Friday, April 04, 2008

Asterix the drunk?   posted by Razib @ 4/04/2008 01:07:00 AM

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to read The Prehistoric Origins of European Economic Integration and throw up a post on the topic. I've read it, but I don't have anything intelligent to say on it right now. Unfortunately, when it comes to economic history I'm at the left edge of the knowledge curve, and my inferential engine really isn't post-worthy most of the time. When something intelligent pops into mind I'll post it, but until then I thought this portion of the paper was interesting from a GNXP perspective:
Like specie, addictive substances have played a central role in integrating the world economy. Alcohol consumption in the European interior goes back to the third millennium, and was evidently a central element in early ritual. Until northern Europeans learned how to malt grain to brewing beer, however, alcohol could only be obtained by fermenting fruit and honey, which made it costly and rare. The arrival of a beverage having an alcoholic content upwards of ten percent worked a revolution in trans-Alpine Europe. Writing when the trade was in full swing immediately after the Roman conquest Diodorus observed that
The Gauls are exceedingly addicted to the use of wine and fill themselves with the wine brought into their country by merchants, drinking it unmixed; and since they partake of this drink without moderation by reason of their craving for it, when they are drunken they fall into a stupor or state of madness. Consequently, many of the Italian traders, induced by the love of money that characterizes them, believe that the love of wine of these Gauls is their own Godsend,'
Caesar reports that the Nerviens and the Suevians refused entry to wine traders for fear the drink would weaken their warriors.