Twenty To One

Homer’s The Odyssey is referenced by some prohibitionists to show that wine was diluted by as much as twenty parts water to one part wine. This is part of the evidence that wine was so diluted in biblical times that it bore no resemblance to modern wine. This mention of The Odyssey is misleading.

In Book IX of The Odyssey, Ulysses is telling King Alcinous how he bested the Cyclops, Polyphemus. As part of this tale, Ulysses tells of a fabulous wine he was given by a priest of Apollo that was irresistible even when diluted with twenty parts water. Ulysses uses this wine to get Polyphemus drunk, then gouges out the Cyclops’ eye.

Perhaps now would be a good time to point out that The Odyssey is Greek mythology. The wine is just as fictitious as the Cyclops. The wine was made up by Homer as a plot device for the purpose of providing Ulysses with a means to defeat the Cyclops. Homer’s The Odyssey tells us no more about Greek wine drinking practices than the Grimm Brothers’ Hansel and Gretel tells us about German home construction materials.

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2 Responses to Twenty To One

  1. dan miller says:

    Good one, Dan. Further, if you consider the usual hyperbole that occurs in these stories, it gets even clearer. They probably considered wine mixed 1:20 to be an unusually high level of dilution. Otherwise it wouldn’t be an extreme story.

  2. Pedantic Dan says:

    Thanks, Dan.

    I wonder why more people don’t react to, “We know from Homer’s The Odyssey …”

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