Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 14
I. SO far we have been dealing mostly with foreigntrees that cannot be trained to grow elsewhere than in their place of origin and that refuse to be naturalized in strange countries. We may now speak of those common to various countries, of all of which Italy can be thought to be the special parent. Only it must be remembered by the student that for the present we are specifying their natures and not their modes of cultivation, although actually a very large factor in the nature of a tree is due to its cultivation. There is one thing at which I cannot sufficiently wonderthat of some trees the very memory has perished, and even the names recorded by authors have passed out of knowledge. For who would not admit that now that intercommunication has been established throughout the world by the majesty of the Roman Empire, life has been advanced by the interchange of commodities and by partnership in the blessings of peace, and that even things that had previously lain concealed have all now been established in general use? Still, it must be asserted, we do not find people acquainted with much that has been handed down by the writers of former days: so much more productive was the research of the men of old, or else so much more successful was their industry, when a thousand years ago at the dawn of literature Hesiod began putting forth rules for agriculture, and not a few writers followed him in these researches which has been a source of more toil to us, inasmuch as nowadays it is necessary to investigate not only subsequent discoveries but also those that had already been made by the men of old, because general slackness has decreed an utter destruction of records.
And for this fault who can discover other causes than the general movement of affairs in the world? The fact is that other customs have come into vogue, and the minds of men are occupied about other matters: the only arts cultivated are the arts of avarice. Previously a nation's sovereignty was self-contained, and consequently the people's genius was also circumscribed; and so a certain barrenness of fortune made it a necessity to exercise the gifts of the mind, and kings innumerable received the homage of the arts, and put these riches in the front place when displaying their resources, believing that by the arts they could prolong their immortality. This was the reason why the rewards of life and also its achievements were then so abundant. But later generations have been positively handicapped by the expansion of the world and by our multiplicity of resources. After senators began to be selected and judges appointed on the score of wealth, and wealth became the sole adornment of magistrate and military commander, after lack of children to succeed one began to occupy the place of highest influence and power, and legacy-hunting ranked as the most profitable profession, and the only delights consisted in ownership, the true prizes of life went to ruin, and all the arts that derived their name 'liberal' from liberty, the supreme good, fell into the opposite class, and servility began to be the sole means of advancement. This deity was worshipped by different men in different manners and in different matters, although every man's prayer was directed to the same end and to hopes of possessing; indeed even men of high character everywhere preferred to cultivate the vices of others rather than the good gifts that were their own. The consequence is, I protest, that pleasure has begun to live and life itself has ceased. We, however, will carry our researches even into matters that have passed out of notice, and will not be daunted by the lowliness of certain objects, any more than we were when dealing with the animals, although we see that Virgil, the prince of poets, was led by this consideration to make omissions among the resources of the garden and in those which he has recorded has only culled out the flower of his subject, happy and gracious as he is: he has only named fifteen kinds of grapes in all and three of olives and as many pears, and of apples only the Assyrian citron, neglecting all the rest.
II. But where can we better make a beginning than with the vine? Supremacy in respect of the vine is to such a degree the special distinction of Italy that even with this one possession she can be thought to have vanquished all the good things of the world, even in the department of scents, inasmuch as when the vine is in blossom all over the country it gives a scent that surpasses any other in fragrance.
Even on account of its size the vine used in early days rightly to be reckoned as belonging to the class of trees. In the city of Piombino is to be seen a statue of Jupiter made of a single vine-stalk that has resisted decay for many ages; and similarly a bowl at Marseilles; the temple of Juno at Metapontum has stood supported by pillars of vine-wood; and even at the present day we ascend to the roof of the temple of Diana at Ephesus by a staircase made from a single vine, grown it is said at Cyprus, inasmuch as vines grow to an exceptional height in that island. And no other timber lasts for longer ages.
But I am inclined to believe that the things mentioned were made of the wood of the wild vine. Our own vines are kept down by yearly pruning, and all their strength is drawn out into shoots, or else thrown downward into layers, and the only benefit these supply is that of their juice, obtained by means of a variety of methods adapted to the peculiarities of the climate and the qualities of the soil. In Campania the vines espouse the poplars, and embracing their brides and climbing with wanton arms in a series of knots among their branches, rise level with their tops, soaring aloft to such a height that a hired vintager expressly stipulates in his contract for the cost of a funeral and a grave! In fact they never stop growing; and I have before now seen entire country houses and mansions encircled by the shoots and clinging tendrils of a single vine. And a thing that was considered in the first degree worthy of record also by Valerianus Cornelius is that a single vine in the colonnades of Livia at Rome protects the open walks with its shady trellises, while at the same time it produces 12 amphorae of juice yearly.
Elms indeed are everywhere overtopped by vines, and there is a story that Cineas, the ambassador of King Pyrrhus, was surprised at the height to which the vines grew at La Riccia and made an amusing joke about the rather rough flavour of the wine, to the effect that the parent of it thoroughly deserved being hung on such a lofty gibbet! There is an Italian tree on the other side of the Po called the rumpotinus, or by another name the opulus, the broad circular stories of which are covered by vines which spread out with their bare snaky growth to where the tree forks and then throw out their tendrils along the upraised fingers of the branches. Also vines when propped up with stakes about as tall as a man of middle height make a shaggy growth and form a whole vineyard from a cutting, by the unconscionable creeping of their rods and the rambling of their tendrils over all the empty gaps, completely filling the middle of a courtyard. So many are the different varieties that even Italy alone harbours.
III. In some of the provinces the vine stands by itself without any prop, gathering its limbs together inward and providing nutriment for thick growth by means of their shortness. In other places this is prohibited by the wind, for instance, in Africa and in parts of the province of Narbonne, where vines are prevented from growing beyond their pruned stumps and always resemble plants that are hoed, straying across the fields like herbaceous plants and drinking up the juice of the soil with their grapes as they go; and consequently in the interior of Africa the clusters exceed the body of an infant child in size. In no other country are the vines harsher, but nowhere else have the grapes a more agreeable firmness, which is very possibly the source of the name 'hard grape.' As to varieties in respect of size, colour and flavours of the berry they are innumerable and they are actually multiplied by the varieties of wine: in one district they have a brilliant purple colour, in another a rosy glow or a glossy green tint; for grapes that are merely white and black are the common sorts. But the large-cluster grapes swell out like a breast and the finger-grapes have an exceptionally long berry. Also such is the sportiveness of nature that very large grapes have small grapes clinging to them as companions which rival them in sweetness: these are called in Greek 'small-berry' vines. Some grapes will last all through the winter if the clusters are hung by a string from the ceiling, and others will keep merely in their own natural vigour by being stood in earthenware jars with casks put over them, and packed round with fermenting grape-skins; others can be given a flavour by smoke, which also adds flavour to wines, and the authority of Tiberius Caesar has caused particular glory in regard to the efficiency of smoke in this respect to attach to the forges of Africa; before his time priority at the table belonged to the Ilaetic grapes from the territory of Verona. Moreover, raisins are called 'passi' from having 'endured' the sun. Grapes are also preserved in must, and so made drunk with their own wine, and some are made sweeter by being placed in must that has been boiled down; but others remain on the parent vine to await the coming of a new generation, acquiring a glassy transparency, and the astringency of pitch poured on the footstalk gives them the same durable hardness that it gives to wine in casks or jars. A vine has now been discovered that of itself produces a flavour of pitch in the wine: this vine gives celebrity to the territory of Vienne by the varieties of Monte Taburno and of the Sotani and Helvii; it has become famous only recently and was unknown in the period of the poet Virgil, who died 90 years ago. Add that the vine has been introduced into the camp, and in the hand of the centurions is the mainstay of supreme authority and command and with its rich reward it lures on the laggard ranks to the tardy eaglest and even in offences it confers honour on punishment itself. Moreover it was vineyards that suggested a method for siege-trains. As for medicines, grapes hold such an important place among them that they act as remedies in themselves, merely by supplying wine.
IV. Democritus, who professed to know all the different kinds of vines in Greece, was alone in thinking it possible for them to be counted, but all other writers have stated that there is a countless and infinite number of varieties; and the truth of this will appear more clearly if we consider the various kinds of wines. We shall not mention all of them, but the most famous, inasmuch as there are almost as many wines as there are districts, so that it will be enough to have pointed out the most celebrated kinds of wine or the ones remarkable for some special property.
