"Greek Night" Brings Ancient Culture of Food and Wine to JCU

On Tuesday, November 27th, John Cabot University’s History and Humanities Department presented “Greek Night – Wine and the Culture of Wine in Classical Antiquity.”

The event was hosted by Professor Benedetta Bessi and her students in the Aula Magna Regina. Students from Prof. Bessi’s History/Classical Studies 285 “Wine and the Culture of Drinking in Antiquity” class presented to a packed house on such fascinating topics as: the origins of viniculture; the earliest archaeological evidence of wine production dating back 7000 years; the spread of wine making and drinking throughout the Mediterranean world; and finally, the development of an ancient wine banquet among Greece’s elite class, called a symposium.

The spirit and conviviality of an ancient Greek symposium was emulated through audience participation in a poetry reading and the re-enactment of an ancient drinking game called Kottabos, where players attempt to hit a target by flinging a small amount of liquid from the bottom of the cup while making a toast. After the presentations and games, many delicious specialties of Greek cuisine were shared and enjoyed: tzatziki, mousaka, dolmas, baklava and more! A highlight of the evening was when students and guests had the rare opportunity to taste one of the oldest varieties of Greek wine called Retsina, a regional white wine still locally made in the Attica region, famous for its peculiar mild flavor of pine resin that it takes on from the barrels in which it is fermented.

Professor Bessi’s class “Wine and the Art of Drinking in Classical Antiquity” (HS/CL 205) will be offered again in the Spring 2013 semester. The course description is below.

CL/HS 285 Wine and the Culture of Drinking in Classical Antiquity
Using primary ancient sources (literary texts, artistic representations, and archaeological finds), this course will examine the role of wine drinking in ancient societies. Where and when did viticulture and wine making originate? Where did the custom of the reclining banquet come from, and what social implications did it carry? How was wine served and how was its consumption regulated? What type of entertainment was offered at these banquets? Our primary focus will be Greece and Rome, but important parallels or corollary practices in neighboring and modern cultures will also be considered.