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In Vino Veritas

Aug 25, 2011
In Vino Veritas
Pliny the Elder reminds us that wine uncovers truth, for better or for worse

pliny-the-elderOn August 25, 79 AD, the world lost one of its great oenophiles. Gaius Plinius Secundus (aka Pliny the Elder), born 23 AD, was a friend of the emperor, military commander, and author of Naturalis Historia, an encyclopedia that included entire chapters dedicated to wine and viticulture. He also coined the phrase in vino veritas: "in wine [there is] truth," a statement that holds as much weight today as it did nearly 2000 years ago. In modern times, this may be seen as a pitfall (just ask Mel Gibson or Lindsay Lohan), but in ancient days, drinking wine was considered a valid path to knowledge and enlightenment.

Just look at the ancient Greek symposium, Hellenic drinking parties that served as forums for both celebration and philosophical debate. Plato and Socrates were among the notable fixtures at these gatherings. In Plato's Symposium, Alcibiades, a well-known Athenian statesman says of Socrates, "He will drink any quantity that he is bid, and never be drunk all the same." Perhaps Socrates owed his philosophical insights in part to a heavy drinking habit.

While the link between wine and truth is far from clear (especially after several glasses), we can be certain that wine has played a crucial role in the development of Western culture. So, when you pour a glass of wine for yourself tonight, toast Pliny the Elder and join the noble ranks of those who have found truth in the bottle.

Besides in vino veritas, what are your favorite wine sayings? Tell us below!


Tags: Pliny the Elder, Plato, Socrates

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