The highest rank is given to the vines of Aminaea, account of the body of that wine and its life, which undoubtedly improves with age. There are five varieties of these vines; of these the 'younger sister' with a smaller berry sheds its blossom better! and can stand rain and stormy weather, which is not the case with the 'elder sister,' though this is less liable to damage when trained on a tree than when on a frame. The 'twin sisters,' which have got this name because the bunches always grow in pairs, give a wine with a very rough flavour but of exceptional strength; the smaller of these 'twins' is damaged by a south wind, but the other winds give it nutriment, for instance on Mount Vesuvius and the hills of Sorrento, but in all other parts of Italy it only flourishes when trained on trees. The fifth kind is the 'woolly' grapefor, to prevent our being very much surprised at the Chinese or the Indians, it is covered with a coat of down. It ripens first of the Aminaean grapes, and decays the most quickly.
The next rank belongs to the vines of Mentana, the wood of which is red, in consequence of which some people have called them the 'ruddy vines.' These produce less wine, as they have too much husk and lees, but they are very strong in resisting frost, and they suffer worse from drought than rain and from heat than cold, and consequently they hold the first place in cold and damp localities. The variety with a smaller berry is more productive, and the one with a cleft leafless.
The 'bee-vine' is so called because bees are specially fond of it. It has two varieties, which also are covered with down in the young state; the difference between them is that one ripens more quickly than the other, although the latter also ripens fast. These vines do not object to cold situations, and nevertheless no others rot more quickly from rain. The wines made from them are sweet at first but acquire roughness in the course of years. In Tuscany this vine flourishes more than any other.
So far we assign the chief distinction to the vines peculiar and indigenous to Italy. The remaining kinds have come from abroad. From Chios or Thasos is imported a Greek light wine not inferior in quality to the Aminaean vintages; the vine has a very tender grape, and such small clusters that it does not pay to grow it except in a very rich soil. The eugenia, with its name denoting high quality, has been imported from the hills of Taormina to be grown only in the territory of Alba, as if transplanted elsewhere it at once degenerates: for in fact some vines have so strong an affection for certain localities that they leave all their reputation behind there and cannot be transplanted elsewhere in their full vigour. This occurs also with the Rhaetian and Allobrogian grapesthe latter the grape with the flavour of pitch which we mentioned abovewhich are famous at home but not worth recognition elsewhere. All the same, being good bearers they make up in quantity what they lack in quality, the eugenia grape in warm localities, the Raetic in those with a moderate climate and the Allobrogian in cold districts, as it ripens in frost and has a black colour. The wines made from the grapes so far mentioned, even from the black ones, turn to a white colour with age. The remaining vines are of no quality, although occasionally owing to the agency of climate or soil they are not disappointing when old, as in the case of the Faecenian vine, and that of which blossoms at the same time but has fewer grapes; their blossom is never liable to injury, as they do not come before the west wind of early spring and can withstand wind and rain, although they do better in cold places than in warm ones and in damp situations than in dry. The visulla bears clusters of large size rather than closely packed; it cannot stand changes of weather, but lasts well against a continuous spell of cold or heat. The smaller variety of this kind is the better one. It is difficult to please in choice of soil, as in a rich soil it decays and in a thin soil it does not come on at all; its fastidiousness requires an intermediate blend of soil, and that is why it is common in the Sabine hill country. Its grapes are not attractive to look at, but have an agreeable flavour; if they are not gathered as soon as they are ripe, they will fall off even before they decay. Its hardiness and the size of the leaves protect the grapes against hailstorms.
The grapes called helvolae again are remarkable for rather frequently varying in their colour, which is midway between the purple grapes and the black ones, and they have consequently been called by some people varianae. Among them the blacker kind is preferred; both kinds bear large crops every other year, though they make better wine when the crop is less abundant. Also the praecia vine has two varieties, distinguished by the size of the grape; these vines make a great deal of wood, and their bunches are most useful for storing in jars; the leaf resembles parsley. The people of Durazzo speak highly of the balisca vine, which the Spanish provinces call coccolobis; its grapes grow in rather scanty bunches and can stand hot weather and south winds; its wine is apt to go to the head, but the yield is abundant. The Spanish provinces distinguish two kinds of this vine, one having an oblong grape and the other a round one; they gather them last of all. The sweeter the coccolobis grape is, the better it is; but even if it has a rough taste it turns sweet with age, and one that was sweet turns rough; in the last state they are held to rival the wine of Alba. It is said that to drink the juice of this grape is very good for disorders of the bladder. The albuelis vine bears more fruit at the top of the trees that it is grown on, the visulla on the bottom branches; and consequently, when both are planted round the same trees, owing to this difference of habit they produce rich crops. One of the black grapes has been named 'the good-for-nothing,' though it might more properly be styled the sober, as the wine it produces is admirable, particularly when old, but though strong it has no ill effects: in fact this is the only vintage that does not cause intoxication. All the other kinds of vine have the recommendation of bearing freely, and chief among them the helvennaca. Of this there are two kinds, one larger, which some people call the long helvennaca, the other smaller, called emarcus; the latter is not so prolific but produces a wine of more agreeable flavour; it is distinguished by its rounded leaf, but both kinds have a slender growth. They require to he supported on forked props, otherwise they cannot support the weight of their abundant fruit. They like a sea breeze, and dislike damp dews. None of the vines love Italy less, for there it grows leafless and stunted and soon decays, and also the wine it produces will not keep beyond the summer; and no other vine is more at home in a thin soil. Graecinus, who has generally copied Cornelius Celsus, thinks that it is not the nature of this vine to which Italy is not friendly but the mode of cultivating it, as growers are too eager to make it put out shoots; the consequence of this, he says, is that it is used up by its own fertility, unless the bounty of the soil is so rich as to afford it support when it begins to droop. It is said that this vine never contracts carbuncle, which is a very valuable property, if indeed it is true that there is any vine that is exempt from the power of the climate.
The spionia, called by some the thorn-vine, is able to bear heat, and is ripened by rainy weather in autumn; what is more, indeed, it is the only vine that thrives from fog, on which account it is specially grown in the district of Ravenna. The venicula is one of the best vines that shed their flowers, and its grapes are particularly well suited for preserving in jars; the people of Campania prefer to call it by the name of surcula, and others by that of scapula, while the name for it at Tarracina is Numisiana; it has no strength of its own but is entirely conditioned by the strength of the soil; all the same, as far south as Vesuvius it is very potent if kept in earthenware jars from Sorrento. For at Vesuvius there is Murgentina, a very strong vine imported from Sicily, called by some Pompeiana, which only bears well in a rich soil, just as the horconia vine only flourishes in Campania. The opposite is the case with the arceraca, called in Virgil argitis, which has the property of imparting extra richness to the soil, while itself offering a very stout resistance to rain and to old age, though it will hardly produce wine every year, and its grapes are only valued for eating, but it bears exceptionally large crops. The mettica vine also stands the years, and faces all weather very strongly; it bears a black grape, and its wines acquire a reddish colour in old age.
The kinds of vine mentioned so far are grown everywhere, but those remaining belong to particular districts and places, or are crosses produced by grafting one of these on another: thus among the vines of Tuscany that of Todi is a special variety, and also they have special names, a vine at Florence being called sopina and some at Arezzo 'mole-vine' and 'seasonal vine' and 'crossed vine.' The mole-vine has black grapes and makes a white must; the seasonal vine is a deceptive plant, giving a more admirable wine the larger crop of grapes it bears, and, remarkable to say, coming to the end of its fertility and its good quality at the same time; the crossed vine has black grapes and makes a wine that does not keep at all long, but its grape keeps a very long time, and it is gathered a fortnight later than any other variety, bearing a large crop of grapes but only good for eating. The leaves of this vine, like those of the wild vine, turn a blood-red colour before they fall off; this also happens with some other vines, and is a sign of extremely inferior quality. The itriola is peculiar to Unibria and to the districts of Bevagna and Ancona, and the 'dwarf-vine' to that of San Vettorino. The same districts have the bananica, an unreliable vine, though people become fond of it. The people of Pompei give the name of their township to a grape, although it grows in greater quantity at Chiusi; the people of Tivoli also name a grape after their township, although they have lately discovered the 'olive-grape', so called from its resemblance to an olive: this is the latest grape introduced hitherto. The vinaciola grape is only known to the Sabines and the calventina to the people of Mount Gaurus. Vines transplanted from the Falernian territory are, I am aware, called 'Falernian,' but they very quickly degenerate everywhere. Some people also have made out a Sorrento variety, with a very sweet grape. The 'smoke-grape,' the 'mouthful' and the tharrupia, which grow on the hills of Thurii, are not picked before there has been a frost. Pisa rejoices in the vine of Paros, and Modena in the vine of Perugia, which has a black grape and makes a wine that within four years turns white. It is a remarkable fact that at Modena there is a grape that turns round with the sun and is consequently called in Greek the 'revolving grape'; and that in Italy a grape from Gaul is popular, but across the Alps that of Picenum. Virgil mentions a Thasian vine, a Maraeotid and a Lagean, and a number of other foreign kinds that are not found in Italy.
