Mediterranean sea to Crete. From Crete to Greece and some of the Greek
islands. From Greece to southern Italy. From Italy to southern Europe
(Marseilles, south of France).
o Another route goes from Greece to Spain, through to Portugal.
o An independent line of technology goes from Armenia through to modern
northern Greece, to Thrace (modern Bulgaria), through to northern Italy. Northern
Italians (Etruscans) seemed to have gotten wine production information and
technology sooner than southern Italians. o First centuries of Christian period: southern France to rest of France, to
Germany, into northern Europe, and into England.
• Wine is probably everywhere until you get to Greece and Rome—made in very small
quantities. Cultivation of grapes in small scale. Egyptian vineyards are not dedicated
entirely to vines—they’re grown in gardens, amongst flowers, palm trees, etc.—mixed
agriculture, not dedicated viticulture.
o The trees and bushes around the vines would have harboured the yeasts. Yeasts
live in the ambient flora, sit and wiat all year until the grapes are crushed.
• Beer followed a different trajectory. No evidence of transition of knowledge. Turns up at a
lot of places at the same time.
o China, as early as 9000BC.
o Turns up in China again 3000BC
o Middle East, 3000BC
o Scotland, 3000BC
o Egypt, 3000BC
o **no evidence of knowledge of brewing being spread, like wine. Many cultures
developed knowledge of brewing independently
o **but we don’t know whether knowledge of fermentation and brewing was maybe
spread from China to these other regions. Possible that technology moved with
traders. But also possible that they developed knowledge of fermentation
o **maybe wine started at a third place and then it got spread to these other places
o Archeologists, chemists, etc. are dedicated to finding earliest trace of alcohol.
o First commercial brewery: Peru
o First distillery: Pakistan
o Always coming up with new discoveries
• Not until 3000BC that we begin to get some certainty when it comes to methods of
production and patterns of consumption (how people consume acohol, when, with
certain people, at different occasions—is it seen as pleasure, some religious meaning,
cultural meaning—who doesn’t consume alcohol and why)
• 3000 years ago—begin to get good information, from Egypt
o Mesopotamia and other regions—scattered info
o Egypt: a lot of written and pictorial information o Pictures of grapes being harvested. Were grown on trellises, possibly trees that
are bent down for the purpose of the picking.
Wild grapes—vines tended to grow up trees. Trees were used frequently
up to 18 and 19 centuries for growing vines. (But now, they grow on
Grapes picked by people underneath
Grapes were black—we don’t know wether there were black varieties of
grapes. Could be an artistic thing.
Picked by slaves.
o Next panel: slaves are standing in vat of grapes, pressing the grapes by foot.
Recognized as the best way to get the juices out of the grapes because feet are
soft and don’t break open the pits (which would make the wine bitter)
Treading the grapes
Holding onto straps because it’s easy to fall
Also: the wine being transferred into clay jars, often treated with resin on
inside (sap from trees), lining the insides of the jars so they don’t leak
through the clay.
Wine being transferred, put on board a ship, being shipped to destination
o There are many of these depictions of wine production, many reduced to line
drawings by archeologists who sketched the outlines
Pressing the grapes—put the grape skins into a textile and twist it, tighten
it and squeeze the skins without breaking the pits, the juice would flwo
into a vat. You get even more juice out.
Fill the jars—about 30kg heavy. Stoppered with some clay. A hole drilled
on the side of the jar, at the top. In case the fermentation is not complete,
need to allow for carbon dioxide to escape. Then they’d put a plug in that
Cellar—person sitting with a headache because If the fermentation’s not
complete, there’s carbon dioxide everywhere ein the cellar.
• *it’s still a huge risk today, people die from leaning into a tank of
fermenting grape juice and losing consciousness.
People drinking—here, probably drinking beer (through reed straws).
Wine typically drank directly from a cup.
• Beer would have had husks of grain, bits of straw, leaves from
• Wine would have had some seeks, skins, bits and pieces • By using a straw, you could avoid all the stuff floating o the top
o They also show the consequences of drinking
Even whle they talked about the joys of drinking alcohol, they also taked
about the dangers. Common for people to throw up, pass out.
Picture of people being carried out of parties because they drank too
o **These are the elites beind carried by their slaves off to bed.
