Ancient Greeks introduced wine to France, Cambridge study reveals

France's well known passion for wine may have stemmed from the Ancient Greeks, a Cambridge University study discloses.

The original makers of Côtes-du-Rhône are said to have descended from Greek explorers who settled in southern France about 2500 years ago, it claimed.

The study, by Prof Paul Cartledge, suggested the world's biggest wine industry might never have developed had it not been for a "band of pioneering Greek explorers" who settled in southern France around 600 BC.

His study appears to dispel the theory that it was the Romans who were responsible for bringing viticulture to France.

The study found that the Greeks founded Massalia, now known as Marseilles, which they then turned into a bustling trading site, where local tribes of Ligurian Celts undertook friendly bartering.

Prof Cartledge said within a matter of generations the nearby Rhône became a major thoroughfare for vessels carrying terracotta amphorae that contained what was seen as a new, exotic Greek drink made from fermented grape juice.

He argued the new drink rapidly became a hit among the tribes of Western Europe, which then contributed to the French' s modern love of wine.

"I hope this will lay to rest an enduring debate about the historic origins of supermarket plonk, he said.

"Although some academics agree the Greeks were central to founding Europe's wine trade, others argue the Etruscans or even the later Romans were the ones responsible for bringing viticulture to France.

Archaeologists have discovered a five-foot high, 31.5 stone bronze vessel, the Vix Krater, which was found in the grave of a Celtic princess in northern Burgundy, France.

Prof Cartledge said there were two main points that proved it was the Greeks who introduced wine to the region.

"First, the Greeks had to marry and mix with the local Ligurians to ensure that Massalia survived, suggesting that they also swapped goods and ideas.

"Second, they left behind copious amounts of archaeological evidence of their wine trade (unlike the Etruscans and long before the Romans), much of which has been found on Celtic sites."

The research forms part of Professor Cartledge's study into where the boundaries of Ancient Greece began and ended.

Rather than covering the geographical area occupied by the modern Greek state, he argued Ancient Greece stretched from Georgia in the east to Spain in the west.

Originally Posted @ Archaeology News

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