But again there are some vines which are distinguished for their grapes and not for their wine, for instance, among the hard-berry group the ambrosia grape, which needs no jars but will keep on the vine, so strong is its resistance to cold and heat and to bad weather, nor does it require a tree or stakes to support it, as it sustains its own weight, though this is not the case with the dactylis, the stalk of which is only the thickness of a finger; and among the vines with large bunches the pigeon-vine, and still more the purple 'double-bosomed' vine, so called because it does not bear clusters but only secondary bunches; and also the 'three-foot vine', named from its size, and also the 'rush vine' with its shrivelled grape and the vine called the Raetic vine in the Maritime Alps, which is quite unlike the famous vine of that name, because this is a short-stalked vine with closely packed clusters and producing a low class of wine; but it has the thinnest skin of any grape, and a single very small stone (called chium), and one or two grapes in each bunch are exceptionally large. There is also the black Aminean grape to which they give the name of 'Syrian grape', and also the Spanish grape, which is the most highly rated of the inferior kinds.
The kind called 'table-grapes,' one of the hard-berry group, are grown on trellisesthey are both white and blackand so are the 'cow's-udder' grapes, also of both colours, and those of Aegiurn and of Rhodes, not mentioned before, and the 'one-ounce' grape, apparently named from the weight of the berry, and also the 'pitch grape,' the darkest in colour of all the black grapes, and the 'garland grape', the clusters of which by a sport of nature are arranged in a wreath with leaves interspersed among the berries, and the grapes called 'market-grapes,' a very quick bearer that attracts buyers by its appearance and stands carriage well. On the other hand the ashy grape and the dusky grape and the donkey-grape are condemned even by their appearance, though this is less the case with the alopecis, which resembles a fox's brush. A grape growing in the vicinity of Phalacra is called the Alexandrian grape; it is a low-growing vine with branches only eighteen inches long and a black grape the size of a bean, with a soft and very small stone; the clusters hang aslant and are extremely sweet; the leaf is small and round, and has no clefts. Within the last seven years there has been discovered at Viviers in the province of Narbonne a vine whose blossoms wither in a day and which is consequently extremely immune to bad weather; it is called the 'charcoal-vine,' and is now grown by the whole province.
V. The elder Cato, who was exceptionally celebrated for his triumph and his censorship, though yet more for his literary distinction and for the precepts that he has given to the Roman nation upon every matter of utility, and in particular as to agriculturea man who by the admission of his contemporaries was a supremely competent and unrivalled agriculturalisthas dealt with only a few varieties of the vine, including some even the names of which are now extinct. His opinion deserves to be set out separately and handled at full length, to make us acquainted with the varieties which were the most famous in the whole of this class in the year 154 BC., about the time of the taking of Carthage and Corinth, the period of Cato's demiseand to show us how great an advance civilization has made in the subsequent 230 years. The following therefore are the remarks that he made on the subject of vines and grapes: 'In the locality pronounced to be best for the vine and fully exposed to the sun, you should plant the small variety of Aminian and the double eugenium, and also the small helvia. In a denser soil or a locality more liable to fog you should plant the larger Aminian or the Murgentine, the Apician, and the Lucanian. All the other varieties of vine, especially hybrids, are suited to any kind of land. The small Aminian grape and the larger one and the Apician are stored unstoned in a jar; they can also be kept in new wine boiled down and must, and properly in after-wine. The larger Aminian hard-berry grapes, which one you hang up, are properly kept, for instance at a blacksmith's forge, to make raisins. Nor are there any older instructions on this subject written in Latin, so near we are to the origin of things. The Aminian grape last mentioned is called by Varro the Scantian.
In our own period there have been few instances consummate skill in this field, but it is all the more proper on that account not to omit them, so as also to make known the rewards of success, which in every department attract the greatest attention. Well, the greatest distinction was achieved by Acilius Sthenelus, a plebeian, the son of a freedman, by his intensive cultivation of a vineyard of not more than 60 iugera, in the region of Mentana, which he sold for 400,000 sesterces. Also Vetulenus Aegialus, he too a freedman, gained a great reputation in the district of Liternum in Campania, and a still greater reputation in public esteem on account of his cultivating the estate which had been the place of exile of Africanus; but the greatest reputation, thanks to the activity of the same Sthenelus, attached to Remmius Palaemon, also famous for his treatise on grammar, who within the last 20 years bought a farm for 600,000 sesterces in the same region of Mentana, at the turning off the main road ten miles from Rome. The low price of property through all the districts just outside the city in every direction is notorious, but especially in the neighbourhood referred to, since Palaemon had bought farms that had also been let down by neglect and that were not above the average quality of soil even among those extremely poor estates. He undertook the cultivation of this property not from any high motive but at first out of vanity, for which he was known to be so remarkable; but he had the vineyards dug and trenched afresh under the superintendence of Sthenelus, and so, though only playing the part of a farmer, he finally got the estate into an almost incredibly wonderful condition, as within eight years, the vintage, while still hanging on the trees, was knocked down to a purchaser at a price of 400,000 sesterces; and everybody ran to see the piles of grapes in these vineyards, while the sluggish neighbourhood vindicated itself against this discredit by the excuse of his exceptionally profound studies, and recently Annaeus Seneca, the most learned person of the day, and eminent in power which ultimately grew to excess and came crashing about his earsa man who was at all events no admirer of frivolitieswas seized with such a passionate desire for this estate that he was not ashamed to concede this victory to one whom he otherwise hated and who was sure to make the most of this advertisement, by buying the vineyards in question at four times the price Palaemon had paid for it within hardly more than ten years of its being under his management. This was a method of cultivation which it would be profitable to apply to the farms of Caecubum and Setia, since even subsequently the estate has frequently produced seven sacks, that is 140 jars, of must to the iugerum. And to prevent anyone from supposing that the records of the days of old were beaten on this occasion, Cato also wrote that there were returns of 10 sacks to the iugerum, these instances conclusively proving that the merchant does not obtain more profit by rashly trespassing on the seas nor by going as far as the coast of the Red Sea or of the Indian Ocean to seek for merchandise, than is yielded by a diligently cultivated homestead.
VI. The most ancient celebrity belongs to the wine of Maronea grown in the seaboard parts of Thrace, as we learn from Homer. However, we need not pursue the legendary or variously reported stories conceding its origin, except the statement that Aristaeus was the first person of all in the same nation who mixed honey with wine, because of the outstandingly agreeable quality of each of these natural products. Homer has recorded the mixing of Maronean wine with water in the proportion of 20 parts of water to one of wine. This class of wine in the same district still retains its strength and its insuperable vigour, inasmuch as one of the most recent authors, Mucianus, who was three times consul, ascertained when actually visiting that region that it is the custom to mix with one pint of this wine eight pints of water, and that it is black in colour, has a strong bouquet, and improves in substance with age.
The Pramnian wine as well, also celebrated by Homer, still retains its fame. It is grown in the territory of Smyrna, in the neighbourhood of the shrine of the Mother of the Gods.
