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A lot has been written about the contribution of Ancient Greeks in wine spreading and trading leaving most contemporary Greeks feeling proud of our wine heritage. On the other hand if we contemplate on how our everyday life has evolved how many of us have the right to feel worthy keepers of the ancient Greek tradition?
Obviously, there couldn’t be any connection between smartphones, social media and our ancestors’ daily routine. There could be however a comparison between our contemporary wine culture and its ancient equivalent with special reference to how we feel or express our wine drinking habits.
It would be interesting as well as daring to compare the habits of contemporary Greek wine consumers to one of the most exquisite works of Ancient Greek Literature namely Plato’s Symposium. This work is clearly an attempt on Socrates' behalf (Plato’s disciple) to defend his tutor’s posthumous fame. Nevertheless the writer himself sets the progress of his play during a wine libation (symposium = drink together) among dear friends which lets us wonder how much of a Greek habit wine drinking remains?
After isolating excerpts from Socrates' works, let us begin with the very reason as why this fellowship was formed to enjoy wine drinking. A day before the symposium, Agathon, a tragic poet, won first prize in a tragedy contest which led to the whole company consuming a large amount of wine during the evening celebrations. Thus the cause for this gathering were friends needing to meet and meditate while enjoying their beloved wine and in turn help them in their quest for wisdom.
The conversation unfolds with Eros at its core, a figure not directly linked to wine, but relevant in examining one of Agathon’s quotations. Agathon points out to previous speakers that in their lectures they praised and bade people good luck over the joys provided to them by god Eros, not God himself. Likewise, it is paradoxical to praise the content of a bottle with everything entailed – origin, variety, producer’s prestige – yet never its positive affect on the company’s high
spirits nor the beauty of wine gathering in general.
Moreover, the tragic poet could easily refer to the benefits of wine rather than Eros when he states:
‘And it is he who prevents us from being strangers, and fills us with intimacy, who arranges all these gatherings, who becomes our leader in celebrations, in dances, making us gentle and driving away fierceness.’
Towards the end of the prose we see Alcibiades drunken presenting himself at the gathering and uttering the well-known phrase: ‘Wine is True – or as it is widely known as Vino Veritas’. However, Plato altered the original proverb that stated ‘wine and children (are) true’ meaning that you always learn the truth from children and drunks.
Reverting back to our original subject could there be a comparison between the Symposium fellowship and today’s wine drinking parties? How many of us upload pictures of trophies from our wine-drinking evenings on social media waiting to receive the corresponding online reverence? Sadly, the answer is easy… the majority.
Lets us wonder then who is best served by this habit? Certainly, the wineries, the traders and the restaurants given that it is an integral part of marketing. Nevertheless, how much does our wine culture benefit when our posts concern empty, soulless bottles? Any other object could easily replace them the next day: a book, a car, or even an ice cream.
Why are fellowships always absent from social media? Why can’t we imprint the joy of wine consuming with our friends as something memorable and worthy of being posted? Is it maybe due to the fact that in Greece in 2017 we drink on our own and photograph just the bottle? Could the hard times we’ve been going through have made friendships disappear?
Maybe those who love wine should take up a leadership role in wine drinking within our friends. Let us go against the zeitgeist and fill social media with the beneficial properties of drinking wine with friends. At last let us enjoy the quest for wisdom by musing as our ancient ancestors did… for if we don’t, maybe future generations will think of Plato’s Symposium like:
The user Agathon is drinking wine with #Aristodimos #Socrates #Faidros
#Pausanias #Aristophanes #at_my_place.
And the blasé photo of a wine crater.
Greece and Grapes