Whilst wine was important part of ancient Greek and roman civilisations, it seems counterproductive to have your troops kept under the influence whilst expanding your empire and waging war on your enemies.So why did the Greeks and Romans go to so much trouble to keep their troops supplied with wine?
Back in Ancient time, most readily available water was unfit for consumption, as it was often sullied by waste products from surrounding settlements Due to the pH and antiseptic properties of wine, it was generally always mixed with water before consumption to kill off any pathogens Wine was also mixed with honey, spices and other substances, which meant it was a high calorie supplement full of trace minerals and vitamins which was of benefit to the mainly grain diet of the soldiers Getting drunk and drinking undiluted wine was considered barbaric and moderation was key. Drinking watered down wine in Ancient Greece and Rome was much like drinking Tea in Britain or Green tea in China“Wine is something truly marvellous for Man. Both in sickness as well as in health, if we make use of it with good purpose and in its just measure”.- Hippocrates
Analgesic purpose in ill health and during treatment Antiseptic properties used to treat wounds Ancient Antidepressant Used to cure urinary infections, gout, halitosis, snakebite and many more!! “In wine there is health” (In vino sanitas) - Pliny
With the introduction of Dionysus and Bacchus, there came the need to worship and celebrate these Gods .... With plenty of WINE! (and other sordid activities) The intellectuals would hold symposiums -philosophical discussions - which always centered around wine. As previously stated drinking wine was only done in moderation, but it was partaken of often. “Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” - Aristophanes
One of the most important reasons! The wine trade was a huge part of the economic stronghold of the Greeks and Romans. It provided substantial financial stability. It was used to trade for slaves from Gaul (France), which then helped to increase production. It also burgeoned the pottery and shipping trades.
Ok, so they needed wine ... But did it matter what it was? In short YES. Just like today, if you had money ... You brought the best vintages, from the best places. Wines from different areas and vintages had acclaim and reputations, and were sought after as such. They even had wine writers and critics! The Romans gave everyone (including slaves) a wine allowance of 5 litres a day – poorest quality of course!“On one occasion some one put a very little wine into a [glass], and said that it was sixteen years old. It is very small for its age, said Gnathaena” - Athenaeus
The Greeks were the first to mass produce wine for trade. As their colonies expanded so did the production and need for wine. The Greeks expanded via Alexander the Great from Greece and Macedonia, throughout the Mediterranean to include parts of Persia, India and Egypt.
The Greeks were the first to have appellations of origin They were excellent at recognising environments that were favourable for growing grapes They brought their own grape varieties to southern Italy in the 8th century BC. They introduced their winemaking techniques as far as France, Spain, Italy and Sicily.
Athens fell to the Romans in 86 BC The Romans took on the Greek appreciation and reverence for wine and it was as important in their culture as it was in the Greeks. The Roman empire became expansive and powerful and covered a huge amount of territory. Including Western Europe, Hispania (Spain), Gaul (France), Judea, North Africa, Most of Germany, Italy and Egypt The fall of the Roman empire was in 1453 when the Turks invaded ..... Whose Muslim heritage all but put an end to the Wine industry. “There is a devil in every berry of the grape” – The Koran
The Greek territory was largely confined to areas close to the coast or accessible by river. Hence most of their transportation to the troops was by shipping. Troops had to transport their own supplies by foot or by horse and cart in inland areas. Troops would pillage and plunder existing settlements where possible Greeks transported vines to new settlements and nurtured existing vines. The Greeks were responsible for introducing grape varieties far and wide. Moscato is an example of a vine which has Ancient Greek heritage.
The Greeks used earthenware amphorae to transport wine on ships.
These amphorae had several advantages for transportation.I. The shape of them meant that a lot of the sediment in the wine settled to the bottom whilst being transportedII. The thin opening in the neck minimised oxidationIII. When sealed with clay, the wine was able to be maturedIV. They could be transported in an upright position in vast quantities- Lyon in France is built upon millions of old broken Amphorae from Ancient times.
- The Romans took things a step further. They used to put a protective layer of olive oil over the wine in the neck of the amphorae to prevent oxidation- Sometimes the Amphorae was lined with resin, which imparted flavour to the wine (Retsina), or with different metals – lead, copper etc Preserving grapes was also common place, by drying out the grapes in layers of chaff or by hanging them out to dry, this meant the raisin like grapes could be used to make very sweet wines later on. Honey and Sea water were added to wines to help preserve it. The Romans also introduced the use of wooden barrels for the storage and transportation of wine.
The Romans had a very advanced transport system of roads that were built by the Army. It was more economical however to transport by boat where possible. The easiest and by far most important way the Ancient Romans and Greeks got wine to the military was the colonisation of new settlements. Upon retirement the soldiers of the roman army were given 1.5 hectares of land each, many of which was put to use as producing vineyards (remember money was to be made!) They imported vines and taught many of the local people how to make wine, which allowed for easy access to wine! As the map of the Roman Empire shows, many of the Great wine producing areas in the old world were established by the Romans, they were responsible for bringing many grape varieties, viticulture and wine making to France, Germany, Spain which are now some of the greatest producers in the world.
Successful battles = more land, more money and more slaves Money gets invested into more wars and retiring soldiers get 1.5 hectare each. Land farmed by cheap slaves. People transport produce by roads made by the army Encourage growth in supporting industries (pottery, shipping etc)
There were 3 main classes of product.1. Local small batches for local consumption transported in 500ltr ox skins (cullei)2. High Quality prestige wines that could be aged and sold to the elite3. Low quality, high volume wines “:cauponae” – internationally traded for large scale consumption, that were mixed with sea water and lime for preservation!
Wine was extremely important to the Ancient Greeks and Romans The Greeks and Romans were responsible for the spread of many grape varieties, viticulture and winemaking techniques in the old world. They came up with some very ingenious ways in which to preserve and transport the wine to their troops and expanding colonies Wine was a highly valuable trading commodity, which helped to fuel the Roman Empire’s financial power, which in turn helped it to increase its size
Mariamilani Rome website. Retrieved 29/07/2012 http://www.mariamilani.com/ancient_rome/ancient_roman_tra nsportation.htmTrends in Transport:Military Supply Structures as Measures of Centrality and Localism Report. Retrieved 01/08/2012 http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/tempus/archives_files/Riley.pdfThe logistics of the Roman Army at war Book. Retrieved 01/08/2012 http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=LfRiXN5hhCUC&printsec=f rontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f= falseHistory of wine online article. Retrieved 01/08/2012 http://www.arenaflowers.com/wine_club_online/history_of_wi ne
Biblical perspectives on wine. Retrieved 29/07/2012 http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/wine_in_the_bible/3.htmlArticle on Wine from classical times to the 19th century. Retrieved 08/08/2012 http://www.enotes.com/wine-from-classical-times-nineteenth- century-reference/wine-from-classical-times-nineteenth-centuryArticle on wine drinking in the roman world. Retrieved 09/08/2012 http://suite101.com/article/wine-drinking-in-the-roman-world- a100462Greek winemaking website. Retrieved 9/08/2012 http://www.greekwinemakers.com/czone/history/2ancient.shtmlMap of Alexander the greats territory. Retrieved 10/08/2012 http://www.theintellectualdevotional.com/blog/wp- content/uploads/2010/01/alexandermap1.jpgMap of ancient roman empire. Retrieved 11/08/2012 http://www.aug.edu/~cshotwel/2001.Rome.htm