Among the remaining wines no kind was particularly famous, but the year of the consulship of Lucius Opimius, when the tribune Gaius Gracchus was assassinated for stirring up the common people with seditions, was renowned for the excellence of its vintages of all kindsthe weather was so fine and bright (they call it the 'boiling' of the grape) thanks to the power of the sun, in the 633rd year 121 BC. from the birth of the city; and wines of that year still survive, having kept for nearly 200 years, though they have now been reduced to the consistency of honey with a rough flavour, for such in fact is the nature of wines in their old age; and it would not be possible to drink them neat or to counteract them with water, as their over-ripeness predominates even to the point of bitterness, but with a very small admixture they serve as a seasoning for improving all other wines. Assuming that by the valuation of that period their cost may be put at 100 sesterces per amphora, but that the interest on this sum has been adding up at 6 per cent. per annum, which is a legal and moderate rate, we have shown by a famous instance that in the principate of Gaius Caesar, son of Germanicus, 160 [A.D. 39] years after the consulship of Opimius, the wine cost that amount for onetwelfth of an amphorathis appears in our biography of the bard Pomponius Secundus and the banquet that he gave to the emperor mentioned: so large are the sums of money that are kept stored in our wine-cellars! Indeed there is nothing else which experiences a greater increase of value up to the twentieth yearor a greater fall in value afterwards, supposing that there is not a rise of price. Rarely indeed has it occurred hitherto and only in the case of some spendthrift's extravagance, for wine to fetch a thousand sesterces a cask. It is believed that the people of Vienne alone sell their wines flavoured with pitch, the varieties of which we have specified, for a higher price, though out of patriotism they only sell it among themselves; and this wine when drunk cold is believed to be cooler than all the other kinds.
VII. Wine has the property of heating the parts of the body inside when it is drunk and of cooling them when poured on them outside. And it will not be out of place to recall here what the famous philosopher Androcydes wrote to Alexander the Great in an attempt to restrain his intemperance: 'When you are about to drink wine, O King, remember that you are drinking the earth's blood. Hemlock is poison to a human being and wine is poison to hemlock.' If Alexander had obeyed this advice, doubtless he would not have killed his friends in his drunken fits; so that in fact we are justified in saying that there is nothing else that is more useful for strengthening the body, and also nothing more detrimental to our pleasures if moderation be lacking.
VIII. Who can doubt, however, that some kinds of wine are more agreeable than others, or who does not know that one of two wines from the same vat can be superior to the other, surpassing its relation either owing to its cask or from some accidental circumstance? And consequently each man will appoint himself judge of the question which wine heads the list. Julia Augusta gave the credit for her eighty-six years of life to the wine of Pizzino, having never drunk any other. It is grown on a bay of the Adriatic not far from the source of the Timavus, on a rocky hill, where the breeze off the sea ripens enough grapes to make a few casks; and no other wine is considered more suitable for medicinal purposes. I am inclined to believe that this is the wine from the Adriatic Gulf which the Greeks have extolled with such marvellous encomiums under the name of Praetutian. His late Majesty Augustus preferred Setinum to all wines whatsoever, and so for the most part did the Emperors who came after him, owing to the verdict of experience that because injurious attacks of indigestion do not readily arise from this liquor. ... It grows just above Foro Appio. Previously Caecuban wine had the reputation of being the most generous of all; it was grown in some poplar woods on marshy ground on the Bay of Amyclae, but the vineyard has now disappeared owing to the neglect of the cultivator and the confined area of the ground, though in a greater degree owing to the ship canal from the lake of Baiae to Ostia that was begun by Nero.
The second rank belonged to the Falernian district, and in it particularly to the estate of Faustus in consequence of the care taken in its cultivation; but the reputation of this district also is passing out of vogue through the fault of paying more attention to quantity than to quality. The Falernian district begins at the Campanian bridge as you turn left to reach the Colonia Urbana of Sulla lately attached to Capua, and the Faustus estate begins about four miles from the village of Caedicium, which is about six miles from Sinuessa. No other wine has a higher rank at the present day. It is the only wine that takes light when a flame is applied to it. It has three varieties, one dry, one sweet and one a light wine. Some people distinguish three vintages as followsCaucinian growing on the tops of the hills, Faustian half-way up them, and Falernian at the bottom. It must also not be omitted that none of the grapes that produce the celebrated vintages are agreeable to eat.
The third prize is attained in various degrees by the vines of Alba in the neighbourhood of the city, which are extremely sweet and occasionally dry, and also by those of Sorrento which only grow in vineyards, and which are very highly recommended for convalescents because of their thinness and health-giving qualities. The Emperor Tiberius used to say that the doctors had made a corner to puff the Sorrento vintage, but that except for that it was only a generous vinegar, and his successor the Emperor Gaius called it best quality flat wine. Its place is contested by the vineyards of Monte Massico and the slopes of Monte Barbaro looking towards Pozzuoli and Baiae. For the Statana vineyards adjoining the Falernian territory unquestionably once reached the first place, and established the fact that each locality has its own period and its own rise and decline of fortune. The adjacent vintages of the Calenian hills used to be preferred to them, as were those of Fundi where the vines are grown on trellises or trained up small trees, and others from the vicinity of Rome, those of Castel del Volturno and Piperno. As for the wine produced at Segni, it counts as a medicine, being useful as a stomachic astringent owing to its excessive dryness.
For public banquets the fourth place in the race has been held from the time of his late Majesty Julius Caesar onwardfor he was the first person to bring them into favour, as appears from his lettersto the Mamertine vintages grown in the neighbourhood of Messina in Sicily; of these the Potitian, so called after the name of its original grower, is particularly highly spoken ofit grows in the part of Sicily nearest to Italy. In Sicily also is grown the Taormina vintage, which when bottled is constantly passed off for Mamertine.
Among the remaining wines there are, in the vicinity of the Adriatic and Ionian Sea, the Praetutian and those grown at Ancona and the vines called sprig-vines, because they were all struck from a single chance sprig; and in the interior the wines of Cezena and those called by the name of Maecenas; also in the district of Verona the wines of Tyrol, reckoned by Virgil inferior only to Falernian; and next at the top of the Adriatic the wines of Adria, and from the Lower Sea the Latiniensian, Graviscan and Statoniensian. Luna carries off the palm of Tuscany and Genoa that of Liguria. Between the Pyrenees and the Alps Marseilles has wine of two flavours, as it produces a richer variety, the local name for which is the `juicy' brand, which is also used for seasoning other wines. The importance of the wine of Beziers does not extend outside the Gallic provinces; and about the rest of the wines grown in the Province of Narbonne no positive statement can be made, inasmuch as the dealers have set up a regular factory for the purpose and colour them by means of smoke, and I regret to say also by employing noxious herbs and drugsinasmuch as a dealer actually uses aloe for adulterating the flavour and the colour of his wines.
But also the wines of Italy grown further away from the Ausonian Sea are not without note, those of Taranto and San Severino, and those grown at Cosenza and Tempsa and Ban, and the Lucanian vintages, which hold a better place than those of Thurii. But the wines of Lagara, grown not far from Grurnentum, are the most famous of them all, on the ground of their having restored the health of Messala Potitius. Campania, whether by means of careful cultivation or by accident, has lately excited consideration by some new namesboasting the Trebellian vintage four miles from Naples, the Cauline close to Capua, and the Trebulan when grown in the district of the same name (though otherwise it is always classed as a common wine), and the Trifoline. As for the wines of Pompei, their topmost improvement is a matter of ten years, and they gain nothing from age; also they are detected as unwholesome because of a headache which lasts till noon on the following day. These instances, if I am not mistaken, go to show that it is the country and the soil that matter, not the grape, and that it is superfluous to go on with a long enumeration of kinds, since the same vine has a different value in different places. In the Spanish provinces the vineyards of Lacetanum are famous for the quantity of wine they produce, while for choice quality the vineyards of Tarragon and Lauron and those of the Balearics among the islands challenge comparison with the first vintages of Italy. And I am not unaware that most people will think that many have been passed over, inasmuch as everybody has his own favourite, and wherever one may go one finds the same story currenthow that one of the freedmen of his late Majesty Augustus, who was the most skilful among them for his ,judgement and palate, in tasting wine for the emperor's table passed this remark to the master of the house where Augustus was visiting in regard to a wine of the district: 'The flavour of this wine is new to me, and it is not of a high class, but all the same I prophesy that the emperor will not drink any other.' I would not deny that other wines also deserve a high reputation, but the ones that I have enumerated are those on which the general agreement of the ages will be found to have pronounced judgement.
