The Roman polymath, officer and civil servant Gaius Pliny Secundus Major (23-79), better known under the name of " Pliny the Elder", was also a winegrower of his time. He studied philosophy and rights in Rome, then joined the state military career and gained high ranks under Emperor Titus (39-81). He was governor in several Roman provinces and last commander of the Roman fleet in the Tyrrhenian Sea. From the age of 55, he had his residence near Pompeii and experienced the Vesuvius eruption. He then died trying to rescue some of the threatened people at the Vesuvius eruption. His death is due to a letter from his nephew and stepson Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus (55-120) detailed. He described the plasticity of the Pompeians shortly before the destruction of a plastic manners (in the mentioned drinking vessels, it was probably about kantharos with double-sided handles, with which they were held both hands while drinking):
They boil in the hot bath until they are carried out unconscious, while others can not wait for them to come to the table, not even put on their clothes, but still prone naked and wheezing huge drinking vessels, as if they wanted to show their strength and pour all the content into it, so that everything comes up again immediately and then they take again a deep draft. So they do it a second and third time, as if they were born only to waste wine, and as if one could not throw away the wet otherwise than by the detour through the human body.
Pliny was a contemporary of also a wine expert Columella (1st half of the 1st century), whether they knew each other, is not known. Pliny is devoted to intensive scientific studies. Of his extensive works, the Natural History "Naturalis Historia" dedicated to Emperor Titus has been preserved. In 37 books, it provides an overview of the entire knowledge of the time with the fields of knowledge Geography, Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, Metallurgy, Pharmacology and Cosmology. The 14th book is dedicated exclusively to the topic of wine, the 17th book contains descriptions of viticulture techniques and at the beginning of the 23rd book are included explanations about the healing power of the wine. Among them is, for example, the well-known story about the Romilius Pollio, allegedly through regular consumption of honey Mulsum over 100 years old. Hardly any other specialist in antiquity treats so comprehensively the winemaking,
It was his declared intention to create an encyclopedic work. When choosing his sources, he considered "only the best authors". He went up to the Carthaginians Mago (2nd century BC) back. His main sources, however, were Greeks, as well as the oft-cited Roman author Varro (116-27 BC). Plinius was doing according to a principle that is still common in the literature. He collected the published information and edited it based on his own experience. Untrusted or unreliable sources have been put into perspective with remarks like "in Greece it means", "how travelers tell" or "how to say". The work appeared in ever new editions until the Middle Ages. Today, it is especially interesting from a historical point of view.
The most important ancient wines Italy is ranked in quality. Pliny describes Pucinum (Friuli) Caecubum, Caulinum, Falernum Massicum, Surrentinum, Trebellicanum (Campania), Genoa (Liguria), Hadrianum, Praetutium (Trade Marks), Haluntium, Irziola, Mamertinum (Sicily), Luna (Tuscany) and Raeticum (Veneto), as well as wines from the French territories Beaumes-de-Venise. Clairette de Die and (his alleged favorite wine ) Gigondas, From the Vocontiern (a tribe living between Marseille and Lyon) he reports that they had a special technique. Turned grapes on a stalk or cut the stem to the marrow, so that the grapes dried. That's how you created that one Passito or one Trockenbeerenauslese called similar raisin wine passum,
His description of a special vintage with the words "you will not read sooner than frozen" suggests a deliberate and not just random production of Eiswein out. Pliny mentions a total of 91 grape varieties, as the most important he calls Aminea, such as apiana. Biturica (also Balisca or Cocolubis, from Spain), Capna (see Prunesta ) and Nomentana, He comes to the interesting conclusion that above all the area and the soil determine the quality of the wine. Pliny already mentioned the technique of Schwefelns and gave the (fatal) advice, acid vintages lead to sweeten. He described wooden barrels as unknown to his contemporaries wine vessels, And he was also theoretically engaged in the 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 a major orator. As described above, he described relatively precisely the eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 AD with the destruction of the cities Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and Oplontis, from which comes the geological term "Plinian eruption" (graphic right). The basic feature is the long-lasting ash output, with the mighty pumice and ash ceilings falling to the ground. The picture on the left comes from Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1807) and shows Pliny the Younger with his mother at the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Misenum. In a letter Pliny raves about the "bee wine" from the Muscat grape in today's French area Roussillon, This was, so to speak, the predecessor of the Muscat de Rivesaltes,
Picture above left: Por Geoffrey Cesare Cantù, Milano 1859, Enllaz
Picture above right: By Pliny the Elder - 2d copy, Public domain, Link
Painting: Angelika Kauffmann
Graphics: From © Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons , CC BY-SA 4.0 , Link