Drink and Be Merry: Wine and Beer in Ancient Times

July 30 - November 5, 2000

Drink and Be Merry examines the subject of wine and beer in antiquity—their production and trade to their central role in ritual, festive celebrations and everyday life.

Since antiquity, wine and beer have been valued for their power to help us transcend everyday existence, becoming major components in religious ceremonies and secular celebrations. Wine and beer are among the oldest alcoholic beverages known, originating in at least the sixth through fourth millennia BCE in the lands of the ancient Near East. From there they spread westward, first to Greece and then to the Roman Empire. Mesopotamia and Egypt were known as beer-drinking lands, since they were rich in the grains used to make beer, while grapes were difficult to cultivate in their hot, dry climates. However, in the land of Israel, Greece, and the Roman Empire, wine was the primary drink. In fact, the land of Israel played a significant role in wine production from early times.

Drink and Be Merry examines the subject of wine and beer in antiquity—their production and trade to their central role in ritual, festive celebrations and everyday life. The focus is on the land of Israel, though the drinking cultures of neighboring lands are also portrayed. The exhibition spans some 5,000 years, from the fourth millennium BCE until the decline of alcohol consumption with the spread of Islam in the seventh century CE.

Sponsored by Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc.

Generous support has also been provided by the New York-Israel Cultural Cooperation Commission and the Consulate General of Israel in New York, Office of Cultural Affairs, Judy and Michael Steinhardt, and Jeannette and Jonathan Rosen. Transportation assistance has been provided by EL AL Israel Airlines.
The exhibition was organized by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, with major loans from the Israel Museum and the Israel Antiquities Authority.