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13.12.2016.

Wine:ByzantiumsGifttotheWestGreeceIs

GREECEIS(HTTP://WWW.GREECEIS.COM) WINE(HTTP://WWW.GREECEIS.COM/MORE/WINE/)

Wine:ByzantiumsGifttotheWest
Imaginedasavineyard,Constantinople,orByzantiumasitwaspreviouslyknown,becameinstrumentalinthe
disseminationofwineculture

IliasAnagnostakis(http://www.greeceis.com/author/eanagno/)|March10th,2016

TheoriginalByzantines,inhabitantsofthecolonyofByzantion,foundedbyGreeksettlersfromMegara,areconsideredtobethe
foremostoenophilesandinebriatesoftheancientworld.Theylovedwinesomuchthattheyactuallylivedinthetavernsandlet
outtheirhomes(togetherwiththeirwives)tomerchantsandforeignerspassingthroughthecity.Menofbusinesstothecore,they
weretheoppositeofwarlike.Itwassaidtheycouldnotbearthesoundofthewartrumpet,evenintheirdreams,astheirearswere
accustomedtothesoundofflutesatdrinkingparties.Ononeoccasion,whentheywereatwar,theirgeneral,Leonides,orderedthe
winedealerstosetuptentsonthecitywallsonlythendidtheystopabandoningtheirpoststogooffdrinking.

Reflectiveofsuchaccounts,theproverbthatByzantiumconquersallwithitswinewashandeddownasanodtowine
appreciationtothesuccessorcityofConstantinople,capitaloftheByzantineEmpire(3231453).TheByzantinessawtheir
empireasavineyardandtherulersasgrapevines,butalsoaskratersofwisdominwhichthenewkrasiswascreated,thenew
mixthatwouldeventuallygiveanewnametowine,krasin.Thevineandwine,Dionysiansymbolsofculture,sybariticindulgence
andauthorityweremixedwiththebiblicalconceptofpowerandthespreadofthechosenpeopleofIsrael(seenasagrapevine)to
theendsoftheearth,aswellaswiththatofChristasthetruevineandofhisdisciplesasbranches,whowentforthtochangethe
worldwiththewordofGod.SuchsymbolswereadoptedandusedintheecumenicalvisionandimperialideologyofByzantium.
Theexpansionoftheempireandintermarriagewithforeignprincessesalsofoundaptsymbolisminthetransplantingofvinesand
intheiroffshoots.

Inmedievaltimes,bothConstantinopleandtheempireitselfwereviewedasaplacewherewineflowedfreely.Northern
EuropeansgaveConstantinoplethenicknameWinbourg,theCityofWine.Andtheyhadgoodreasontodoso.Toboththe
Muslimworld,wherewinewasgenerallyforbidden,andtothepeoplesofnorthernEurope,theChristianempirewasthe
preeminentlandforthegrowingofvinesandtheproductionandconsumptionofwine.Betweenthe5thand7thcenturies,the
tradeordistributionofwinefromByzantium,tosatisfytheneedsofthearmyandlocalinhabitantsalike,hadspreadto
Numidia,Nubia,Ethiopia,theCaucasus,theCrimeanhinterland,IrelandandEngland.Thesamepatternappearedlater(10th12th

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centuries)amongthenewlyconvertedChristiansalongtheVolgaandasfarasNovgorodandScandinavia.TheSlavs,Varangians
andAngloSaxonsinparticular,butalsothesteppepeoplessubsquenttotheirChristianization,sawByzantiumasacountryfullof
vineyards,aplacewheretheycouldpurchasewineandoil.Indeed,theconversiontoChristianityofBulgarians,Serbs,Russians,
CaucasiansandmanyothersbyByzantinemissionariesinevitablybroughtthemintoclosercontactwithwineonaccountofthe
EucharistonemoreimportantByzantinecontributiontothedisseminationofwineculture.Thus,inanycenterofChristian
worship,avinewouldnecessarilybeplantedtoprovidewineforHolyCommunion.

Thevineandwine,Dionysiansymbolsofculture,sybariticindulgenceandauthority,weremixedwiththe
biblicalconceptofpowerandthespreadofthechosenpeopleofIsrael.

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Thecontributionofmonasteriesandthechurchingeneralwasacatalyst,therefore,notonlyforthedisseminationand
Christianizationofwineculture,butalsofortheevolutionofthebeverageandthesymposia(drinkingparties)oftheancient
worldintomoremorallyacceptableformsofwineconsumption.Ofcourse,theorgiasticDionysusneverdisappeared.Despite
sermonsandcondemnationsoftheoenophiliclifestylebythechurch,Bacchicritescontinued,asdidprostitution,withwine
consumptionrifeamongsoldiersandfarmers,inports,attradingposts,infortresscities,atinns,drinkingdensandtaverns,even
inmonasteries.TherewerealsomanyinstancesofDionysususinghischarmtotakeovertheimperialpalaces,resultinginaseries
offamouslydrunkardemperors.

ButemperorswerenottheonlysotsmonasterieswerehometothemosticonicdrunksoftheByzantineperiod,namelymonks.
Theextrememonasticnotionoftheneedtoavoidthepleasuresofwine,merrimentandintoxication,contrastedsharplywiththe
realityofinebriatemonksandleftthesupposedasceticsexposedtoallmannerofmockery,especiallyinthe10thand11th
centuries.Itwasduringthisperiodthatwineappreciationfoundnewfavorparticularlyamongtheeliteandtheupcoming
middleclassesandalsowhentheliteraryfigure(asananthropologicaltype)oftheKrasopateras(winebibbingmonk)was
created,theequivalentofmedievalwesternEuropespatervinosus.ItwasalsoduringtheByzantineperiodthatasymbolic
correspondencebetweenseaandwineandbetweenshipandcupwasfirstsuggestedormagnifiedthroughuseofancientliterary
traditionsandnotionsofdrowninginwineorthesea,oroftheharvestaswarandlove.Thesewerethemesthatweretobe
embracedbyneoHellenisminordertogiveasealofapprovaltoitswinedrinkinglifestyle.Inthesameperiod(11th12th
centuries)importantmonasteriesonMountAthos,aswellastheMetropolisofThessaloniki,ownedalargenumberof
vineyardsinHalkidikiandthroughoutMacedonia.Indeed,theGreatLavramonasterywassystematicallyengagedinthewine
tradewithConstantinopleandsoughtspecialtaxtreatment.

