Wine: stories and myths

In the Greek world wine was considered a gift from the gods and all the myths agree in attributing to Dionysus, the youngest immortal son of Zeus, the introduction of the cultivation of the vine among men, so much so that Dionysus, the god of wine , was the object of worship not only among the Greeks, but also in Etruria, and in the Roman world, where it was known as Bacchus.

The practice of viticulture has very ancient origins, as is evidenced by quite a few figurative documents; among the many is worthy of note the painting of a Theban tomb where two peasants are collecting grapes from a pergola, an interesting circumstance from which it is deduced that in Egypt, already in the second millennium, the cultivation system pergola was widespread.

The quality of the wine depended on the exposure of the vineyard, the characteristics of the plants and the cultivation methods: for example, we know that the low vineyards gave mediocre wines and that, instead, the great italic wines were generally made from vines in shrubs. So it was the vineyard depicted on the shield of Achilles: “… a vineyard overloaded with bunches of grapes, beautiful, golden: it was impaled from top to bottom with silver poles … a single path led you through which the cutters passed to harvest the vineyard … … in woven baskets carried the sweet fruit “(Homer, Iliad).

Unlike the agricultural work, the harvest was a festive activity, which did not belong properly to the sphere of daily work, but transformed the human condition and placed it in contact with the divine. This is why, at least in the Greek world, most of the depictions related to the production of wine, and in particular to the harvest, have Dionysus and his following of satyrs and maenads, who are often represented while filling the baskets of bunches of grapes or in the other stages of grape processing.