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Melitta Weiss Adamson
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Medium Aevum Quotidianum 50 (2004) 13-21

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Abstract (englisch)

Medium Aevum Quotidianum 50 (2004) 13-21

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Melitta Weiss Adamson (University of Western Ontario)
In 1493 the German physician Bartholomäus Scherrenmüller wrote,
“When the time comes that the child is half a year or a year old, […] the wetnurse
should wean him off wine as much as possible. She should give him water
or honey water to drink, and if she cannot get the child off wine, she should give
him wine that is white, light, and well-diluted.”1 Even though he does not tell the
reader when to start feeding the infant wine, the passage does imply that this
was common practice, and that in some cases by six to twelve months of age,
the [male] child was so addicted to alcohol that removing it from the diet was
impossible.2 Scherrenmüller is not the only medieval physician to raise the issue
of wine as baby-food, in fact, his text is the German translation of part of a much
larger regimen, the Summa conservationis et curationis, written in 1275 by the
Italian physician and surgeon William of Saliceto.3
Another German regimen that may also have had Saliceto’s text as a
source, was compiled by the Freiburg priest Heinrich Laufenberg. Referring
vaguely to a “great master” whose name he does not divulge, he gives the advice
that wine along with breast milk is healthy, but he is quick to add that in his
opinion, breast milk alone is far superior to any other type of baby-food. Nevertheless,
like Saliceto and Scherrenmüller, he concedes that if a baby would
like to drink wine, the wish should be granted, but that only occasionally a small
amount diluted in clear water is advisable.4 In what follows, I will look at the
1 “So nun die zeyt kumpt, so es aines halbenn oder gantzen iars alt ist, […] die amm soll jm
nach irer vermüglikait abbruch thon mit wein. Sie soll jm wasser oder honig wasser
zuodrincken geben, und kan si jm den wein nit entziehen, so geb sie jm ain wyssenn,
schwachen, wolgewessertenn wein.” See Wolfram Schmitt, “Bartholomäus Scherrenmüllers
Gesundheitsregimen (1493) für Graf Eberhard im Bart” (med. diss. Heidelberg
1970), 58 f, section 39. Unless otherwise indicated, the translations into English in this article
are my own.
2 The pronoun Scherrenmüller normally uses for kint is es (it), but in the section on wine consumption
he switches to er (he).
3 Schmitt, “Bartholomäus Scherrenmüllers Gesundheitsregimen,” 105-136, contains the part
of Saliceto’s Latin text of the Summa conservationis et curationis translated by Scherrenmüller.
4 Heinz H. Menge, Das ‘Regimen’ Heinrich Laufenbergs: Textologische Untersuchung und
medical literature from antiquity to the late Middle Ages to try and find out
when and where the recommendation of wine as baby-food first appeared and
what over the centuries the medical community’s attitudes were on this subject.
In the Corpus Hippocraticum the word oinos or wine shows up a total of
867 times, as Simon Byl observed.5 And it is by Hippocrates’ famous school of
Cos that wine is for the first time mentioned in connection with small children.
In the work “A Regimen of Health,” said to go back to Polybos, Hippocrates’
son-in-law, we find the following advice:
Infants should be bathed for long periods in warm water and given their
wine diluted and not at all cold. The wine should be of a kind which is
least likely to cause distension of the stomach and wind. This should be
done to prevent the occurrence of convulsions and to make the children
grow and get good complexions.6
The opinion that undiluted wine leads to convulsions in little children is also expressed
by Aristotle. In his treatise On Sleep and Dreams, he goes a step further
than Polybos and declares wine as not suitable for infants and their wetnurses:
For whenever vapour moves upwards in a large volume, it swells the
veins as it comes down again, and constricts the respiratory passage.
Hence wines are not good for infants – or for their wet-nurses since it
probably makes no difference whether they drink it themselves or their
nurses do. But they should drink it diluted and in small quantity. For wine
is gaseous, particularly dark wine.7
Even more extreme is Plato’s view regarding the consumption of wine by children
under eighteen, which he likens to “pouring fire upon fire either in body or
in soul.” From eighteen to thirty years of age wine should be consumed in moderation.
Young men in particular are advised to abstain completely from excessive
drinking and drunkenness:8
Edition (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1976), 377-380. For baby-food in Saliceto, Scherrenmüller,
and Laufenberg, see also Melitta Weiss Adamson, “Baby-Food in the Middle
Ages,” in Nurture: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2003, ed.
Richard Hosking (Bristol: Footwork, 2004), 1-11.
