02. Ancient Mediterranean, Art & Humanities

Student Series! Wine a Little…

This blog post is part of my Student Series! in while I highlight articles written by previous Humanities students on a topic of their choosing that relates to our course content. Keep in mind this is written by high schoolers and anything that could identify them personally has been removed or altered by me.

Wine was used often in Greece and Rome; only the elite could afford to drink it. Its main use was religious; its scarcity and high price made it worthy for the gods. Wine had such a high influence on if you had wealth and power that some Greeks and Romans never even tasted it. Most wine came from the mountains so when it was imported further than the near towns, it cost twice as much.


How to Drink like a Greek

Much of Greek life revolved around drinking, morals, decorations and rules surrounding their daily lives. Greeks mixed their wine in large bowls called “kraters” with water, which determined how quickly everyone became intoxicated. Even fine wines were mixed with water and it was considered barbaric to the Greeks if water was not added. Water made wine safe, as well as the winemaking the water safe. Since wine has no pathogens and contains natural antibacterial agents made during the fermentation process. Greeks made tradition out of mixing wine with water, only the gods could indulge in straight wine.

Greeks would wait till the end of dinner to enjoy wine, drinking little or no wine at all during dinner. The symposium was an event they used that always involved drinking wine. It could be a serious meeting or a playful get-together at these events. Symposium’s were where a lot of Greek traditions in wine drinking began, such as mixing water with wine. Most events held by Greeks involved some form of hired entertainment, but sometimes guest themselves would perform at symposia.

How to Drink like a Roman

Rome, along with borrowing the Greek gods and a lot of their culture, also borrowed some habits of wine drinking. Rome fully embraced Greece’s fine wines and wine-making techniques. Italy was the main source of where Rome’s wine came from, you could say “All vines lead to Rome.” Since it was no longer imported from the mountains, wine was found about anywhere in the city and unlike Greeks, was consumed very often and by everybody.

Although wine was made more available for the Romans, they still took the tradition of mixing water with wine. Romans shared wine with their slaves, which Greeks did not do at all, and wine was as easily accessible as beer was. Of course all Romans and Greeks used wine for special occasions, but Romans drank wine for about any occasion or event. When the eruption of Vesuvius destroyed most of Italy’s vineyards making wine as high-priced as it used to be. Originated in 4100 BCE, wine is still enjoyed today across the world and is known as the classier beverage of choice in Rome, Greece and even today in America!


      1. Yes, that’s why I like it… although where I come from Humanities is not a subject in its own right; it’s just a collective noun for several of them.

        1. The high school I teach at has Humanities I, which looks at the arts and culture from Prehistory to the end of the Middle Ages. We’re hoping to get Humanities II added in the near future.

          1. This is in the States, right? And Humanities II, I suppose, will be from the Middle Ages on to now?
            My elder daughter did Humanities in secondary school but it was just units in history and geography bundled together under the name Humanities – wasn’t genuinely interwoven. I myself went to grammar school in Hungary and there we didn’t have any interdisciplinary subjects at all: you’d do history, art, geography, languages, etc. all separately and in no way connected. But at university level, these subjects are referred to as the Faculty of Humanities (although you still only study the separate subjects).

          2. I understand. Yes it is in the States. But every state and school does this course very differently (if they have it at all…). Humanities II is the Renaissance to modern world.
            Each teacher interprets the course very differently depending on their strengths. I try to have a mix of theater, literature, art, architecture, religion/mythology, and philosophy/worldview in each unit but there are some (like Ancient Rome that I focus more heavily on certain topics over others).

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