50 pages • 1 hour readTom Standage
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Almost all of the drinks discussed in this book have some religious significance. Ancient civilizations attributed the discovery of beer and wine to their gods, which made them fitting religious tributes. Given than beer and wine made water nutritious and safe to drink, not to mention the pleasure of gentle intoxication, it is easy to see why people from Mesopotamia to Ancient Greece thought that alcohol was a gift from the gods.
The use of beer as a religious offering played a key part in the development of civilization, as Standage explains. Storing surplus grain and beer in communal buildings provided food for the emerging priest-class, who not only oversaw the religious life of their community, but also building projects and a rudimentary tax system.
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Both Greek and Roman civilizations worshipped a god of wine, Dionysus and Bacchus, respectively, who were “associated with wine-making miracles and resurrection after death” (85). Christianity continued this tradition in a somewhat different form. Jesus Christ also performed miracles with wine and was himself resurrected, while the ritual of Catholic mass uses wine as a symbol of Christ’s blood. However, as Standage points out, the Greek and Roman traditions involved wine drunk to excess, whereas Christianity made use of the potent
By Tom Standage