CelebratedByzantineWines

AnumberofByzantineprovinceswererenownedfortheirsweet,aromaticwines:Bithynia,inparticular.Sweetwinesmadefrom
differentvarietieswerereputedtobeproducedthere,whilephysiciansreferredtotheirmedicinalproperties.Manycelebrated
wineswerealsoproducedintheearlyByzantineperiodinSyriaandPalestine,inreconqueredCarthage,inEgypt,ontheAegean
islands,inthePeloponneseandinItaly.OneaccountdescribesasceneduringthereignofJustinII(565574)inwhichtheemperor
andhiswife,Sophia,lookoutattheshipsintheBosporusandtheSeaofMarmara(historicallyPropontis)transportingwineto
ConstantinoplefromGaza,Egypt,Italy,thePeloponnese,Mytilene,ChiosandRhodes.

IntheyearsthatfollowedthereignsofJustinianI(527565)andJustinIIwithAvaroSlavicinvasionsthatleadtothedestruction
ofvinecropsintheBalkansandGreece,aswellasArabincursionsthatresultedinthelossofSyria,Palestine,Egyptandina
disruptionofMediteraneantradeBithyniabecamethemainsupplierofwinestotheByzantinecapital.Besidestheprevalent

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inexpensive,sour,waterywines,reekingofresin,originatingfromPhilippopolistoAttica,therewerealsoprecious,delicate,
sweetandfragrantwinesfromBithynia,finewinefromNicaeaandfloweryAnthosmiasfromCyzicus.Thesewereoldwinesfrom
theimperialestates,madefromsundriedgrapes.ThistypeofimperialBithynianwineisthoughttobeassociatedwithanewwine
knownasMalmsey,orMalvasia(asitwasknowninItalyandtheIberianPeninsula,afterMonemvasia).Firstmentionedin1214,it
wasreportedlyofferedtoandconsumedbytheLatinconquerorsinfrontofHagiaSophia,alongwithwinesfromChiosandLesbos.
MonemvasiantypewinesfromthePeloponnese,CreteandtheAegeanislandsnowcametoprevailalsoinConstantinopleatthe
centeroftraderivalry.

AnumberofByzantineprovinceswererenownedfortheirsweet,aromaticwines:Bithynia,inparticular.

AlongtheshoresoftheBosporus,thestrugglebetweentheItalianmaritimerepublicsoverfreemovementofgoodsinByzantine
ports,especiallywine,accompaniedbytheirdemandsfortaxexemptions(12th14thcenturies),meantthatalltheoenophile
Byzantinescouldhearwaswartrumpets.ButtheByzantinesthemselvesnolongerhadtosetupwineshopsonthecitywalls.They
nowhadprotectionandcommercialpowerintheformofoperatinglicensesforinnsandwineshops,wherepoliticalgamesof
powerwereplayedout,alteringthefatesofmariners,merchantsandempires.

Againstthisbackground,theprovincesaroundtheSeaofMarmaraandtheBosporus,withassistancefromthewinegrowing
regionsoftheAegean,influencedandsteadilyshapedByzantinewinecultureforapproximately1,000years,evenduringthe
Ottomanperiod.BithyniasuppliedwinetotheByzantinecapital,butalsoreceivedvisitorsfromthecity.InlateByzantineand
postByzantinetimes,despiteperiodicdeclinesinwinegrowing,theregioncontinuedtoproduceitsacclaimedwines.Inthe14th
and15thcenturies,winesfromCyzicusandTrigleia(presentdayTirilye),butalsofromThrace,thePeloponnese,theAegean
islandsandCrete,reachedConstantinopleorpassedthroughtheBosporusstraittoreachthepeoplesoftheBlackSea.

Towardstheendofthemedievalperiod,whentheempirefellfirsttotheCrusadersandthentotheOttomanTurks,there
came,shortlybeforetheNewWorldwasdiscovered,whatisundoubtedlyByzantiumsmostimportantcontributiontothewine
mapofnewEurope.ItwasatthistimethatthechaptersconcerningvinecultivationandwinemakingbyCassianusBassusinthe
GeoponicaweresenttowesternEuropetobetranslatedandusedbyagriculturists.Alsotransferredwereactualvines,winesand,
aboveall,preciousknowhowontheproductionofwhatwasthepreeminentwineduringtheentiremedievalandRenaissance
periodsMalvasia.SweetwinesfromCyprus,especiallythefamousCommandariaaswellastheMalvasiaandAthiriwines
fromCrete,theAegeanislandsandthePeloponnesethewineofTrigleiaandGanos,producedbyGreeksoftheSeaofMarmara
andThraceandvariousotherMuscatwinesfloodedtheEuropeanmarketasfarasScandinavia.TheWestappreciated,sought
outandfinallyplayedamajorroleinestablishingbothinEuropeandaroundtheworldauniquewine,Malmsey.

ABOUTTHEAUTHOR

IliasAnagnostakisisresearchdirectorattheNationalHellenicResearchFoundationsInstituteofHistoricalResearch.

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