Open main menu

Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of the Invention of Vineyards




Josephus, in his work on "The Causes of Natural Things," says that Noah discovered a wild vine in a wood[1], and because it was bitter, he took the blood of four animals, namely, of a lion, of a lamb, a pig, and a monkey. This mixture he united with earth, and made a kind of manure, which he deposited at the roots of the trees[2]. Thus the blood sweetened the fruit, with which he afterwards intoxicated himself, and lying naked, was derided by his younger son. Assembling his children, he declared to them by what means he had produced this effect. (88)


My beloved, the vine manured with the blood of animals, indicates its effects. The blood of the lion produces anger; that of the lamb, shame; of the pig, filthiness; of the monkey, idle curiosity, and foolish joy.


  1. "Id est labruscam [vitem;] à labris terræ et viarum dictam." That is, I suppose, the hedges and outskirts of woods. Strange etymology!
  2. Perhaps it was alluding to this fancy, that Webster, in his "White Devil," observes,
    "As in cold countries, husbandmen plant vines,
    And with warm blood manure them, even so," &c.


Note 88.Page 315.

"I know not of any book of Josephus on this subject. The first editor of the Latin Josephus was Ludovicus Cendrata, of Verona, who was ignorant that he was publishing a modern translation."—"The substance of this chapter is founded on a rabbinical tradition related by Fabricius[1]. "When Noah planted the vine, Satan attended, and sacrificed a sheep, a lion, an ape, and a sow. These animals were to symbolise the gradations of ebriety. When a man begins to drink, he is meek and ignorant as the lamb, then becomes bold as the lion; his courage is soon transformed into the foolishness of the ape, and at last he wallows in the mire like a sow. Chaucer hence says, in the Manciples Prologue, as the passage is justly corrected by Mr. Tyrwhitt,

'I trowe that ye have dronken wine of ape,
And that is when men plaien at a strawe'.

In the old Kalendrier des Bergers, as Mr. Tyrwhitt has remarked, Vin de singe, vin de mouton, vin de lyon, and vin de porceau, are mentioned in their respective operations on the four temperaments of the human body."—Warton.


  1. Cod. Pseudepigr. Vet. Testam., Vol. I. p. 275.