The Roman universal scholar, officer and administrative officer Gajus Plinius Secundus Major (23-79), better known under the name " Pliny the Elder", was, among other things, a winegrowing expert of his time. He studied philosophy and the law in Rome, then went on to pursue a military career and achieved high ranks under Emperor Titus (39-81). He was governor in several Roman provinces and most recently commander of the Roman fleet in the Tyrrhenian Sea. From the age of 55 he lived near Pompeii and experienced the eruption of Vesuvius. He then died trying to save some of the people at risk from the eruption of Vesuvius. His death is through a letter from his nephew and stepson Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus (55-120) handed down in detail. He described a plastic custom of the Pompeians' willingness to drink shortly before the destruction (the drinking vessels mentioned were probably about kantharos with handles attached on both sides to hold them with both hands when drinking):
They let themselves be boiled in the hot bath until they are carried out unconscious, while others cannot wait for them to come to the table, not even put on their clothes, but still lift naked and panting huge drinking vessels as if they wanted to show their strength and Pour the whole content into yourself so that everything comes up again and then you take a deep drag again. So they do it a second and third time, as if they were just born to waste wine and as if you could not pour the water away other than the detour through the human body.
Pliny was a contemporary of the wine expert Columella (1st half of 1st century) whether they knew each other is not known. Pliny is dedicated to intensive scientific studies. The natural history “Naturalis Historia” dedicated to Emperor Titus is preserved from his extensive works. In 37 books it contains an overview of the entire knowledge of the time with the fields of geography, zoology, botany, mineralogy, metallurgy, pharmacology and cosmology. The 14th book is devoted exclusively to the topic of wine, the 17th book contains descriptions of wine-growing techniques and the beginning of the 23rd book contains explanations about the healing power of wine. This includes, for example, the well-known story about Romilius Pollio, which is said to be the result of regular consumption of honey wine Mulsum had become over 100 years old. Hardly any other writer of antiquity deals with the subject so comprehensively winemaking,
It was his stated intention to create an encyclopedic work. When selecting his sources, he considered "only the best authors". He went down to the Carthaginian Mago (2nd century BC) back. However, its main sources were Greeks, as well as the frequently cited Roman author Varro (116-27 BC). Pliny used a principle that is still common in specialist literature. He collected the published information and edited it based on his own experience. Unsecured or unreliable sources have been put into perspective with comments such as "it is said in Greece", "how travelers tell us" or "how to say". The work appeared in ever new editions until the Middle Ages. Today it is particularly interesting from a historical perspective.
The most important ancient wines Italy is ranked by quality. Pliny describes Pucinum (Friuli) Caecubum Caulinum Falernum Massicum Surrentinum, Trebellicanum (Campania), Genoa (Liguria), Hadrianum, Praetutium (Marches), Haluntium, Irziola, Mamertinum (Sicily), Luna (Tuscany) and Raeticum (Veneto), as well as wines from the French regions Beaumes-de-Venise. Clairette de Die and (its supposed favorite wine ) Gigondas, He tells of the Vocontiers (a tribe living between Marseille and Lyon) that they knew a special technique. Grapes on a stem were turned over or the stem cut into the marrow so that the grapes dried up. In this way you created one Passito or one Trockenbeerenauslese similar raisin wine called passum,
His description of a special grape harvest with the words "They will not be read until it has frozen" indicates a very conscious and not just accidental production of Eiswein out. Pliny mentions a total of 91 grape varieties, the most important of which he names Aminea, such as apiana. Biturica (also Balisca or Cocolubis, from Spain), Capna (see Prunesta ) and Nomentana, He comes to the interesting conclusion that the area and the soil determine the wine quality. Pliny already mentioned the technique of Schwefelns and gave the (albeit fatal) advice, acidic vintages lead to sweeten. He described wooden barrels as (still) unknown to his contemporaries wine vessels, And he also dealt with it theoretically distillation (Production of wine spirit). Parts of his works are in the famous agricultural collection Geoponika contain.
His nephew and stepson Pliny Caecilius Secundus Minor (61-113) aka "Pliny the Younger" was a Roman official, writer and an important speaker. As already described above, he described the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD with the destruction of the cities Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and Oplontis, hence the geological term "Plinian eruption" (graphic on the right). The basic feature is the long-lasting ash output, in which mighty pumice and ash ceilings fall to the floor. The picture on the left is by Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1807) and shows Pliny the Younger with his mother at the eruption of Vesuvius in Misenum. In a letter, Pliny raves about the “bee wine” made from the Muscat grape in today's French region Roussillon, This was the predecessor of the Muscat de Rivesaltes,
Top left: Por Geoffrey Cesare Cantù, Milano 1859, Enllaz
Top right image: By Pliny the Elder - 2d copy, public domain, link
Painting: Angelika Kauffmann
Graphics: By © Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons , CC BY-SA 4.0 , Link