Thursday, May 19, 2016


Wine versus Beer

Greek Anthology 9.368 (by the Emperor Julian; tr. W.R. Paton, with his note):
Who and whence art thou, Dionysus? For, by the true Bacchus,
I know thee not: I know only the son of Zeus.
He smells of nectar, but thou of billy-goat. Did the Celts
for lack of grapes make thee out of corn?
Then thou shouldst be called Demetrius, not Dionysus,        5
being born of corn, rather than of the fire, and Bromus1 rather than Bromius.

1 "Bromus" is the Greek for oats; Bromius is a common title of Dionysus, derived probably from "bromus" = noise. In πῡρογενῆ, "wheat-born," there is a play on πῠρογενῆ, "fire-born."

τίς πόθεν εἶς, Διόνυσε; μὰ γὰρ τὸν ἀληθέα Βάκχον,
    οὔ σ᾿ ἐπιγιγνώσκω· τὸν Διὸς οἶδα μόνον.
κεῖνος νέκταρ ὄδωδε, σὺ δὲ τράγον· ἦ ῥά σε Κελτοὶ
    ἠπανίῃ βοτρύων τεῦξαν ἀπ᾿ ἀσταχύων.
τῷ σε χρὴ καλέειν Δημήτριον, οὐ Διόνυσον,        5
    πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ Βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον.
Text and commentary in D.L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 571-572, who remarks (at 571), "All that is known of beer in antiquity, including a recipe for making it, is assembled and discussed by the learned Olck in RE 3.457-63..." But now we have Max Nelson, The Barbarian's Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe (London: Routledge, 2005), who discusses "The Greek Prejudice against Beer" on pp. 25-37 and also (at 31) points out another pun in line 3 of Julian's epigram: τράγος in Greek can mean not only the foul-smelling billy-goat but also spelt, a grain used in the making of beer.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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