From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Apr 15 1998 - 06:36:51 EDT

At 10:27 PM -0500 4/14/98, Theodore H. Mann wrote:
>Is there any reason to believe that OINOS ever refers to anything but an
>alcoholic beverage?

This is a good question; my inclination is to think that, there isn't.
Although "alcoholic" is hardly an ancient notion, intoxication and its
association with the god Dionysus and viniculture for wine production are
important elements in Mediterranean culture (in fact, some variant of the
word-root WOIN- appears in most Mediterranean languages. Latin has a
distinct word, MUSTUM, for the newly-pressed juice of the grapes before it
is processed and boiled down. I'll check into this a bit further, but my
sense is that (1) OINOS, Lat. VINUM, always referred to the fermented juice
of the grape, and that (2) it was stored in amphorae and drawn in a state
that was thick and strong, and from very early records in Greek (Homer,
early lyric poetry) it was mixed in various proportions with water before
being drunk (one of the most common drinking vessels being the KRATHR--from
KERANNUMI--meaning "mixing bowl"). Also there were distinct words in both
Greek (MEQU, whence MEQUW, get intoxicated) and Latin (MERUM) for undiluted
wine, which was a pretty thick and potent beverage. I should probably add,
although it doesn't directly bear on the question, that the peril of
intoxication was well-understood, the intoxicating effect of wine-drinking
was generally considered a blessing and indeed a divinely-given one.
Undoubtedly Edward Hobbs, who is a highly-reputed connoisseur and has
himself, in his California days, grown and bottled no small quantity of the
stuff, could readily add to what could be said on the ancient beverage.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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