The old one was sweet and intense, tasted of honey and cinnamon, and had the color of the sea. It was the background to the movements of the soul and was an instrument of both consolation and celebration.
The arbiter bibendi, ancestor of the sommelier at banquets, was the only one in charge of distributing the wine in the cups of each guest. He decided with how many parts of perfumed water to dilute the liquid to make it lighter and then mixed it wisely. The pouring of wine was considered an art as much as poetry.
For example, the Roman poet Horace dedicated a considerable part of his poetic production to wine, considered the faithful companion of the most important stages of his life. He wrote to friends and invited them to plant rows of grapes on their country estates in the province of Rome. From Urbs downwards, in fact, Italy was generically called Enotria, which means “land of wine” from the Greek οίνος (wine) due to the numerous expanses of vineyards.
The Greek man, although more inclined to excesses than the Roman one, for whom moderation was a virtue, met regularly at the symposium, a meeting place for the intellectual aristocracy, a place for drinking but also for discussion, relationships of love, song, dance, and poetry. Vinous proverbs are cited as an invitation to enjoy life, to seize the moment.
Let’s drink, why wait for the oil lamps? The day lasts a finger: my boy bring down the great decorated cups. For the son of Zeus and Semele, oblivion of worries, gave the wine to mortals. Mix it by measuring out two of wine and one of water, filled to the brim: one cup driving out the other
And so, shortly thereafter the intoxication clouded the sight and confused the mind. An aphrodisiac, wine disinhibits, loosens the limbs and leads to debauchery. For this reason it was considered sacred, as it was capable of conferring semi-divine powers to the men who made use of it and was part of real pagan religious functions.
The Maenads, or Bacchantes, were the priestesses of Dionysus / Bacchus, god of wine, and celebrated in his honor esoteric rites related to the harvest in the months of September and October. The cult of the Bacchanalia, widespread above all in the Campania and Lucanian territories of Magna Graecia, was initially reserved for women, who practiced it as a propitiatory symbol for sowing and harvesting. The celebrations were mostly nomadic, bucolic, and began in wild dances to the sound of flutes and timpani, often culminating in orgiastic manifestations and perdition, so much so that in 186 BC the edict Senatus consultus de Bacchanalibus, the face of a conservative and patriarchal Rome, banned the practice in Italy, transforming the rite from a public holiday into a forbidden party.
In politics only men voted and the fact that a group of wild women could be free to manage their bodies in total anarchy, they did not like … it was too uncomfortable a truth.
The profound meaning of the celebration of Bacchus lay in the philosophy of eternal return and cathartic liberation. The mad women danced barefoot (as grapes are also pressed) and purified themselves through singing, and thus returned to the primeval state of the golden age, where abundance, milk, wine, and honey gushed out. A libation that also recalls the one that took place in the theater, when one attended a performance. In fact the theater, according to classical mythology, was established by the god Bacchus.
Thus, an ancient tradition takes shape: Italy, home of good wine and dolce vita, a country of crazy loves and daring adventures, which always ends with wine as the protagonist of every banquet.
Bronze is the mirror of the face, wine that of the mind
Vino os facundum facit = wine makes the mouth eloquent
The wine cheers the heart of man
Nunc vino pellite curas = now chase away the worries with wine
Sapientiam vino obumbrari = cognition is clouded by wine
Nunc est bibendum = now you have to drink
Inter pocula = between the cups
Inter pocula laeti = in the happiness of drinking
Wine makes even an old man, who doesn’t want to, dance