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date: 31 October 2020

alcoholism, Greeklocked

  • John Maxwell O'Brien
  •  and Barney Rickenbacker


The ancient Greeks were unfamiliar with modern concepts of alcoholism, but they were well aware of self-destructive drinking and the effects of habitual drunkenness. In the Odyssey, *Homer makes a speaker note that wine is a bane to those who drink it excessively, and identify overindulgence as the cause of the *Centaur Eurytion's vile behaviour (21. 293–8). In *Hades, Homer's Elpenor admits that heavy drinking was a key factor in his fatal plunge from *Circe's roof (Od. 11. 61). *Pythagoras (1) is credited with the dictum that drinking to achieve drunkenness is a training-ground for madness, and he advises drunkards to take an unflinching look at their inebriate behaviour if they wish to alter it (Stob. Flor. 3. 18. 23, 33). In the Republic, *Plato (1) writes about men who welcome any excuse to drink whatever wine is available (475a). *Aristotle's treatise On Drunkenness has been lost, but his extant works confirm an abiding interest in wine's pernicious effects.


  • Ancient Greek History
  • Classical Literature
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology

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