5 Simon Byl, “Le Vin selon les Âges et les Sexes dans le Monde Greco-Romain,” in Voeding
en Geneeskunde (Alimentation et Médecine): Acten van het Colloquium (Actes du Colloque)
Brussel (Bruxelles) 12. 10. 1990 (Brussel/Bruxelles: Archief- en Bibliotheekwezen in
Belgie/Archives et Bibliothèques de Belgique, 1993) [Extranummer-Numéro spécial 41),
41. For some of my classical sources I am indebted to Byl’s article which contains a number
of references to Greek and Roman authors and their attitudes regarding wine and the
young, see ibidem, esp. 41-45. Additional references to Galen’s work were provided by my
fellow medical historians Beate Gundert and Paul Potter from the University of Western
6 “A Regimen of Health,” in The Medical Works of Hippocrates, trans. John Chadwick and
W.N. Mann (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1950), 216-217.
7 Aristotle, On Sleep and Dreams, ed. and trans. David Gallop (Warminster: Aris & Phillips
Ltd., 1996), 77.
8 “Shall we not pass a law that, in the first place, no children under eighteen may touch wine
at all, teaching that it is wrong to pour fire upon fire either in body or in soul, before they
Part of the reason why wine, or at least undiluted wine, was considered
harmful to young children was its humoral composition. Listed as hot and moist,
wine when consumed only reinforced the natural heat and humidity of the child.
As the body aged, it was believed to lose these qualities, and to become cold and
dry. For this reason, wine, especially old red wine, that was supposed to be the
hottest, was considered a panacea for old people.
Galen of Pergamon, whose work had perhaps the biggest impact on medicine
in late antiquity and the Middle Ages in Europe as well as the Middle East,
was familiar with Plato’s opinion as expressed in Timaeus in connection with
food, and reiterated in the second book of the Laws, in fact, he specifically
quotes the second book of the Laws, and repeats the view that perhaps it should
be prescribed by law that children under eighteen years of age should drink no
wine at all, by teaching them that one should not pour fire on fire in body and
soul. After that they should drink wine only moderately up to age thirty. Of
drunkenness and frequent indulgence in wine youth should stay away completely.
9 Plato’s reference to body and soul Galen seems to interpret as excessive
heat in the humoral sense, a heat that is also responsible for the daring or madness
of youth. In his book On Hygiene, Galen elaborates on this point:
As long as possible, the child thus brought up should not even taste wine.
For wine moistens very little but heats the body of the drinker, and fills
the head with fumes of the moist and warm character, which is that of
such children. Moreover it is not good for their heads to be thus filled, nor
for them to be moistened and warmed more than normal. For they come to
such a degree of moisture and warmth that, if either increases even a little
more, they pass into excess. Moreover, since all excesses are to be
avoided, this especially should be avoided by which harm befalls not only
the body but the mind. Wherefore wine is not good to be drunk even by
adults except in due moderation, for it renders them prone to anger and
impulsive to insolence, and makes the rational part of the mind sluggish
and confused.10
set about tackling their real work, and thus guarding against the excitable disposition of the
young? And next, we shall rule that the young man under thirty may take wine in moderation,
but that he must entirely abstain from intoxication and heavy drinking. But when a
man has reached the age of forty, he may join in the convivial gatherings and invoke Dionysus,
above all other gods, inviting his presence at the rite (which is also the recreation) of
the elders, which he bestowed on mankind as a medicine potent against the crabbedness of
old age, that thereby we men may renew our youth, and that, through forgetfulness of care,
the temper of our souls may lose its hardness and become softer and more ductile, even as
iron when it has been forged in the fire.” Plato, Laws, ed. and trans. R.G. Bury, vol. I (The
Loeb Classical Library IX) (London: William Heinemann Ltd. and Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1952), Book II, 666B-C, 132-135.
9 C. G. Kühn, ed. and trans., Claudii Galeni Opera Omnia, vol. IV (Leipzig 1822; repr. Hildesheim:
Olms, 1964), 808-810.
10 Galen’s Hygiene (De sanitate tuenda), trans. Robert Montraville Green (Springfield, Ill.:
Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 1951), 34.
Galen illustrates the danger wine poses to young people with the example of a
young slave, locked in the house of his master. The house contained no water,
just a large supply of old wine, in other words, wine that was considered to be
the hottest. When the slave quenched his thirst with the wine, the result, according
to Galen, was fever, delirium, and death.11 Around 200 A.D., Athenaeus
in his famous work on Greek food called the Deipnosophists makes the following
claim, “And among the Romans no slave ever drank wine, nor any free
woman, nor any youth born of free parents till he was thirty years of age”.12
Just when it seemed that with Galen’s clear stance on the issue, the concept
of wine as baby-food was doomed, it started to make a comeback among
medical writers of Byzantium. Oribasius mentions it in the fourth century, and
so do the physicians who wrote in his tradition, in particular Aëtius of Amida, in
the sixth, and Paul of Aegina in the seventh century.13 All recommend that the
newborn be given honey first, and that afterwards the child be brought up on
breast-milk until the age of eighteen months to two years. For variety, Aëtius,
reminiscent of Polybos, suggests feeding the child “occasionally soft eggs,
mead, or sweet wine diluted with water.”14 Paul of Aegina not only prescribes
sweet wine to the wetnurse to make her breast-milk more palatable, but to add
spiced wine to sharp breast-milk to improve its bad smell.15
However, the fate of wine as baby-food took a turn for the worse again
when in the early Middle Ages Greco-Roman medicine arrived in the Middle
East and was assimilated by the Arabs. Influenced perhaps by the fact that Islam
forbids the consumption of alcohol, Rhazes, Avicenna, and Averroës all followed
Galen’s lead and condemned the use of alcohol as food for infants, or at
the very least were silent on the subject. Rhazes around 900 A.D. makes no
mention of wine in his infant regimen of the Liber de medicina ad Almansorem.
