Vitis Vinifera and Rome: How Wine Helped Forge a Civilization

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Vitis vinifera and Rome: How Wine Helped Forge a Civilization

When people think of the ancient Roman civilization, notions of trained legions bent on conquering territory and evocative oratory from celebrated politicians often come to mind. And while early Romans will always be credited for both their insatiable military expansion and their enlightened ideas of government, the rapid growth of Rome was not built on these two pillars alone. Indeed, what led to the rise of such a dominating power in a matter of centuries was not simply from the end of a sword, but from that which grew from the earth -- what the people cultivated, traded and consumed. One very significant agricultural need of a growing population that transformed the bounty of the harvest into a cultural ritual and tradition of Roman life was wine. This presentation will demonstrate how the beverage became a locally grown and manufactured staple that played a powerful role in the social, institutional and economic life of the civilization.
The Roman writer and naturalist Pliny the Elder, in his treatise Naturalis Historia states “there is nothing more useful than wine for strengthening the body, while, at the same time, there is nothing more pernicious as a luxury, if we are not on our guard against excess.” Years before he wrote those words, wine had in fact come from humble origins outside Italy itself. Furthermore, the process of fermenting grapes goes back thousands of years, and its beginning can be traced to where the wild grown grape-vine, vitis vinifera, flourished and was actively utilized for this reason.
Grape residue inside ancient wine jars – amphorae - have been recovered from Neolithic and Late Uruk sites along the rivers inside the...

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