Hesiod

Hesiod

The grape and wine are ever-present in the Homeric epics,876 while around 750 to 650 BCE the Greek poet Hesiod (Op. 614, Theog. 914) also related that the sacred beverage was a gift from Dionysus. In his Theogony (940–949), Hesiod describes the birth of Dionysus to the mortal woman Semele, subsequently deified, as well as his marriage to Ariadne.877 The poet styles Bacchus as the “golden-haired,” representing an obvious solar epithet; so too was Apollo “golden-haired.”878

In his Shield of Hercules (394–401), Hesiod speaks of the noisy locust in the heat of summer:

And when the dark-winged whirring grasshopper, perched on a green shoot, begins to sing of summer to men—his food and drink is the dainty dew—and all day long from dawn pours forth his voice in the deadliest heat, when Sirius scorches the flesh (then the beard grows upon the millet which men sow in summer), when the crude grapes which Dionysus gave to men—a joy and a sorrow both—begin to colour, in that season they fought and loud rose the clamour.879

Here we see a description of the ripening of the “crude grapes,” which are likewise a gift from Bacchus. Dionysus’s association with Sirius is noteworthy, as Osiris has a close connection to Sirius, including being identified with the “sharp star,” as well as its husband, when it is deemed to be Isis. Indeed, Sirius rising heliacally in the summer signifies the birth of Osiris, as well as the Nile overflowing its banks (Isis) to produce the wheat and other foliage, such as the popular and sacred grapevine.

In Works and Days (609–614), Hesiod recounts the process for wine-making, also using astronomical details for the timing:

But when Orion and Sirius are come into midheaven, and rosyfingered Dawn sees Arcturus, then cut off all the grape-clusters, Perses, and bring them home. Show them to the sun ten days and ten nights: then cover them over for five, and on the sixth day draw off into vessels the gifts of joyful Dionysus.880

Hesiod translator Dr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White notes that the time when “rosyfingered Dawn sees Arcturus” is September, the full harvest of the grapes. The fruits are then turned into the divine elixir of the god of revelry and truth, as in the saying, In vino veritas or “In wine, truth,” referring to the reduction of inhibition after one has imbibed alcohol.

Hesiod wrote during the era when the Jewish reformer kings Hezekiah and Josiah may have been composing or commissioning parts of the Pentateuch. However, elements of the Mosaic epic apparently come from the following decades to centuries, after Homer and Hesiod wrote about Dionysus.

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