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Lebanon - Phoenicians



Lebanon - The Phoenicians & Wine

With wine making tradition dating back 5,000 years the Phoenicians, the ancient dwellers of Lebanon, were tending vineyards, making wine and trading with other major cities long before the Greeks and Romans. And it was here that later Jesus changed water into wine, performing his first miracle at the wedding of Cana.

The term wine, or Cherem in Phoenician, is derived from a Phoenician word referring specifically to the fermentation of grapes. Wines were a specialty of the Phoenicians and their ancient Ugaritic poetry and epics mentioned wine with ringing praise. The Rapiuma and others were specific in identifying the choice wine of Lebanon as being one nurtured by their god El and fit for gods and kings. They must have learned about wine from earlier civilizations; however, they perfected viticulture and oenology so that Phoenician wines became prized commodities of the ancient world and a major source of revenue in their exports.

The Phoenician Canaanites were avid wine drinkers. The Bible mentions that the Phoenician Canaanite Melchizedek, King of Salem (King of Jerusalem) and Priest of the Most High God (El Elion), offered bread and wine to Abraham and Ezekiel refers to the wine of Helbon as a unique commodity. Some believe that the village of Qana (Cana) where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast was a town near Tyre, Phoenicia and not elsewhere. Also, wine was central to the Passover observance among the Jews and continues to be so. It was served for the Passover of the Last Supper betwixt Jesus and his disciples and continues to be central to Christian Eucharistic liturgy of the Mass.

Some of the icons of Phoenician philosophy, Zeno of Citium and Chrysippus of Soli, Phoenician co-founder of the Stoic School of Philosophy were "serious" wine drinkers. The former's main enjoyment was sitting in the sun, eating figs and drinking wine while the latter is said to have died as a result of drinking too much over proof wine.

The Egyptians never succeeded in growing enough grapes to produce wine, a drink foreign to the Egyptians, and relied on imports. In fact, a fresco in an Egyptian tomb of the 18th dynasty depicts seven Phoenician merchant ships anchored at an Egyptian port to sell their goods, including the distinctive Canaanite wine jars in which wine was imported. Egypt recorded the harvest of grapes on stone tablets and the Egyptians drank wine from cups or from a jar through a straw. The Pharaohs were especially fond of wine and some even had bottles buried with them in order to make their journey to the underworld more tolerable. Also, wines were given to dead kings, so that they might entertain their friends in the afterlife. Wine was a very social drink in Ancient Egypt and great importance was given to its limited production and consumption.

Even the Greeks couldn't offer vintages to compare with the Phoenicians until much later. At the table, most people drank their wine mixed with water, quite frequently half and half. So the opportunity to drink pure wine at a ritual was a special occasion. This is why getting drunk was so special and originally considered a spiritual state, in which deities could talk or act through the person in that condition. Some scholars believe that Dionysus was originally from the Middle East, home of wine and ecstatic worship. Also, in pagan worship, wine was used to anoint idols.





Information From the Ministry of Tourism

Lebanese Ministry of Tourism

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