Thinking of Getting Drunk? Some Pros and Cons from the Ancients  

Alcaeus, fragment 335

“Bucchus, the best of all medicine for those who have wine is getting drunk”

ὦ Βύκχι, φαρμάκων δ’ ἄριστον
οἶνον ἐνεικαμένοις μεθύσθην

The past few weeks have been dark, and I am not talking about the weather.  It does not seem altogether insane to suggest that a few drinks might be a good coping mechanism. Alcaeus certainly would have agreed.

Athenaeus didn’t cite this first bit (or many others we’ve mentioned before), but he does give you a lot to drink about, I mean, think about (Deipnosophists Book 2.11):

“Boasting, invective, and mocking laughter don’t come from any kind of happiness or fullness, but from a different kind of thrill, one that inclines your opinion towards falsehood, something that comes from being drunk.

This is why Bacchylides says:

“A sweet need
Heats the heart from hurried cups.
Cypris’ hope rushes through thoughts
Mixed with the gifts of Dionysus.
This pulls men’s thoughts from lofty plains;
It suddenly loosens a city’s veils
And every men thinks he can be king.
Homes shine with gold and ivory.
Ships heavy with grain bear great wealth
Across the glistening sea from Egypt.
This is how the heart of the drinking man leaps”

Sophocles adds: “being drunk relieves pain.” And other poets mention the “happy wine, fruit of the field.” Even the king of the poets presents Odysseus saying :

“Whenever a men takes his full of wine and food
…and fights all day long,
His heart remains bold.”

Homer continues in this vein. Simonides grants the same beginning to wine and music. The invention of comedy and tragedy also issued from drunkenness in Icaria in Attica around the time of the grape-harvest. This is the reason that comedy was first called “trugôdia”.

“He gave mortals the pain-pausing vine.
When there is no wine, Cypris is absent,
And human beings have no other pleasure…”
Euripides writes this in the Bacchae. Astydamas says:
“He showed mortals the grapevine,
Mother of wine and cure-all for grief.”

“When someone fills himself with wine to no end, he becomes careless.
If he drinks only a bit, a man becomes pensive.”

This last part is what Antiphanes says.  Alexis adds:

“I’m not too drunk to think, but just enough that it is hard
To form any letters with my mouth”




οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ πάσης εὐθυμίας καὶ πληρώσεως τὸ καυχᾶσθαι καὶ σκώπτειν καὶ γελοιάζειν, ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς ἀλλοιούσης τὴν γνώμην καὶ πρὸς τὸ ψευδὲς τρεπούσης, ἣ γίνεται κατὰ τὴν μέθην.  διὸ Βακχυλίδης φησί

(fr. 27)·

γλυκεῖ’ ἀνάγκα
σευομένα κυλίκων θάλπησι θυμόν·
Κύπριδος δ’ ἐλπὶς διαιθύσσει φρένας
ἀμμιγνυμένα Διονυσίοισι δώροις.
ἀνδράσι δ’ ὑψοτάτω πέμπει μερίμνας·
αὐτίκα μὲν πόλεων κρήδεμνα λύει,
πᾶσι δ’ ἀνθρώποις μοναρχήσειν δοκεῖ.
χρυσῷ δ’ ἐλέφαντί τε μαρμαίρουσιν οἶκοι·
πυροφόροι δὲ κατ’ αἰγλήεντα . . .
νῆες ἄγουσιν ἀπ’ Αἰγύπτου μέγιστον
πλοῦτον· ὣς πίνοντος ὁρμαίνει κέαρ.
Σοφοκλῆς δέ φησι (fr. 687 N)·
… τὸ μεθύειν πημονῆς λυτήριον.

οἱ δ’ ἄλλοι ποιηταί φασι τὸν ‘οἶνον ἐύφρονα καρπὸν ἀρούρης (Γ 246).’ καὶ ὁ τῶν ποιητῶν δὲ βασιλεὺς τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα παράγει λέγοντα (Τ 167)· ‘ὃς δέ κ’ ἀνὴρ οἴνοιο κορεσσάμενος καὶ ἐδωδῆς πανημέριος πολεμίζῃ, θαρσαλέον νύ οἱ ἦτορ’ καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς.

ὅτι Σιμωνίδης (fr. 221) τὴν αὐτὴν ἀρχὴν τίθησιν οἴνου καὶ μουσικῆς. ἀπὸ μέθης καὶ ἡ τῆς κωμῳδίας καὶ ἡ τῆς τραγῳδίας εὕρεσις ἐν ᾿Ικαρίῳ τῆς ᾿Αττικῆς εὑρέθη, καὶ κατ’ αὐτὸν τὸν τῆς τρύγης και-ρόν· ἀφ’ οὗ δὴ καὶ τρυγῳδία τὸ πρῶτον ἐκλήθη ἡ κωμῳδία.

τὴν παυσίλυπον ἄμπελον δοῦναι βροτοῖς.
οἴνου δὲ μηκέτ’ ὄντος οὐκ ἔστιν Κύπρις
οὐδ’ ἄλλο τερπνὸν οὐδὲν ἀνθρώποις ἔτι,

Εὐριπίδης ἐν Βάκχαις φησί (771). καὶ ᾿Αστυδάμας δέ φησι (p. 605 N)·
θνητοῖσι τὴν ἀκεσφόρον
λύπης ἔφηνεν οἰνομήτορ’ ἄμπελον. —
συνεχῶς μὲν γὰρ ἐμπιπλάμενος ἀμελὴς γίνεται
ἄνθρωπος, ὑποπίνων δὲ πάνυ φροντιστικός,

᾿Αντιφάνης φησίν (II 123 K).

οὐ μεθύω τὴν φρόνησιν, ἀλλὰ τὸ τοιοῦτον μόνον,
τὸ διορίζεσθαι βεβαίως τῷ στόματι τὰ γράμματα.

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