History Community ~ All Empires Homepage


This is the Archive on WORLD Historia, the old original forum.

 You cannot post here - you can only read.

 

Here is the link to the new forum:

  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

Forum LockedAncient Iran and Alcohol Consumption

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
Afghanan View Drop Down
Chieftain
Chieftain
Avatar
Durr e Durran

Joined: 12-Jun-2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 1076
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Afghanan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Ancient Iran and Alcohol Consumption
    Posted: 02-Oct-2005 at 23:19

Of wine and war

Party time in ancient Iran

April 28, 2005
iranian.com

The Shahnameh is replete with scenes of kings and heroes in the company of wine. In one episode, for example, Esfandiyar feasted on kabob and wine (may) before going into battle against Arjasb. In another story, Rostam and Esfandiyar partook of wine prior to riding into Zabol. What made Ferdowsi’s rendition of such scenes remarkable is that even centuries of Islamic strictures could not efface the visceral connection of the Iranian with wine.

I have been told that on the occasion of Norouz, the New Year, some Iranians turn their spread of seven articles beginning with the letter “s” or haft-syn to a haft-shyn so they can include sharab (present-day word for wine). The haft-syn folk include in their setting serkeh (vinegar). Either way, we are talking about red grape juice at different stages of fermentation.

My fascination with the place of wine in ancient Iranian rituals owes its origin to the description of a Persian custom given by the Greek historian Herodotus (d. ca. 425 BC). In Book I:133 (Histories, Rawlinson’s edition), he recounted how Persians, who were settled in southwest Iran, considered any weighty matter once when sober and again when under the influence of wine, or vice versa. If the decision were the same both times, they acted on it. Somehow, I cannot help but believe that wine was the agent that promoted frank and uninhibited discussion -- as is embodied in the maxim “in vino veritas” (in wine is truth) that originated with Alcaeus in about 600 BC.

The Medes, another Iranian people, who were settled in west-central Iran long before the arrival of the Persians, knew wine for its incapacitating qualities. During the reign of Sargon of Assyria (ruled: 722-705 BC), the Saka, an Iranian-speaking group of horsemen from southern Russia pushed past Darband on the Caspian Sea and established a capital some seventy-five miles south of Lake Urumia, at present-day Sakkiz.

When the Median king Kyakhares (Cyaxares) was busy sacking the Assyrian capital at Nineveh, in 612 BC, the Saka invaded Media and, according to Herodotus (I:103-104), defeated the Median army and took control of the kingdom. If the Medes regained their country in 584 BC was in part by the grace of wine. According to Herodotus (I:106), Kyakhares invited the greater part of the Saka to a banquet, and made them drunk with wine, after which they were all massacred.

The Saka’s obvious susceptibility to wine was shared by another group of nomads, the Massagatae, who inhabited the area east of the Caspian Sea. We know this from the account of the war that Cyrus II the Great (ruled: 550-529 BC) waged against the Massagatae and their queen, Tomyris. According to the stratagem deployed by Cyrus, as described by Herodotus (I:207-212), a sumptuous banquet of sheep was spread with wine cups filled full of the noble liquor. A small Persian force that was left to guard it was overcome by the queens’ son and his troops. They feasted on the banquet and then fell asleep. Cyrus’s main army then descended on the Massagatae, slaughtering many and took many more prisoner.

To seek the release of her son, the queen sent a message to Cyrus and in it she reminded the Mede, as she called him, that he had won the victory unfairly, as it had been the grape-juice that had ensnared her son. As she described it, the grape-juice when drunk made one mad, as swallowed down it brought up to lips bold and wicked words; it was poison, she said.

The Saka were among the multitudes that comprised the Achaemenian Empire. One of their entities was called Saka Homavarka (also written Haumavarga). The earliest reference to them appeared in the inscriptions of Darius I the Great (ruled: 522-486 BC) at Susa (DSe: 24). The Saka Homavarka were so called because they consumed “homa.” The term “varka” or “varga” represented an ingestion function such as drinking, eating or inhalation -- conveniently ‘taking’ or broadly ‘consuming.’ According to J.M. Cook, the late Iranist Ilya Gershevitch was content with leaving it at “consuming.”

