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Playing the kottabos game (Tomb of the Diver, Paestum, ca. 470 BC)

Greek wine drinkers playing the kottabos game (Tomb of the Diver, Paestum, ca. 470 BC)

Wine as food and medicine

Greek people grew wine both to drink themselves and to sell to other people, from the Bronze Age right through the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Most Greek people, including many children, drank wine every day. Wine was an important way to get calories and also an important medicine that could help you with headaches and other pain.

Myron’s Greek woman drinking wine (ca. 200 BC; this is a later Roman copy now in the Glyptothek, Munich).

The game of kottabos

Men liked to play a game at parties called “kottabos” where you flipped the dregs of your wine out of the cup and tried to hit a target – what a mess!

Did Greek women drink wine?

Greek men and boys probably got a lot more wine than women and girls; a lot of pictures show Greek women pouring wine for men, but never the other way around. But Greek women did drink wine anyway, and sometimes they got drunk, like this woman clutching her big jug.

Greek man vomiting after drinking too much wine

Greek man vomiting after drinking too much wine




Getting drunk on wine

Greek people did not think it was okay to get drunk. Most people mixed their wine with water, so that it wouldn’t make them drunk. If a man or woman drank unmixed wine, people suspected that person of being an alcoholic. A lot of Greek wine cups have a message at the bottom about what happens to you if you drink too much, like this one.

Did you notice that the little naked boy in the picture is a slave? He probably isn’t meant to be a child, but artists often showed slaves smaller, to imply that they were less important than free people.

Learn by doing: eat some grapes, or try a little wine
More about the history of wine

Bibliography and further reading about Greek wine:

Ancient Wine : The Search for the Origins of Viniculture, by Patrick E. McGovern (2003)

Story of Wine, by Hugh Johnson (1998).

Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, by Andrew Dalby (reprinted 1996).

More about Greek food
More about the history of wine
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