κατοικοῦσι δὲ Λίγυες ζῶντες ἀπὸ θρεμμάτων τὸ πλέον καὶ γάλακτος καὶ κριθίνου πόματος, νεμόμενοι τά τε πρὸς θαλάττῃ χωρία καὶ τὸ πλέον τὰ ὄρη. [. . .] ταῦτά τε δὴ κατάγουσιν εἰς τὸ ἐμπόριον τὴν Γένουαν καὶ θρέμματα καὶ δέρματα καὶ μέλι, ἀντιφορτίζονται δὲ ἔλαιον καὶ οἶνον τὸν ἐκ τῆς Ἰταλίας: ὁ δὲ παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς ὀλίγος ἐστί, πιττίτης αὐστηρός.
The Ligurians reside there, living on their fill of little young animals, milk, and a drink of barley and grazing their animals in the region near the sea, but mostly in the mountains. [. . .] They also bring down these things to the trading-posts at Genoa – small animals, hides, and honey – and return with olive oil and wine from Italy (what little [wine] there is among them, is made harsh with pitch).
Strabo discusses the habits and customs of the Ligurians. The ancient Ligurians resided an area that largely corresponds to the modern Italian province of Liguria (NW peninsula) and some of the western regions of the Alps.
Not much is known about the beer-drinking history of the Ligurians. In fact, we have not encountered them before on BCS. It is little surprise, however, that the Ligurians at least dabbled in a beer culture at one time. This group of people occupied a transitional zone between the Celtic Gauls (beer drinkers!) to the north and west, and the Roman and Italic groups (wine-lovers) to the south. Even the Ligurian language reflects this interesting mix with both Italic and Celtic elements. Unfortunately, Strabo does not preserve the specific word(s) (Celtic, or otherwise) that the Ligurians used for their “drink of barley.”
In the Ligurian diet, thee barley beer was accompanied by suckled/young meats, milk, and honey (a commodity that was in enough abundance to be a primary trade good). We have seen this combination of meat, milk (or butter), and beer previously – as a group of foodstuffs consumed by both the Celto-Iberians and Ethiopians (1, 2). Although I find meat to be a divine complement to beer, milk-based products and beer does not sound like an appealing pairing for the modern palate – except for those delicious milk stouts.
Strabo (64/3 BCE-ca. 24 CE)
Greek geographer during the Roman era. He traveled extensively, writing about many of the regions that he visited.
Wikimedia Commons. Renatas CC BY-SA 3.0 (“Typical Ligurian Village – panoramio”)