IX. We will now in a similar manner specify the wines of countries overseas. The wines held in highest esteem subsequent to the great vintages of the Homeric age about which we have spoken above were those of Thasos and Chios, and of the latter the wine called Ariusian. To these the authority of the eminent physician Erasistratus, about four hundred and fifty years after the foundation of Rome, added Lesbian. At the present time the most popular of all is the wine of Clazomenae, now that they have begun to flavour it more sparingly with seawater. The wine of Lesbos by dint of its own nature smacks of the sea; and that of Mount Tmolus also is not esteemed as a wine to drink neat, but because being a sweet wine an admixture of it gives sweetness to the dry quality of the remaining vintages, at the same time also giving them age, as it at once makes them seem more mature. Next after these in esteem are the wines of Sicyon, Cyprus, Telmesus, Tripoli, Beyrout, Tyre and Sebennys. This last is grown in Egypt, being made from three famous kinds of grapes that grow there, the Thasian, the soot-grape and the pine-tree grape. Ranking after these are the wines of Hippodamas, of Mystus and of the canthareos Vine, the protropum of Cnidos, and the wines of the volcanic region in Mysia, of Petra and of Myconos. As for the vintage of Mesogis, it has been found to cause headache, and that of Ephesus has also proved to be unwholesome, because seawater and boiled must are employed to season it. Apamea wine is said to be particularly suitable for making mead, and so likewise is the Praetutian in Italyfor this too is a property peculiar to certain kinds of wine: two sweet wines do not generally go well together. Protagion also has quite gone out, a wine which the medical profession had put next to those of Italy. The physician Apollodorus in his pamphlet advising King Ptolemy what wines to drinkthe Italian vintages being even then unknownpraised the wine of Naspercene in Pontus, and next to it the Oretie, Oeneate, Leucadian, Ambraciote and Peparethian vintagesthe last he put before all the rest, but said it was less well thought of on account of its not being fit to drink before it was six years old. A sweet wine drawn off before treading the grapes.
X. Up to this point the goodness of a wine is credited to the countries of its growth. Among the Greeks, the wine they have called 'life' has justly won a very distinguished name, having been developed for the treatment of a great many maladies, as we shall show in the part of our work dealing with medicine. The process of making it is this: the grapes are picked a little before they are ripe and are dried in a fierce sun, being turned three times a day for three days, and on the fourth day they are put through the press and then left in casks to mature in the sun. The people of Cos mix in a rather large quantity of seawatera custom arising from the peculation of a slave who used this method to fill up the due measure, and this mixture is poured into white must, producing what is called in Greek 'white Coan.' In other countries a blend made in a similar way is called 'sea-flavoured wine,' and 'sea-treated' when the vessels containing the must have been thrown into the sea; this is a kind of wine that matures young. Also with us as well Cato exhibited a method of making Coan wine out of Italian, his most important instruction being that it must be left in the sun for four years to ripen. The Rhodes vintage resembles that of Cos, but the Phorinean is salter. All the overseas wines are thought to take seven years to reach the middle stage of maturity.
XI. All sweet wine has less aroma; the thinner a wine is the more aroma it has. Wines are of four colours, white, brown, blood-red and black. Psithian and black psithian are kinds of raisin-wine with a peculiar flavour which is not that of wine; Scybelites is a kind of must produced in Galatia, and Aluntium another, produced in Sicily. Siraeum, by some called hepsema and in our country sapa, is a product of art, not of nature, made by boiling down must to a third of its quantity; must boiled down to only one-half is called defrutum. All these wines have been devised for adulterating with honey; but the wines previously mentioned are the product of the grape and of the soil. Next after the raisin-wine of Crete those of Cilicia and of Africa are held in esteem. Raisin-wine is known to be made in Italy and in the neighbouring provinces from the grape called by the Greeks psithia and by us 'muscatel,' and also scripula, the grapes being left on the vine longer than usual to ripen in the sun, or else being ripened in boiling oil. Some people make this wine from any sweet white grape that ripens early, drying them in the sun till little more than half their weight remains, and then they beat them and gently press out the juice. Afterwards they add to the skins the same quantity of well-water as they have pressed out juice, so as also to make raisin-wine of second quality. The more careful makers, after drying the bunches in the same manner, pick off the berries and soak them without their stalks in wine of good quality till they swell, and then press themand this kind of wine is the most highly praised of any; and then they repeat the process, adding more water, and make a wine of second quality.
Between the sirops and real wine is the liquor that the Greeks call aigleucosthis is our 'permanent must.' Care is needed for its production, as it must not be allowed to 'boil'that is the word they use to denote the passage of must into wine. Consequently, as soon as the must is taken from the vat and put into casks, they plunge the casks in water till midwinter passes and regular cold weather sets in. There is moreover another kind of raisin-wine known in the Province of Narbonne, and there particularly to the Vocoutii, under the name of 'sweet wine.' For the purpose of this they keep the grape hanging on the vine for an exceptional time, with the foot-stalk twisted. Some make an incision in the actual shoot as far as the pith and others leave the grapes to dry on tiled roofs, the grapes in all cases being those from the helvennaca vine. To these some add a wine called in Greek 'strained wine,' to make which the grapes are dried in the sun for seven days raised seven feet from the ground on hurdles, in an enclosed place where at night they are protected from damp; on the eighth day they are trodden out, and this process produces a wine of extremely good bouquet and flavour. Another wine of the sweet class is called honey-wine; it differs from mead because it is made from must, in the proportion of thirty pints of must of a dry quality to six pints of honey and a cup of salt, this mixture being brought just to the boil; this produces a dry-flavoured liquor. But among these varieties ought also to be placed the liquor called in Greek protropam, the name given by some people to must that flows down of its own accord before the grapes are trodden. This as soon as it flows is put into special flagons and allowed to ferment, and afterwards left to dry for forty days of the summer that follows, just at the rise of the Dog-star.
XII. The liquors made from grape-skins soaked in water, called by the Greeks seconds and by Cato and ourselves after-wine, cannot rightly be styled wines, but nevertheless are counted among the wines of the working classes. They are of three kinds: one is made by adding to the skins water to the amount of a tenth of the quantity of must that has been pressed out, and so leaving the skins to soak for twenty-four hours and then again putting them under the press; another, by a method of manufacture that has been commonly employed by the Greeks, i.e. by adding water to the amount of a third of the juice that has been pressed out, and after submitting the pulp to pressure, boiling it down to one-third of its original quantity; while the third kind is pressed out of the wine-leesCato's name for this is 'lees-wine.' None of these liquors is drinkable if kept more than a year.
XIII. Among these topics, however, it occurs to me that while there are in the whole world about eighty notable kinds of liquor that can properly be understood as coming under the term 'wine,' two-thirds of this number belong to Italy, which stands far in front of all the countries in the world on that account; and further investigation going into this subject more deeply indicates that this popularity does not date back from the earliest times, but that the importance of the Italian wines only began from the city's six hundredth year.
XIV. Romulus used milk and not wine for libations, as is proved by the religious rites established by him which preserve the custom at the present day. The Postumian Law of King Numa runs: Thou shalt not sprinkle the funeral pyre with winea law to which he gave his sanction on account of the scarcity of the commodity in question, as nobody can doubt. By the same law he made it illegal to offer libations to the gods with wine produced from a vine that had not been pruned, this being a plan devised for the purpose of compelling people who were mainly engaged in agriculture and were slack about the dangers besetting a plantation, not to neglect pinning. We learn from Marcus Varro that Mezentius, king of Etruria, gave help to the Rutuli against the Latins at the price of receiving all the wine then in the territory of Latium. At Rome women were not allowed to drink wine. Among various instances we find that the wife of Egnatius Maetennus was clubbed to death by her husband for drinking wine from the vat, and that Romulus acquitted him on the charge of murder. Fabius Pictor has written in his Annals that a matron was starved to death by her relatives for having broken open the casket containing the keys of the wine-cellar; and Cato says that the reason why women are kissed by their male relations is to know whether they smell of 'tipple'that was then the word denoting wine, and also the word 'tipsy' comes from it. Judge Gnaeus Domitius once gave a verdict that a certain woman appeared to have drunk more wine that was required for the sake of her health without her husband's knowledge, and he fined her the amount of her dowry. And great economy in the use of this commodity prevailed for a long time. General Lucius Papirius before his decisive action against the Samnites vowed to give a small goblet of wine to Jupiter if he were victorious. Lastly among votive offerings we find mention of gifts of pints of milk but nowhere of wine. Moreover Cato, when sailing on his expedition to Spain, whence he returned with a triumph, drank no other wine than what was drunk by the crew of his galley, so little did he resemble the gentlemen who give even their guests other wines than those served to themselves, or else substitute inferior wines as the meal progresses.