16 A century later, Avicenna in his Canon medicinae, in the regimen for
infants and boys, rejects wine because of its humoral qualities hot and humid, as
Galen had done before him.17 And in his regimen on water and wine, he makes
11 Kühn, Claudii Galeni Opera Omnia, vol. VIII, 132.
12 The Deipnosophists or Banquet of the Learned of Athenæus, trans. C.D. Yonge, vol. II
(London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), 677.
13 See Francis Adams, The Seven Books of Paulus Ægineta, translated from the Greek with a
commentary embracing a complete view of the knowledge possessed by the Greeks, Romans,
and Arabians on all subjects connected with medicine and surgery, vol. I (London:
The Sydenham Society, 1844), 10. For Oribasius the work in question according to Adams
is Synops. V, 5.
14 Aëtius of Amida IV, 28, quoted in Adams, The Seven Books of Paulus Ægineta, vol. I, 9.
15 J. Berendes, trans., “Des Paulos von Aegina Abriss der gesamten Medizin in sieben
Büchern,” Janus 1 (1908): 8-9, Chapter 4.
16 Rhazes, Liber Rasis ad Almansorem (Venice: Bonetus Locatellus per Octavianum Scotum,
1497), Tractatus IV, Cap. XXIX.
17 Avicenna, Liber Canonis (edition Venice 1507; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1964), Liber I, Fen
III, Doctrina III, Capitulum iiii, “De regimine infantium cum mutantur ad etatem pueritie,”
fol. 56rb.
the famous statement that is quoted time and again in medieval European medical
literature, “Et pueris quidem vinum ad bibendum dare est sicut ignem igni
addere in lignis debilibus. Seni quantum tolerare potest da et iuvenibus da ipsum
temperate.”18 With his image of adding fire to fire Avicenna obviously alludes to
the expression of “pouring fire upon fire either in body or in soul,” first used by
Plato and later repeated by Galen. Averroës, writing in twelfth-century Moslem
Spain, likewise subscribes to Galen’s view, and categorically rejects the use of
wine as baby-food.19 Equally dismissive is the Jewish medical writer Moses
Maimonides in his Regimen sanitatis. With regard to wine and youth he writes,
The young are not supposed to try it at all. For them it is very harmful, it
destroys their bodily strength and their soul. Galen already made that recommendation.
A young man is not supposed to consume any of it, unless
he has reached […] 21 years of age. The older a person gets, the more useful
wine becomes for him. Of all people, the old need it the most.20
When Greco-Roman medicine as mediated by the Arabs reached Europe in the
High Middle Ages, and got dispersed via the medical schools of Salerno, Montpellier,
Paris, and Bologna, to name just some of the most prominent, wine as
baby-food, so vilified by Galen and the Arab physicians, began to reappear in
the health-books compiled by European doctors. One of the earliest examples is
already written in the vernacular rather than in medieval Latin: In the Old
French work entitled Le Régime du corps, compiled in 1256 by Aldebrandino de
Siena for Beatrice, the Countess of Provençe, we read in the chapter called
“Comment on doit garder l’enfant quant il est nés” that the nurse should give the
two-year old infant “bread which she has softened in her own mouth first and
pap of soft bread, and of honey, and of milk, and of a little wine.”21 And in the
following chapter with the heading “Comment on doit le cors garder en cascun
aage” Aldebrandino prescribes that the seven-year old male child should be
given “wine diluted with water to drink”.22 All this is in clear contradiction to
18 Ibid., Liber I, Fen III, Doctrina II, Capitulum viij, “De regimine aque et vini,” fol. 61rb.
19 Averroës, “Colliget,” in Aristoteles, Omnia quae extant opera, vol. X (Venice: Juntas,
1562-1574), Tractatus ii, Cap. 6; see also Adams, The Seven Books of Paulus Ægineta, 9.
