Who Are You? The Emperor Julian’s Epigram on Beer

Julian the Apostate, Epigrams 1

“Who are you and where are you from Dionysus? By the Bakhos true
I know only the son of Zeus and I do not know you.
He smells like nektar, but you smell like goat.
Did the Celts make you from grain because of their lack of grapes?
Ah, we should call you not Dionysus, but Demetrios instead.
And Bromos*** not Bromios since you are born of wheat**.”

Τίς πόθεν εἶς Διόνυσε; μὰ γὰρ τὸν ἀληθέα Βάκχον,
οὔ σ᾿ ἐπιγιγνώσκω· τὸν Διὸς οἶδα μόνον.
κεῖνος νέκταρ ὄδωδε· σὺ δὲ τράγου. ἦ ῥά σε Κελτοὶ
τῇ πενίῃ βοτρύων τεῦξαν ἀπ᾿ ἀσταχύων.
τῷ σε χρὴ καλέειν Δημήτριον, οὐ Διόνυσον,
πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ Βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον.


* Demetrios: the joke is that he is not Zeus-born, but instead of Demeter (the goddess of grain)

**πυρογενῆ is funny because here it can mean “grain-born” but it also sounds like “fire-born” and Dionysus was famously born (for the first time) when lightning killed his mother.

***Bromos sounds a little like the Greek word for “oats” instead of the typical epithet “thunderous one” (Bromios)

Image result for ancient greek beer

Image from Britannica.com

One response

  1. Beer belongs to Dionysos just as much as wine. He taught its cultivation to those whose land could not support vines. If I recall correctly, the Thracians drank beer in honor of Sabazios who was identified with Zagreus (the previous incarnation of Dionysos)

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