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Prolegomena to the diffusion of winemaking in antiquity: a study in cultural geography Winton, Ivor

Abstract

This is a study of wine in antiquity. An attempt to describe the spatial diffusion of winemaking in ancient times and to acknowledge the principal factors which spurred that diffusion has produced a study which is simple in structure, but wide-ranging in temporal and geographical compass as well as in its topical diversity. Basically, it consists of two sections, corresponding to the dual preoccupation of diffusion and function. Part I traces winemaking's diffusion from its likely beginnings to the end of the Roman Empire. Although casual Palaeolithic fermentation was probably practised, organised winemaking awaited the systematic viticulture which arrived with the Neolithic, From a generally agreed origin in Armenia, winemaking's story is followed through a series of lands: Babylonia and Assyria, Egypt, Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Greece, Italy, and the Roman Empire in Africa and Europe. The oenological variety of these lands is made apparent. Major patterns of wine trading and their influence or lack of it on winemaking's spread are studied. What emerges from this account is the startling vigour of this diffusion story, indicative of the high esteem in which ancient man held wine. Part II attempts to identify the reasons for such esteem in order to understand the diffusion momentum of winemaking. The utility of wine to the ancients is examined systematically in some detail. The following themes are treated: wine for the body, that is, wine as liquid, wine as food, wine as medicine (and aphrodisiac); wine for recreational drinking--its value to the individual and its role in society; wine for religious observance and man's existential well-being. An endeavour is made to avoid mere cataloguing of examples in favour of assessing wine's role in these various domains. At every turn, the great importance of the beverage in ancient life becomes apparent. A wide range of writing—ancient and modern, primary and interpretative—has been culled for information, including materials drawn from the biological, medical, and social sciences, technology, archaeology and epigraphy, art history, classical literature, linguistics, comparative religion, and Biblical exegesis. Even so, it would be unwise to consider the present examination more than an introduction to a rich and complex theme in the history of Western man.

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