Remember, wine in small quantities
The laws in Egypt prescribed that only certain categories—the wealthy,
kings, lords, priests—could drink
Sumptuary law: Regulate consumption of commodities—food, drink, most
of them deal with dress (certain social categories allowed to wear certain
things while the rest cannot)
• Ex. 18 century France: only nobles can wear a sword, a fur to
line their clothes. People of higher status in England wore bigger
• A way of creating social distinctions
• You can also do it in terms of food and drink. At various times,
people regulated in terms of what they can eat. Early modern
Europe: only persons of certain class allowed to have more than
three courses for a dinner.
Egypt: wine reserved for the elites, beer is for everyone else. (as
recorded in sumptuary law)
o There was distinction between wine and beer, but there are no negative feelings
about beer. Yes, wine was scarce, but the elites also drank beer and weren’t
about to criticize it or think of it as ignoble. They knew they’d drink more beer
than they would wine.
The GREEKS AND ROMANS were the first to be snobby about it
The Greeks said that wine was the drink of the civilized, beer was for
The Romans followed with that
But until Greece and Rome, there’s good appreciation of beer
Beer is a smart drink in the ancient world. Very nutritious. Not like modern
beer that’s just full of carbs. The brewing process raised the caloric value of the grain it was made of (more than the bread made of that grain).
People were after the calories back then, they were important because
people worked long hard days and needed the energy.
People were taking in 6,000-8,000 calories per day! But they were doing
It was very rich in carbs, vitamins, proteins. Also flavoursome—it was
flavoured beer. We have honey beers, strawberry beers today, but that’s a
modern thing. Back in ancient times it was normal to flavor beer with
juniper, coriander, sometimes honey.
It’s the smart choice compared to water.
o We can only speculate about the alcohol level. But looking at the way it was
made—alcohol levels were probably lower.
So when people drink 2-3 litres of beer a day, that’s all day long and it’s
fairly low in alcohol. Didn’t interfere with work and people getting on with
Slaves drank all the time and they still built the pyramids. There were no
guidelines about not drinking before handling machinery.
Beer was the universal beverage in cultures from Mesopotamia to Egypt.
It was consumed largely where it was made.
o Kings kept wine cellars (Mesopotamia to Egypt), wine drank for ceremonies,
used for libations (poured on the ground while praying). Wine was the bevereage
of choice for religious ceremonies.
Archaologists excavated tombs of pharaohs—hundreds of pottery jars of
wine to last with them into afterlife. There was no beer because it wouldn’t
have lasted long. Wine was buried.
King Tut hat 36 jars of wine buried with him. Scriptures saying the wine
came from the best vintages.
King Midas—everything he touched turned to gold, according to the
stories. His tomb in a hill in central Turkey (artificial mound, actually)—
residue of the funeral feast held to mark his death. People ate a stew
made of goat/sheep meat, marinated in honey, oil, and wine, grilled,
served with lentils and cereals, flavoured with herbs and spices.
Accompanied by grape wine, barley beer, and mead—stirred up together.
• Something like 150 bronze drinking vessels. 100 drinking bowls.
350L vats that carried the drinks. • Thinking there are probably 200 litres for 100 guests, 2L per
guest. Makes for a happy funeral.
o Association between alcohol and funerals/religious events is very strong. In
Turkey, in Egypt (burial), in Mesopotamia.
Why is ther association between alcohol and religion?
Quite often associated with deities. The example of Noah in Christianity
and Judaism, Egypt: the god of Sirus (god of wine), Greece: Dionysus
(god of wine), Rome: Bacchus (god of wine)
Associated with a deity already
Why there was religious association with wine particularly is not clear.
Suggested that the feeling of well-being, the buzz from drinking, is
thought to be other-worldly. The more you drank, the less rooted to earth
you seemed. People tlking about approaching the gods. Feeling of what
came to be known as spiritual intoxication occurred. It made them feel
The miracle of fermentation—once people learned to make wine/beer,
transformation took place. Turning grape juice into wine. They dind’t know
about the presence of alcohol, understand the process of fermentation.
The liquid begins to bubble, gets warm without any fire—seems
miraculous. Seemingly spontaneous generation. Didn’t understand the
role of yeasts until 19 century.
