“Lyre, don’t hang on your peg any longer,
Keeping your seven-toned voice still–
Here are my hands! I want to send
Alexander something, a golden wing of the Muses,
A centerpiece for the parties to end the month,
When the sweet pressure of fast cups
Warms the sensitive hearts of young men,
And expectation of Aphrodite mixed up
with Dionysian gifts shakes up their thoughts.
Wine makes the thoughts of men blast off!
Suddenly one is tearing down a city’s walls,
And another thinks he is king of the world!”
“Curved, well-turned, with a single ear on a long neck,
Slim-throated, speaking through lips close-kept,
You happy server of Bacchus, the Muses, and Aphrodite,
Our party’s delightful mistress, laughing sweetly.
Why are you drunk when I’m sober, but when I’m trashed,
You’re sober? You break the rules of the drinker’s pact.”
Athenaeus, Deipnosophists Book 2 36a-d (=Adesp. com. fr. 101 and Eubulus fr. 93)
Mnêsitheos used to say, “the gods taught mortals
About wine because it is the greatest good
For those who use it correctly, and the opposite for those who don’t.
It gives sustenance to those who use it well,
Strength to their minds and their bodies.
It is also extremely useful for medicine,
Since it is mixed in with other drugs
And provides relief to those who have been wounded.
It also helps in daily gatherings it brings joy
To those who mix it and drink it wisely.
But to those who are excessive it brings outrage.
If you mix it evenly with water, it makes you crazy.
Unmixed, it paralyzes bodies.
“For this reason, Dionysus is called a doctor everywhere. The Pythia told some people to call Dionysus the “Healer”. Euboulos (fr. 93) has Dionysus saying this:
“I prescribe only three bowls of wine
For people of good sense. One is for health,
to drink first. The second is for
Sex and pleasure, and the third is for sleep—
Those who are wise drain that bowl and then
Go home. The fourth isn’t mine any more,
But it belongs to Hubris. And a fifth bowl leads to shouting;
A sixth bowl to street-parties; a seventh for brawls;
An eighth’s for getting arrested; the ninth makes dark bile.
And the tenth is madness to make you hurl […]
A lot of wine poured into a little bottle
Easily throws drunks down on their asses.”
“This is no good. You are blaming the silent who cannot speak.
If wine could tell a story it would defend itself.
Wine doesn’t control men—men usually control wine!
Well, that’s how it is when men are fit for anything—certain fools
When they drink a little or not at all remain fools by nature.”
non placet: in mutum culpam confers quit loqui.
nam uinum si fabulari possit se defenderet.
non uinum moderari, sed uiri uino solent,
qui quidem probi sunt; uerum qui improbust si quasi Bibit
siue adeo caret temeto, tamen ab ingenio improbust.
“But Plato in the first and second book of Laws did not—as was opined by a fool—praise that most shameful drunkenness which weakens and diminishes people’s minds; but he did not dismiss that kinder and a bit friendlier embrace of wine which may come under the influence of good judges and masters of banquets. For he believed that minds were renewed by proper and moderate refreshments for the purpose of carrying out the duties of sobriety and, further, that people were bit by bit made happier and rendered better prepared for pursuing their plans again.
At the same time, if there are any deep mistakes of desire or affection with in them which a proper sense of shame usually concealed, than these could all be revealed without serious danger and in this be made readier for alteration and treatment.”
Sed enim Plato in primo et secundo De Legibus non, ut ille nebulo opinabatur, ebrietatem istam turpissimam quae labefacere et inminuere hominum mentes solet laudavit, sed hanc largiorem paulo iucundioremque vini invitationem, quae fieret sub quibusdam quasi arbitris et magistris conviviorum sobriis, non inprobavit. Nam et modicis honestisque inter bibendum remissionibus refici integrarique animos ad instauranda sobrietatis officia existumavit reddique eos sensim laetiores atque ad intentiones rursum capiendas fieri habiliores, et simul, si qui penitus in his adfectionum cupiditatumque errores inessent, quos aliquis pudor reverens concelaret, ea omnia sine gravi periculo, libertate per vinum data detegi et ad corrigendum medendumque fieri oportuniora.
MacrobiusRecords the same bit as Gellius above and then adds:
Plato also said this in the same passage, that we ought not to avoid practices of this sort for struggling against the violence of wine and that there is no one who has ever seemed so constant and controlled that his life would not be tested in these very dangers of mistakes and in the illicit traps of pleasure.”
atque hoc etiam Plato ibidem dicit, non defugiendas esse huiusce modi exercitationes adversum propulsandam vini violentiam, neque ullum umquam continentem prorsum aut temperantem satis fideliter visum esse cui vita non inter ipsa errorum pericula et in mediis voluptatum inlecebris explorata sit.
We can get a bit more explicit:
From Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists (1.41.16-36)
“Mnestheus of Athens also insists that the Pythia commanded the Athenians to honor Dionysus as a doctor. So Alcaeus the Mitylenaean poet says:
Wet your lungs with wine, for the dog-star is rising. The season is rough: everything thirsts in this heat.
And elsewhere he says: “Let’s drink, for the dog star is rising.” Eupolis says that Callias is compelled to drink by Pythagoras so that “he may cleanse his lung before the dog star’s rise.” And it is not only the lung that gets dry, but the heart runs the same risk. That’s why Antiphanes says:
Tell me, why do we live? I say that it is to drink.* See how many trees alongside rushing streams Drink constantly throughout the day and night And how big and beautiful they grow. Those that abstain Wilt from the root up.
*A twitter correspondent has suggested that this really means “what is living, it is drinking”. This is definitely closer to the Greek idea; but I kept mine because I think it is punchier in English. Get it, punchier?
Baton, the Comic Poet (fr. 3.1-11, preserved in Athenaeus Deipn. 4.163b)
“I am calling the prudent philosophers here,
Those who never allow themselves anything good,
Those who seek a thoughtful man in every walk
And in their discussions as if he were a fugitive slave.
Wretched person, why are you sober if you have money?
Why do you dishonor the gods this much?
Why do you think money is worth more than you are?
Does it have some intrinsic worth?
If you drink water, you’re useless to the city.
You hurt the farmer and the trader at the same time.
But I make them wealthier by getting drunk.”
14 “Similarly, near Kosê there is a spring which, if you place a container filled with wine in it until it covers the mouth, then it becomes more bitter than vinegar right away according to the same author.”
“This is the reason why the most divine Plato rightly legislated in his second book of Laws that boys should not taste wine at all until they are 18 years old. For it is not right to heat fire with fire! It is permissible to taste a limited amount of wine up to thirty, but a young man should completely refrain from being drunk or drinking a lot. When a man is forty years old he can pray to the rest of gods in the common mess and then may appeal to Dionysus and the rites of the elders and the games they have. Wine is the drug which Dionysus granted to humans as a companion for harsher old age, so we might recover ourselves and forget our despair.”
“Men who drink a lot of wine are rather sluggish at intercourse and they ejaculate semen not at all strong or good for fertilization; instead their attempts at sex with women are cursory and incomplete because of the weakness and frigidity of their seed.
Indeed, however much men suffer because of the cold occurs to them when they are drunk: tremors, heaviness, paleness, sudden jumps in the limbs, senseless speech, a lack of feeling in the joints and extremities. For most men, being drunk results in paralysis, whenever the wine totally expels and defeats the heat.”