According to the Avestan glossary, homa or hom was a plant with medicinal and spiritual properties and some have suggested that it was made from a mushroom that grew north of the Oxus River (Jona Lendering in Scythians/Sacae on www.livius.org). The “hom” of the Avesta has been associated with the “soma” of Hindu rituals. On the hallucinogenic qualities of both, see David L. Spess, Soma: The Divine Hallucinogen (Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 2000). Regardless, on the basis of Avesta’s description of the item, I am inclined to believe that “hom” was grape-wine. I found this conclusion on two bases: The description of hom in the Avesta and the role of wine in Saka rituals.

In the Avesta there is an entire sacred hymn called The Hom Yasht, in which Yasna 10 speaks of hom’s properties: it vanishes waste and foulness (sec. 7), it heals and is health-bringing (sec. 7 and 8), it is a toxicant and stirring (sec. 8), it is an exhilarant (sec. 14), it “makes the poor man’s thoughts as great as any of the richest whatsoever” (sec. 13), it grows in mountainous (sec. 3, 4, 11 and 12), it is a liquor (sec. 12), it is liquid (sec.17), it is juice (sec. 5), and it is a “drink mixed with milk” (sec. 13).

The Saka were intimately familiar with wine. For one thing, they had lost their mastery of Media to the fog of wine and, for another thing, wine figured in their rituals and ceremonies. According to Herodotus, among their cherished possessions was a drinking cup (IV:5). Once a year those who slew in combat partook from a bowl of wine (IV:66). In an oath ceremony, the parties to an oath partook wine from a bowl that contained drops of the parties’ blood (IV:70).

According to the late Tamara Talbot Rice, an authority on the Scythians (what the Europeans call the Saka), when the greater part of the Saka were expelled from Media by Kyakhares in 584 BC many remained behind to train the Median cavalry. I believe, they probably acquired their designation “homavarka” at that time as takers of wine.

I cannot escape the irony that ultimately the monumental evidence of the Achaemenian civilization that was Parsa (Persepolis, to the Greeks) was consumed in 330 BC, as some believe, in the flames ignited by passions stirred by wine.

About
Guive Mirfendereski practices law in Massachusetts (JD, Boston College Law School, 1988). His latest book is A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea: Treaties, Diaries, and Other Stories (New York and London: Palgrave 2001)



Edited by Afghanan
The perceptive man is he who knows about himself, for in self-knowledge and insight lays knowledge of the holiest.
~ Khushal Khan Khattak
Back to Top
Zagros View Drop Down
Emperor
Emperor
Avatar
retired AE Moderator

Joined: 11-Aug-2004
Location: London
Status: Offline
Points: 8795
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Oct-2005 at 04:17

haha, excellent article Afghanan jan.

Quote The Saka were among the multitudes that comprised the Achaemenian Empire. One of their entities was called Saka Homavarka (also written Haumavarga). The earliest reference to them appeared in the inscriptions of Darius I the Great (ruled: 522-486 BC) at Susa (DSe: 24). The Saka Homavarka were so called because they consumed “homa.” The term “varka” or “varga” represented an ingestion function such as drinking, eating or inhalation -- conveniently ‘taking’ or broadly ‘consuming.’ According to J.M. Cook, the late Iranist Ilya Gershevitch was content with leaving it at “consuming.”

The modern Khor (which means to eat and drink) derived from Khvar (to drink) which seems to be etymologically related to varka

Back to Top
Cywr View Drop Down
King
King
Avatar
Retired AE Moderator

Joined: 03-Aug-2004
Status: Offline
Points: 5952
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Oct-2005 at 04:23
Quote In one episode, for example, Esfandiyar feasted on kabob and wine (may) before going into battle against Arjasb.