Life cycle of the grape vine might have looked religious or
incomprehensible. In summer, it’s full of leaves, has grape shanging. After
harvest, the leaves fall off and the vine reduce dto nothing but its trunk
and branches, looks dead. In the spring, goes leaves again. Looks like
process of death and resurrection on an annual basis. But I don’t buy
that…lots of plants do that…
o Also medical associations with alcohol
In Egypt, alcohol used widely as a medicine. Wine preferred but beer also
used. Alcohol is a solvent—solids dissolve more easily than they do in
water. Wine ha dmore alcohol—better medium for making medicines.
Herbs, spices (coriander) used to make wine-based medicines
Wine: particularly good for digestive problems—constipation, diarrhea,
worms. Wine-based medicine godo for that.
Important part of the pharmacy for Egyptian physicians.
Also find bird droppings, etc. being put into these medicines.
Early example of the principle that it has to taste bad for it to be good for
you. Suggestion that if you ingest disgusting things, it will drive the evil spirits out of your body. If you conceive of illness as being possessed by
evil spirits, animal droppings will make them run.
Tendency for medicines to be made unpalateable for that reason.
o Warnings about excess consumption in Egypt
Mesopotamia to Egypt, from 3000BC to 1000BC—before wine moved to
Greece and Rome. Some themes already established: association with
religion, medicine, sociability and conviviality (makes people happy to be
together, gets them to relax inhibitions and have fun)
But also the warning that too much is a bad thing. Warnings about
excess. Doctors, physicians, philosophers warn people that if you hurt
yourself afer drinking, no one will help you.
We get this image of alcohol as becoming more an dmore popular, as it
became more and more widespread, volumes begant o increase.
Culture of alcohol became increasingly complex, as agreater percentages
of population began to consume it.
Evidence of suspicion of women drinking, suspicion by elites of
commoners drinking (alcohol could lead them to get out of control)
• Greece and Rome!
o We’re going to be talking about the second half of map: wine production went to
Crete and Greece, to Italy and the rest of Europe
o When we talk about Europe outside Italy and Greece, we are talking about beer
cultures at this time. Around 1000BC, most of Europe consuming beer but not
wine. They received wine from Egypt to Crete, to mainland of Greece.
o Beer was also made on Crete, but later records show them pretending as though
beer never existed. They seemt o put it out of their minds.
o The Cretans transferred wine knowledge to Greece. At this point (2000BC), the
Greeks did not drink beer but they did drink mead. The wine was effectively the
first mass-produced alcoholic beverage that the Greeks received.
o When viticulture came to Greece, came to region where the vines grow easily.
First region where vineyards could be produced in many parts of the culture.
o Mesopotamia: vineyards were int eh hills, cooler areas. The plains were too hot.
o Egypt: climate not appropriate for viticulture except fro certain oases and the Nile
delta (relatively cool, offshore breezes from Mediterranean)
o But Greece: vines could be grown everywhere. On the mainland, planted close to
big cities (Athens, Sparta), many of Greek island (Santorini, Pilos, Lesbos, Thaspos, Samos) were hospitable to viticulture. Still today, many of these islands
important for production of wine.
o Some pictures of vines:
Island of Samos- Grown amongst other vegetation. A lot of olive trees.
The vines grow on terraces with brick walls. Grown up to 1000m above
sea level, down to sea leve.
They would have looked lik this thousands of years ago.
No trellises—grow as bush vines.
Another one- shot from the air, off Sicily. Santa Maria? Again, part of more
varied kind of agriculture. Not dedicated to viticulture. Especially capers
grow here. Very dry island, desert-like. Best known for a particular sweet
wine that grows here.
Some of these islands were quite difficult for vines. Panta Larea—the soil
is actually sand. It’s very windy—small, low-lying island. They have to put
up windbreaks made of cane to protect the vines. Had to bury the vines
so that when they’re young, they’re not exposed to wind.
Some islands easier to grow grapes than others. But the drive to grow
grapes was so strong that they went to such an extent to make it work in
these more difficult islands.
• By 500AD, wine was being made throughout Europe.
o Wine industry from England in the north to Crete in the south, Portugal in the
west to Hungary in the east.
o Very few places where grapes wer enot gornw and wine was not made
o Later period, thanks to Christian church which adopted win ein its rituals and
made it symbolic commodity
o Vines took to the Greek mainland and islands—by 500-400BC, major wine
industry in Greece. First m