Herodotus Returns

1,400-year-old Byzantine wine press uncovered in Israel
February 16, 2010, 8:46 am
Filed under: Byzantine, Israel | Tags: , ,

A Byzantine wine press dating back 1,400 years has been found in Israel. Given its massive size, it has been called an ‘industrial wine press;’ most likely the wine it produced was exported to Egypt or to Europe.

The impressive wine press is 1,400 years old and measures 6.5 x 16.5 meters. It was discovered southwest of Kibbutz Hafetz-Haim and was partly damaged during the installation of the infrastructure there.

According to Uzi Ad, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “What we have here seems to be an industrial and crafts area of a settlement from the sixth-seventh century CE, which was situated in the middle of an agricultural region. The size of the wine press attests to the fact that the quantity of wine that was produced in it was exceptionally large, and was not meant for local consumption. Instead it was intended for export, probably to Egypt, which was a major export market at the time, or to Europe. An identical wine press was previously exposed north of Ashkelon, about 20 kilometers from the wine press that was just found in Nahal Soreq and we can assume that the two installations were built by the same craftsman.” Ad adds that “The wine press’ collecting vats were neither circular nor square as was the custom, but octagonal. And since this method of construction is far from being practical because sediment would accumulate in the corners of the vats, it seems that they were built in this manner for primarily aesthetic reasons.”

More on the Byzantine wine press here.


Byzantine Werewolves
January 2, 2010, 3:59 am
Filed under: Byzantine | Tags: , ,

A recent article explores how Byzantine doctors treated werewolves.

In “Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453),” four scholars from the University of Athens examine the writings of six Byzantine physicians to see what they believed lycanthropy was and how it should be treated.

Oribasius, a 4th century physician to the Emperor Julian the Apostate, described lycanthropy if his work Synagogae Medicae:

On Lycanthropy. Persons affected by lycanthropy go out at night time and wander among the tombs. You can recognize them from the following signs: they are pale with dry, dull and hollow eyes, without tears, the tongue extremely dry and without saliva. They are very thirsty and their legs are covered with scars from frequent stumbling. You must know that lycanthropy is a type of melancholy that must be treated by bloodletting until fainting, and offering an appropriate diet and baths with sweet water. Purgation by the hiera of colocynth must be applied twice or three times, and then use the viper theriaca and the other healing methods for melancholy. When the disease is approaching, you must sedate the patient by the use of wet compresses and administration of opium, rubbing the ears and the nostrils, a somniferous method…

The article notes that a Byzantine emperor, Justin II (AD 565–578) may have suffered from this mental disorder. From the first years of his reign, Justin showed signs of a severe psychiatric illness, which included walking around the palace barking or mewing, and imitating dogs’ and cats’ behaviour. The emperor also threw objects out of the palace windows during his explosions of wrath and on one occasion demanded that Orthodox Patriarch wear a woman’s hat.

More on Byzantine Werewolves here.