A role model for Students everywhere

Intresting, did the Persians make their wine concentrated, and then dilute it with water upon serving like some other ancients did?
Arrrgh!!"
Back to Top
Rakhsh View Drop Down
Suspended
Suspended
Avatar

Joined: 23-Oct-2005
Status: Offline
Points: 331
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rakhsh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Nov-2005 at 21:34

no Persians had a different way of drinking wine, as far as I know Greeks boiled their wine. Iranian wine needed no Reslin.

It seems even till today alcohol is in Iranian society, not even Islam took that away.

Never under estimate the predictablity of stupidity! - Bullet Tooth Tony
Back to Top
Aydin View Drop Down
Knight
Knight


Joined: 13-Aug-2005
Location: Antarctica
Status: Offline
Points: 481
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aydin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Nov-2005 at 23:54
sweet, now theres a patriotic reason for me to get smashed every week.
Back to Top
Rakhsh View Drop Down
Suspended
Suspended
Avatar

Joined: 23-Oct-2005
Status: Offline
Points: 331
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rakhsh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Nov-2005 at 00:14
hehehehe yup
Never under estimate the predictablity of stupidity! - Bullet Tooth Tony
Back to Top
Dear Sir View Drop Down
Janissary
Janissary
Avatar

Joined: 08-Sep-2006
Status: Offline
Points: 60
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dear Sir Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Sep-2006 at 05:45
Great article and I think Alcohol has been banned in Iran.
Back to Top
shayan View Drop Down
Shogun
Shogun
Avatar

Joined: 03-May-2006
Status: Offline
Points: 106
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shayan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Sep-2006 at 14:37
Hafez had a nice poem about the famous Shiraz wine (hell yeah im proud of my city :P)
Iran parast
Back to Top
Shiroyeh View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard


Joined: 04-May-2006
Location: United Kingdom
Status: Offline
Points: 0
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shiroyeh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Sep-2006 at 17:48
Originally posted by Dear Sir Dear Sir wrote:

Great article and I think Alcohol has been banned in Iran.


Alcohol is 'banned' in Iran, but that doesn't mean its not easily available ;)

I probably drink more alcohol when im in Iran for 2 months that the rest of the year in the UK. Alcohol is also very cheap in Iran due to lack of government taxation. Bottles of name brand booz is probably about the same price as it is in the UK as its mostly smuggled in and bootleg is about $10 for 1.5litres of really tasty white rum/vodka
' How shall a man escape from that which is written; How shall he flee from his destiny? ' Ferdowsi
Back to Top
Sparten View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard
Avatar
Totalitarian Iconoclast

Joined: 18-Mar-2006
Location: United Kingdom
Status: Offline
Points: 5009
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Sep-2006 at 00:19

Hey what do they say about Iranians,

"Always poetic, ususally drunk, often unshaved".
 
Seems its more than just a streotype.
 
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
Back to Top
Animal View Drop Down
Immortal Guard
Immortal Guard


Joined: 18-Sep-2006
Status: Offline
Points: 0
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Animal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Sep-2006 at 05:05
Originally posted by Shiroyeh Shiroyeh wrote:

Originally posted by Dear Sir Dear Sir wrote:

Great article and I think Alcohol has been banned in Iran.


Alcohol is 'banned' in Iran, but that doesn't mean its not easily available ;)

I probably drink more alcohol when im in Iran for 2 months that the rest of the year in the UK. Alcohol is also very cheap in Iran due to lack of government taxation. Bottles of name brand booz is probably about the same price as it is in the UK as its mostly smuggled in and bootleg is about $10 for 1.5litres of really tasty white rum/vodka
Further proof that prohibition doesn't work. I'm sure that some Iranian Al Capones are making QUITE a killing in the bootlegging business.
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 11.10
Copyright ©2001-2017 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.047 seconds.