History of Alcohol

Although there are not ancient alcohol abuse statistics there is a history of alcohol . The use of alcohol and alcoholism is not a new thing. The history of alcohol dates back to ancient times. This article discusses the history of alcohol and evolution of drinking alcohol from ancient history to today.

Alcohol is both a source of pleasure and a source of pain. It is deeply integrated with many cultural celebrations, but it has also been involved in addiction and even death. Yet, social drinking aside, alcohol has medicinal and cooking functions. Keep reading to learn about the history of alcohol.

Ancient Use and history of Alcohol

While it’s not clear when the use and history of alcohol first began, alcoholic drinks were being purposefully created by around 10,000 B.C., as evidenced by beer jugs from the stone age. While the first alcoholic drinks may have gotten their start from honey or beer, the grape also came to be used in the creation of alcoholic beverages, and evidence of wine exists from pictographs in Egypt dating about 4,000 B.C., and Osiris, the god of wine, enjoying widespread worship. By 2000 B.C. alcoholic beverages were employed in medical usages in Sumer, and in Ancient Egypt, they were used in religious ceremonies as offerings to the gods, as well as in medicine.

The history of alcoholic beverages also developed among the Babylonians, the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Hebrews. In Babylon and China, and likely not only these two places, alcoholic beverages played an important role in commerce, as well as in health, daily life, and festival celebrations. Warnings against excessive drinking show up in ancient Egyptian documents and in Chinese documents by about 650 B.C. By contrast, in two particular sections of Greek culture - the cult of Dionysus, in which inebriation was part of the activity aimed at achieving closeness to the god, and the Macedonians, who reportedly found inebriation manly - were known for intemperance, though in general, the Greeks found drunkenness distasteful.

The values of the Romans underwent a general falling off during the period of their history of alcohol, and along with other declining values came an increase in immoderate consumption of alcohol, including in Bacchanalias. The Hebrews were divided on their stance toward alcohol, with some sects objecting to its use. However, it gradually made its way into ritual observance, including in the Passover celebration, from which - at the Last Supper - it was taken into the foundational celebration of the Christian churches, the Eucharistic feast. In the history of Christianity, the issue of abstinent sects has repeated. The summative understanding of alcohol through this period seems to have been that it was the user’s decision to user it wisely or not the made the distinction between acceptable use and abuse of alcohol.

Alcohol in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Years

Wine, beer, ale, beer, mead were all popular in the medieval period in Europe, and alcoholic beverages could be used in payment of rent, in addition to continued use as a source of nutrition and an element of celebration. Monasteries made a great deal of wine, in part at least because of its use in the Mass. With the shift from a feudal culture and the rise of the town, artisanal breweries sprung up. At the same time, scientific investigation turned its attention to alcohol, and the science behind alcoholic processes such as distilling spirits and the use of brandy, in particular, medicinally began to grow.

During the Early Modern Period, the consumption of distilled spirits for other than medicinal purposes began to grow. In the seventeenth century, sparkling champagne was invented, and at some time in this period, the first distilled spirit made from grain, whiskey, was also made. Rum made its appearance with the introduction of Europeans to the West Indies and became part of the Colonial economy as part of the so-called “Triangle Trade.”

Industrialization and Beyond

Industrialization, by regularizing the time of work for people who needed to interact in their jobs, cast punctuality and reliability in a new light. Alcohol began to take the blame for a variety of problems that manifested in civic life, some of which may have been due to urban living, a quickly growing population, and other causes. The word alcoholism first made an appearance in 1849, in an essay by a Swedish doctor named Magnus Huss, but the definition was and has been unclear and inexact for many years.

Temperance again became an issue, with a growing number of groups supporting temperance, which was legislated as Prohibition in the early part of the 20th century in the United States. Whereas alcoholic beverage used to be part of family meals, the age at which one could drink became a matter of law in certain parts of the world. Today, heredity is understood to play a role in alcoholism for at least some people, and it is linked in various ways to depression. Peer influence and the cultural norms are also important factors. The use of alcohol is a problem among teens in the 21st century, including alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and binge drinking. The use of alcohol is also implicated in a number of motor vehicle crashes each year.  The understanding of alcoholism continues to be different in different cultures, making statistical comparisons difficult or impossible.


Encyclopedia Britannica, “Alcohol Consumption”
Encyclopedia Britannica, “Alcoholism” - search.eb.com.ezproxy.uvm.edu

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