XV. The finest wines in early days were those spiced with scent of myrrh, as appears in the plays of Plautus, although in the one entitled The Persian he recommends the addition of sweet-reed also. Consequently some think that in old times people were extremely fond of scented wine; but Fabius Dossenuus decides the point in these verses:
I sent them a fine wine, one spiced with myrrh,
and in his Acharistio:
Bread and pearl-barley and wine spiced with myrrh.
I also observe that Scaevola and Lucius Aelius and Ateius Capito were of the same opinion, inasmuch as we find in Pseudolus:
A. But if he has to bring out a sweet wine
From that same cellar, has he got one?
B. Got one?
Myrrh-wine and raisin-wine and boiled-down must
which shows that myrrh-wine was counted not only among wines but also among sirops.
XVI. The existence of the Opimian wineItaly already understanding the blessing she enjoyed affords an undoubted proof that wine-lofts existed there and it was usual for wine to be racked off in the 633rd year of the city. Nevertheless the 21 B.C. vintages referred to were not yet celebrated; and accordingly all the wines grown in that year bear the name of the consul only. Similarly also afterwards wines imported from overseas held the field for a long time and right down to our grandfathers' day, indeed even after Falernian had already been discovered, as appears from the line of the comedy playwright:
I'll broach five casks of Thasian, two of Falernian.
In the year 665 from the foundation of the city the [89 BC] censors Publius Licinius Crassus and Lucius Julius Caesar promulgated an edict prohibiting 'the sale of Greek and Aminnian wine at a higher price than 8 asses for 6 gallons'those being the actual words of the edict. But Greek wine was so highly esteemed that only one cup was given to each guest at a banquet.
XVII. Marcus Varro records in the following words the wines that ranked highest in his own younger days: 'When Lucius Lucullus was a boy he never saw a full-dress banquet in his father's house at which Greek wine was given more than once, but when he himself came back from Asia he distributed more than 100,000 jars in largess; also Gaius Sentius, who was praetor in our time, used to say that the first time that Chian wine entered his house was when the doctor had prescribed it for him for heartburn; but Hortensins left over ten thousand jars [50 B.C] to his next-of-kin. So far Varro. And besides, did not Caesar also, when dictator, at the banquet in celebration of his triumph apportion to each table a flagon of Falernian and a jar of Chian? Caesar also gave Chian and Falernian at his triumph over Spain, [60 BC] but at a banquet during his third consulship he [46 BC] provided Falernian, Chian, Lesbian and Mamertine: this is known to be the first occasion on which four kinds of wine were served. It follows that all the rest of the vintages came into fame afterwards, and about 54 BC.
XVIII. I am not surprised therefore that many centuries ago almost innumerable kinds of artificial wine have been invented, which we will now specify, all of them being used for medicinal purposes. In an earlier volume we stated the method of making omphacium, which is used for unguents. What is called vine-flower wine is made from the claret vine, that is the wild vine, by steeping two pounds of the flowers of this plant in a jar of must; 30 days afterwards they are changed. Beside this the root and the grape-skins of the claret-vine are used in dressing leather. These grape-skins, a little after the blossom has gone off, provide a remarkable specific for cooling attacks of feverish heat in cases of disease, being said to be of an extremely cold nature. A portion of these grapes die off from the heat before the restthese are called midsummer grapes; the whole of them never come to maturity, and if a bunch in an unripe state before it completely withers is fed to poultry it produces in them a distaste for stealing grapes.
XIX. The first of the artificial wines, which is called weak wine, is made from real wine in the following manner: ten quarts of white must and half that quantity of water are kept boiling till a considerable amount of the water is boiled away. Other people put in five quarts of seawater and the same amount of rainwater and leave the mixture in the sun for 40 days to evaporate. This drink is given to invalids for whom it is feared that wine may be harmful.
The next kind of artificial wine is made from ripe millet seed, by putting a pound and a quarter of the seed together with its straw to soak in l gallons of must and after an interval of seven months pouring off the liquor. It has already been stated where the varieties brewed from the lotus-tree, lotus-shrub and herbaceous lotus are made.
There are also wines, made from fruit, which we will specify, adding only the indispensable explanations: First the wine made from date-palms, which is used by the Parthians and Indians and by the whole of the East, a peck of the rather soft dates called in Greek 'common dates' being soaked in two and a quarter gallons of water and then pressed. Also fig syrup is made from figs by a similar process, other names for it being pharnuprium and trochis; or if it is not wanted to be sweet, instead of water is added the same quantity of grape-skin juice. Also excellent vinegar is made from the Cyprus fig, and an even better quality as well from that of Alexandria. Wine is also made from the Syrian carob, and from pears and all kinds of apples (one from pomegranates is called rhoites) as also from cornels, medlars, service berries, dried mulberries and fir-cones; the last are soaked in must before being pressed, but the juice of the preceding fruits is sweet of itself. We will indicate a little later instructions given by Cato as to how to make myrtle-syrup. The Greeks also employ another method: they boil tender sprigs of myrtle with the leaves on in salted must, and after pounding them boil down one pound of the mixture in 2 gallons of must until only 1 gallons are left. The beverage made by the same process from the berries of the wild myrtle is called myrtle wine; this stains the hands.
Among the plants grown in gardens, wine is made from the root of asparagus, and from cunila, wild-marjoram, parsley-seed, southernwood, wild mint, rue, eatmint, wild thyme and horehound; they put two handfuls of herb into a jar of must, together with a pint of boiled-down grape-juice and half a pint of seawater. A wine is made from the navew turnip by adding two drains' weight of navew to a quart of must, and in the same way from the root of the squill; and, among flowers, from pounded rose-leaves wrapped in a linen napkin and thrown into must with a small weight attached to make it sink, in the proportion of 50 drains of rose-leaves to 24 gallons of mustthey say the jar must not be opened for three monthsand also wine is made from Gallic nard and another from wild nard.
I also find that aromatic wine is constantly made from almost exactly the same ingredients as perfumesfirst from myrrh, as we have said, next also from Celtic nard, reed and aspalathus, cakes of which are thrown into must or sweet wine; and in other places, from reed, sweet rush, costus, Syrian nard, cardamom, bark and flowers of cinnamon, saffron, dates and foal-foot, similarly made up in the form of a cake; and among other people also from a mixture of half a pound of nard and cinnamon-leaf added to a gallon and a half of must; and this is also how at the present day what some people call savoury wines and others peppered wines are made by adding pepper and honey. We also find mention of nectar-wine, extracted from the plant which some call sunflower, others herb of Media, or symphyton or herb of Ida or Orestion or nectaria, the root of which is added in the proportion of 50 drains to 6 pints of must, after being similarly wrapped in a linen napkin. Of the remaining herbs, wormwood wine is made by boiling down a pound of Fontic wormwood in five gallons of must to one-third of its amount, or else by putting shoots of wormwood into wine. Similarly hyssop wine is made of Cilician hyssop by throwing three ounces of hyssop into a gallon and a half of wine, or, if the hyssop is first pounded, into three-quarters of a gallon. Each Of these wines may also be made in another way, by sowing the plant round the roots of vines. Also Cato shows how to make hellebore wine in the same way by using black hellebore; also the same method is used in making scammony wine, vines having a remarkable property of drawing into themselves the flavour of some other plant, which explains why the grapes plucked in the marshes of Padua actually have a flavour of willow. Similarly in Thasos also hellebore is planted among the vines, or else wild cucumber or scammony; the wine so obtained is called by a Greek name denoting miscarriage, because it produces abortion.
Wine is also made from herbs the nature of which will be described in their proper place; for instance from lavender and from gentian root and goat-marjoram and dittany, foal-foot, carrot, sage, all-heal, acorus, thyme, mandragora, and sweet rush. There is also mention of scyzinum and itaeomelis and lectisphagites, for which the recipe is now lost.
From the shrub and tree class, use is made of both kinds of cedar, the cypress, the laurel, the juniper, the terebinth, the reed and the mastic-tree, the berries or else the new wood being boiled down in must; and similarly is used the wood of the dwarf olive, the ground-pine, and the germander, and in the same way wine is also made from their blossom, by adding ten drains' weight of it to three quarters of a gallon of must.
