Hewitt - Provencal Research Trip to Greece (1 - 22 April 2023)


"My paper introduces a collaboration that brings myself and my colleague, Dr Sonia Hewitt, to Greece to attend this conference and to tour the Aegean islands renowned in antiquity for their wines. We hope our planned volume, Cult of the Grape: Dionysian Wine Culture in Ancient Greece, will be of interest to the reading public and useful as a university course text. My paper shall consider three fundamental aspects of Mediterranean wine culture in ancient Greece that were regarded as distinctively Greek and as profoundly Dionysian: the universal wine culture of the symposion, the idealization of viticulture as festive, and the ideology that wine is essential to civilized life."

- V.Provencal, "Dionysian Aspects of Mediterranean Wine Culture in Ancient Greece," Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), 16th Annual International, Conference on Mediterranean Studies, 3-6 April 2023, Athens, Greece

The main purpose of our research trip was what Herodotus called theoreia. Like Solon of Athens, we set out simply to view some of the marvels in foreign lands - in particular, some of the vegetation on the mainland between Athens and and Thessaloniki, and then to visit the Aegean islands where most of ancient Greek wine was produced for export (mostly to Athens). The wines of Thasos and Chios were the most valued of ancient Greek wines, so they were uppermost in our itinerary.

Except for the two rainy days when we presented our papers in Athens, the skies were clear with that peculiar bright blue of the cost that reflects the Aegean Sea.  Temperatures were initially cool in Athens and the northern Aegean, then warmed as we travelled southward to the islands of Thasos, Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, Mykonos, Santorini and Crete.


Accommodations were at off-season rates, which included out own villas on Thasos, Mykonos and above all, our 3-story house in Chania on Crete, where we threw open the wooden shutters and stepped onto our balcony to gaze upon the Aegean sea at our very feet!

After presenting our papers at a conference in Athens and visiting the Acropolis and the nearby island of Aegina, we travelled by train to Thessaloniki, the nothern-most and second-largest city of Greece.  From there, we bussed to Kavala and onto Keramoti where we took the ferry to Thasos, then bussed to our villa in Limenaria, half-way down the west coast of Thasos overlooking the Aegean sea and nearby beaches.

Visiting the Archaeological Museum of Thasos in the town of Thasos, we were amazed by the gigantic archaic kouros in the foyer.


The museum included a display on Dionysus, the god of wine (below) as well as theatre, and we are reminded in Thasos of how every Greek polis would have a Dionysian theatre.


Sanctuary of Dionysos: Head of the statue of Dionysos, late 4th BCE / Bodies of Muse and bare-chested Dionysos, early 3rd BCE.

White the Dionysys display was an unexpected delight, the Thasian exhibition of artifacts related to the wine industry was a treasure richer than we supposed: (1) marble sekoma for measuring the wine by volume; (2) the famous amnphorae in which Greek wine was shipped by sea with Thasian seals on their handles that guaranteed their quality (3) as regulated by laws inscribed on stone stelai; (4) along with diner ware of kylikes (drinking cups), oinochoe (wine-jars) and other vessels used in the classical Greek symposion (wine-drinking party).


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In addition to visiting the archaeological museums of Chios, Santorini (Akrotini) and Crete (Chania), we attended to the landscape of the islands, often scraggy on the mountains of Thasos (1) and Chios, with more gentle lowlands on Lemnos (2) and Lesbos.

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