XX. A wine is also made of only water and honey. For this it is recommended that rainwater should be stored for five years. Some who are more expert use rain-water as soon as it has fallen, boiling it down to a third of the quantity and adding one part of old honey to three parts of water, and then keeping the mixture in the sun for 40 days after the rising of the Dog-star. Others pour it off after nine days and then cork it up. This beverage is called in Greek 'water-honey'; with age it attains the flavour of wine. It is nowhere rated more highly than in Phrygia.
XXI. Also honey used even to be mixed with vinegar, so exhaustive have been men's experiments in living. This mixture was called in Greek 'sour honey'; it was made with ten pounds of honey, 2 pints of old vinegar, one pound of sea salt and 5 pints of rainwater, heated to boiling ten times, after which the liquor was drawn off and so kept till it was old. All these wines are condemned by Themison, who is a very high authority; and, I vow, the employment of them does appear to be a tour de force, unless anybody believes that aromatic wine and wines pounded of perfumes are products of nature, or that nature gave birth to shrubs in order for them to be used for drink! Contrivances of this sort are amusing to learn of, owing to the ingenuity of the human mind that investigates everything. There can be no doubt that none of these wines will keep a year, except those which we have stated to be actually the products of age, and that the larger number of them will not keep even a month.
XXII. Even wine contains miraculous properties. One grown in Arcadia is said to produce ability to bear children in women and madness in men; whereas in Achaia, particularly in the neighbourhood of Carynia, there is a wine that is reported to prevent childbearing, and this even if women eat the grapes when they are pregnant, although these do not differ in taste from ordinary grapes. It is said that persons who drink the wine of Troezen cannot become parents. The people of Thasos are reported to make two different kinds of wine, a wine that brings sleep and another that banishes sleep. The same place has a vine called in Greek the 'wild-animal vine,' the wine made from which and also its grapes cure snakebites, and another the 'frankincense vine,' with a scent like that of incense, the wine from which is used for libations to the gods. That of the vine called 'unconsecrated,' on the contrary, is banned from the altars; also it is said that no bird will touch it. Egypt gives the name of 'wine of Thasos' to an extremely sweet native vintage which causes diarrhoea; while Lycia on the contrary has one that has an astringent effect on the bowels. Egypt also possesses a wine called in Greek 'delivery wine' which causes abortion. There are certain wines that, while stored in wine-lofts alter in quality at the rising of the Dog-star and afterwards change back again; the same is the case with wines shipped over sea, and it is observed that the effect of the motion on vintages that can stand it is merely to double their previous maturity.
XXIII. And since life is upheld by religion it is considered sinful to pour libations to the gods, not only with wines made from a vine that has not been pruned, but from one that has been struck by lightning, or one in the neighbourhood of which a man has been hanged, or wine made from grapes that have been trodden out by someone with sore feet, or squeezed from grape-skins that have been cut round or have been soiled by something not quite clean dropping on them from above; and likewise Greek wines must not be used for libations, because they contain water. The vine itself is also eaten, the tops of the shoots being boiled; they are also pickled in vinegar and brine.
XXIV. But it may also be proper to give an account of the method of preparing wine, as Greek authors have written special treatises on this subject and have made a scientific system for itfor instance Euphronius, Aristomachus, Commiades and Hicesius. The practice in Africa is to soften any roughness with gypsum, and also in some parts of the country with lime. In Greece, on the other hand, they enliven the smoothness of their wines with potter's earth or marble dust or salt or seawater, while in some parts of Italy they use resinous pitch for this purpose, and it is the general practice both there and in the neighbouring provinces to season must with resin; in some places they use the lees of older wine or else vinegar for seasoning. Moreover, medicaments for this purpose are also made from the must itself: it is boiled down so as to become sweeter in proportion to its strength, and it is said that must so reared does not last beyond a year's time. In some places they boil the must down into what is called sapa, and pour this into their wines to overcome their harshness. Still both in the case of this kind of wine and in all others they supply the vessels themselves with coatings of pitch, the method of making which will be described in the next volume.
XXV. Of the trees which distil a juice, some growing in the East and others in Europe produce pitch and resin, and the province of Asia, which lies between the two, has some of both sorts. In the East the best and finest resin is produced by the turpentine-tree, and next by the lentiskthe latter being also called gum-mastic; afterwards comes the juice of the cypress, which has a very sharp flavourall of these trees producing a liquid juice and merely a resin, whereas the juice of the cedar is thicker and suitable for making pitch. Arabian resin is white and has a sharp scent, stifling to a person engaged in boiling it; the resin of Judea dries harder and has a stronger scent than even that from the turpentine-tree; and Syrian resin has a resemblance to Attic honey. The resin of Cyprus excels all other kinds; it likewise is the colour of honey, and has a fleshy consistency. That of Colophon is yellower than the rest, but if ground up turns white; it has a rather oppressive scent, and consequently the perfumers do not make use of it. In Asia a very white resin is made from the pitch-pine; it is called psagdas. All resin can be dissolved in oil, and some people think that potter's chalk can also be so dissolved; and I am ashamed to confess that the chief value now set on resin is for use as a depilatory for men.
The method of seasoning wine is to sprinkle the must with pitch during its first fermentation, which is completed in nine days at most, so that the wine may be given the scent of pitch and some touches of its piquant flavour. It is thought that a more effective way of doing this is by means of raw flower of resin, this giving briskness to the smooth quality of the wine, while on the other hand resin-juice is believed to mitigate the excessive harshness of a wine and to conquer its asperity, or in the case of a thin, smooth, flat wine to add a touch of asperitythis is especially done with the musts of Liguria and the localities on the border of the river Po. The beneficial employment of resin-juice is adjusted in this way: a larger quantity of juice is put into strong, fiery wines, and it is used more sparingly with thin, flat ones. Some people advise using both resin-juice and pitch to season must; and in fact must has a certain pitchy quality and in some districts the fault of must is that it ferments a second time of its own accord, a disaster that destroys its flavour; this liquor is given the name of vappa, which is also applied as a term of opprobrium to human beings when their spirit has deteriorated. For the tartness of vinegar possesses a valuable quality useful for important purposes, and without which it is impossible to live in comparative comfort. For the rest, so much attention is given to the treatment of wines that in some places ashes are employed, as is gypsum elsewhere, and the methods that we have specified, for the purpose of improving their condition; but preference is given to ashes obtained from vine-clippings or from oakwood. Also it is recommended that seawater should be used for this purpose that has been obtained a long way out at sea at the spring equinox and then kept in store, or at all events that it should be taken up during the night at the time of the solstice and when a north wind is blowing, or if it is obtained about vintage time it should be boiled before being used.
The pitch most highly esteemed in Italy for vessels intended for storing wine is that which comes from the Bruttii; it is made from the resin of the pitch-pine. But the pitch obtained from the wild pine iu Spain is very little valued, as resin from that tree is bitter and dry and has a disagreeable smell. The varieties of pitch and the method of making it we shall set out in the next volume when we are dealing with forest trees. The defects in resin beside those already mentioned are acridity or else a smoky tang, while the fault of pitch is being over-burnt; but the test is if when it is broken up the pieces have a luminous appearance, and if they stick to the teeth with an agreeably tart taste. In Asia pitch from Ida is most popular, and in Greece that of Pieria, but Virgil gives the preference to the pitch of Naryse. The more careful makers mix with the wine black mastich, which is found in Pontus and which resembles bitumen, and also iris-root and oil. As for waxing the vessels it is found that this makes the wine turn sour; but it pays better to transfer the wine into vessels that have contained vinegar than into those which have contained sweet wine or mead. Cato recommends that wine should be 'adjusted'this is the word he uses ably adding lye-ashes boiled with boiled-down must in the proportion of a fortieth part to the wine skin, or else a pound and a half of salt, also occasionally some pounded marble; he also mentions sulphur, but he only puts resin near the end of the list. When the wine is beginning to mature he advises adding on the top of all some of the must which he calls 'squeezings,' which we take to mean that which is the very last pressed out. Also we know that for the sake of colouring the wine colours are added as a sort of pigment and that this gives the wine more body. So many poisons are employed to force wine to suit our tasteand we are surprised that it is not wholesome!
It is a proof that wine is beginning to go bad if a sheet of lead when dipped in it turns a different colour.
XXVI. It is a peculiarity of wine among liquids go mouldy or else to turn into vinegar; and whole volumes of instructions how to remedy this have been published. Wine-lees when dried will catch fire, and go on burning of themselves without fuel being added; their ashes have the nature of nitre, and the same properties, with the addition that they are greasier to the touch.
XXVII. Even in regard to wine already vintaged there is a great difference in point of climate. In the neighbourhood of the Alps they put it in wooden casks and close these round with tiles and in a cold winter also light fires to protect it from the effect of the cold. It is seldom recorded, but it has been seen occasionally, that the vessels have burst in a frost, leaving the wine standing in frozen blocksalmost a miracle, since it is not the nature of wine to freeze: usually it is only numbed by cold. Districts with a milder climate store their wine in jars and bury them in the ground entirely, or else up to a part of their position so protecting them against the atmosphere; but in other places people keep off the weather by building roofs over them. And they also give the following rules: one side of a wine-cellar or at least its windows ought to face north-east, or at all events east; dunghills and tree-roots must be a long way off, and all objects with a strong smell should be avoided, as it very easily passes into wineparticularly there must be no fig-trees or wild figs near; also spaces must be left between the jars, to prevent taints passing from one to the other, as wine is always liable to very rapid infection. Moreover (these instructions proceed) the shape of the jars is important: pot-bellied and broad ones are not so good. Immediately after the rising of the Dog-star they should be coated with pitch, and afterwards washed with seawater or water with salt in it, and then sprinkled with ashes of brushwood or else with potter's earth, and then rubbed clean and fumigated with myrrh, as should frequently be done with the wine-cellars also. Weak vintages should be kept in jars sunk in the ground, but jars containing strong wines should be exposed to the air. The jars must never be filled quite full, and the space above the surface of the wine must be smeared with raisin-wine or boileddown must mixed with saffron or sword-lily pounded up with boiled must. The lids of the jars should be treated in the same way, with the addition of mastich or Bruttian pitch. It is laid down that jars must not be opened at mid-winter except on a fine day, and not when a south wind is blowing, or at a full moon.
Flower of wine forming is thought to be a good sign if it is white, but a bad sign if it is red, unless it is a red wine; similarly it is a bad sign if the jars feel warm to the touch, or if the lids sweat. Wine that quickly begins to form a flower and to develop an odour is not going to keep. Also boiled-down must and must of new wine should be boiled when there is no moon, which means at the conjunction of that planet, and not on any other day; and moreover leaden and not copper jars should be used, and some walnuts should be thrown into the liquor, for those are said to absorb the smoke. The best way of treating the finest wines of Campania seems to be to set them out in casks in the open air, exposed to the sun, moon, rain and wind.
XXVIII. And if anybody cares to consider the matter more carefully, there is no department of man's life on which more labour is spentas if nature had not given us the most healthy of beverages to drink, which all other animals make use of, whereas we compel even our beasts of burden to drink wine! and so much toil and labour and outlay is paid as the price of a thing that perverts men's minds and produces madness, having caused the commission of thousands of crimes, and being so attractive that a large part of mankind knows of nothing else worth living for! Nay, what is more, to enable us to take more, we reduce its strength by means of a linen strainer, and other enticements are devised and even poisonous mixtures are invented to promote drinking, some men taking a dose of hemlock before they begin, in order that fear of death may compel them to drink, while others take powdered pumice and preparations which I am ashamed to teach the use of by describing them. The most cautious of these topers we see getting themselves boiled in hot baths and being carried out of the bathroom unconscious, and others actually unable to wait to get to the dinner table, no, not even to put their clothes on, but straight away on the spot, while still naked and panting, they snatch up huge vessels as if to show off their strength, and pour down the whole of the contents, so as to bring them up again at once, and then drink another draught; and they do this a second and a third time, as if they were born for the purpose of wasting wine, and as if it were impossible for the liquor to be poured away unless by using the human body as a funnel. This is the object of the exercises that have been introduced from foreign countries, and of rolling in the mud and throwing the neck back to show off the muscles of the chest. It is declared that the object of all these exercises is merely to raise a thirst! Then again, think of the drinking matches! think of the vessels engraved with scenes of adultery, as though tippling were not enough by itself to give lessons in licentiousness! Thus wine-bibbing is caused by licence, and actually a prize is offered to promote drunkennessheaven help us, it is actually purchased. One man gets a prize for tipsiness on condition of his eating as much as he has drunk; another drinks as many cups as are demanded of him by a throw of the dice. Then it is that greedy eyes bid a price for a married woman, and their heavy glances betray it to her husband; then it is that the secrets of the heart are published abroad: some men specify the provisions of their wills, others let out facts of fatal import, and do not keep to themselves words that will come back to them through a slit in their throathow many men having lost their lives in that way! and truth has come to be proverbially credited to wine. Meantime, even should all turn out for the best, drunkards never see the rising sun, and so shorten their lives. Tippling brings a pale face and hanging cheeks, sore eyes, shaky hands that spill the contents of vessels when they are full, and the condign punishment of haunted sleep and restless nights, and the crowning reward of drunkenness, monstrous licentiousness and delight in iniquity. Next day the breath reeks of the wine-cask, and everything is forgottenthe memory is dead. This is what they call 'snatching life as it comes!' when, whereas other men daily lose their yesterdays, these people lose tomorrow also. Forty years ago, during the rule of the Emperor Tiberius, the fashion set in of drinking on an empty stomach and preceding meals with a draught of wineyet another result of foreign methods and of the doctors' policy of perpetually advertising themselves by some novelty. This is the kind of prowess by which the Parthians seek fame and Alcibiades won his reputation in Greece, and to which among ourselves Novellius Torquatus of Milan even owed his surnamea man who held the offices of state from praetor right up to deputy consulby tossing off 2 gallons at one draught, which was actually the origin of his surname; this was shown off as a sort of mystery before the Emperor Tiberius in his old age, when he had become very strict and indeed cruel, though for the matter of that his own earlier years had been somewhat inclined to strong drink, and it was believed that what recommended Lucius Piso to Tiberius for selection as custodian of the city was that he had kept on carousing for two days and two nights without a break, at Tiberius's own house after he had become Emperor. And it was said that Drusus Caesar took after his father Tiberius in nothing more than in this. Torquatus had the unusual distinctionas even this science has its own code of rulesof never having stammered in his speech or relieved himself by vomiting or otherwise while he was drinking, but of having always turned up for duty with the morning guard without anything going wrong, and of having drunk the largest quantity on record at one draught and also added to the record by some more smaller draughts, of not having taken breath or spat while drinking (this on the best evidence), and of not having left any heeltaps to make a splash in the paved floorunder the elaborate code of rules to prevent cheating in drinking. Tergilla brings it up against Marcus Cicero that his son Cicero was in the habit of tossing off a gallon and a half at one draught, and that when tipsy he threw a goblet at Marcus Agrippa: these in fact are the usual results of intoxication. But no doubt young Cicero wanted to deprive his father's murderer, Mark Antony, of his fame in this department; for Antony had strained every effort to win the championship in this field before him, by actually publishing a book on the subject of his own drunken habits; and by venturing to champion his claims in this volume, to my mind he clearly proves the magnitude of the evils that he had inflicted on the world through his tippling. It was shortly before the battle of Actium that he vomited up this volume, so proving clearly that he was already drunk with the blood of his compatriots, and that that made him only the more thirsty for it. For in fact the inevitable result of this vice is that the habit of drinking increases the appetite for it, and it was a shrewd observation of the Scythian ambassador that the more the Parthians drank the thirstier they became.
XXIX. The nations of the west also have their own intoxicant, made from grain soaked in water; there are a number of ways of making it in the various provinces of Gaul and Spain and under different names, although the principle is the same. The Spanish provinces have by this time even taught us that these liquors will bear being kept a long time. Egypt also has devised for itself similar drinks made from grain, and in no part of the world is drunkenness ever out of action, in fact they actually quaff liquors of this kind neat and do not temper their strength by diluting them, as is done with wine; yet, by Hercules, it used to be thought that the product of the earth in that country was corn. Alas, what wonderful ingenuity vice possesses! a method has actually been discovered for making even water intoxicated!
There are two liquids that are specially agreeable to the human body, wine inside and oil outside, both of them the most excellent of all the products of the tree class, but oil an absolute necessity, nor has man's life been slothful in expending labour upon it. How much more ingenious, however, man has been in respect of drink will be made clear by the fact that he has devised 185 kinds of beverages (or if varieties be reckoned, almost double that number), and so much less numerous kinds of oilabout which we shall speak in the following volume.