20 “Junge Menschen sollen ihn überhaupt nicht kosten, für sie ist es sehr schädlich, er zerstört
ihre Körperkraft und ihr Seelenleben. Das hat bereits Galenus empfohlen. Der Jugendhafte
soll nichts davon genießen, es sei denn, daß er drei Erlaßjahre [3×7 Jahre Schmita] hinter
sich hat. Das will heißen, nach dem 21. Lebensjahr.” See Moses Maimonides, Regimen
sanitatis oder Diätetik für die Seele und den Körper mit Anhang der medizinischen Responsen
und Ethik des Maimonides, ed. and trans. Süssmann Muntner (Frankfurt am Main:
Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1966), 105.
21 “li doit donner li norrice pain qu’ele ait en se bouce maschié et faire papin de mies
de pain, et de miel, et de lait, et .i. pau de vin douner.” See Louis Landouzy and Roger Pépin,
eds., Alebrant [Maître Aldebrandin de Sienne]. Le Régime du Corps (Paris: Librairie
Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1911; repr. Geneva: Slatkine, 1978), 78. I wish to thank Luke
Demaitre from the University of Virginia for the references to Aldebrandino de Siena and
Bernard de Gordon.
22 “douner li à boire vin tempré à ewe,” ibidem, 80.
the Arab authorities he consulted for his work, first and foremost among them
Avicenna and Rhazes.
Two decades later, around 1275, William of Saliceto compiled the already
mentioned text known as the Summa conservationis et curationis at the request
of Ruffinus, the prior of a monastery in Piacenza. He, too, used as his main
sources the Canon of Avicenna, and the Liber de medicina ad Almansorem of
Rhazes, which he complemented with some of Hippocrates’ Aphorisms. In Saliceto’s
Latin original, the complete passage on weaning the infant off wine, runs
as follows:
Cum vero tempus venerit et hoc erit usque ad dimidium anni vel annum,
in quo possit comedere et masticare mollia, detur ei risum coctum cum
lacte, vel sumat micam panis infusam in aqua pullorum vel carnem mollem
repertam supra pectus avium vel pullorum, et faciat ipsum nutrix abstinere
a vino proposse. In potu det eidem aquam vel aquam mellis, et si
ipsum a vino abstinere non posset, det ei album, debile, aqueum, multum
commixtum cum aqua.23
By failing to inform the reader when to start feeding the infant wine, Saliceto
steers clear of contradicting his sources, and yet by including the information on
how to wean a child off alcohol, he implies that this was common practice and
offers at least some advice to the wetnurse how to correct the situation. Saliceto
studied and taught at the famous Italian medical school of Bologna before taking
on the post of physician to the city and the hospital of Verona. His contemporary,
Bernard de Gordon taught at another famous institution of the time, the
medical school of Montpellier in southern France. In Chapter 4 of his Regimen
sanitatis, Bernard, too, addresses the issue of wine as baby-food. He gives the
advice to feed teething children “panem bene masticatum, aut panem infusum in
lacte, aut in brodio carnium, aut in aqua ubi sit modicum de vino aut in melle.”24
In a departure from Galen and his followers who warned of adding heat and
moisture to the already hot and moist child, Bernard explains, at least implicitly,
his rationale for wine, “Quia ergo pueri sunt calidi et humidi, utantur cibis
calidis et humidis cum temperamento”.25 In other words, Bernard appears to
subscribe to the concept of similia similibus rather than contraria contrariis in
this case.
For all the examples of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century writers in
medieval Europe who recommended or at least mentioned the use of wine as
baby-food, there were just as many who followed Plato, Galen, and Avicenna,
and objected to it, or remained silent on the subject. Raymond Llull in his Doctrine
d’Enfant writes, for instance, that wine when it is too strong destroys the
natural heat.26 Even more forceful in his rejection is the Augustinian Egidio Co-
23 Schmitt, “Bartholomäus Scherrenmüllers Gesundheitsregimen,” 112, section 39.
24 Bernard de Gordon, De conservatione vitae humanae (Leipzig: Imprimebat Iohannes
Rhamba curante Ernesto Vogelin, 1570), 25 f., Cap. 4.
25 Ibidem, 26.
26 “Vin trop fort destruit la chalor naturel et l’entendement et abrege la vie de l’ome; et le vin
lonna, better known as Aegidius Romanus or Giles of Rome, disciple of Thomas
Aquinas. Entrusted by King Philip III with the education of his son, the future
Philip IV, Aegidius wrote the immensely popular treatise De regimine principum.
In the chapter entitled “Qualis cura gerenda sit de pueris à principio natiuitatis
vsque ad septem annos,” he repeatedly warns of giving wine to boys
under seven years of age, in fact, it is second in his list of prohibitions: “Secundum,
quia sunt prohibendi à vino.”
Secundo pueri sunt prohibendi à vino, & maxime illo tempore quo lac sumunt:
& hoc secundum Philosophum propter ægritudines. De facili enim
ægrotantur pueri & efficiuntur male dispositi in corpore, si tempore quo vt
plurimum pascuntur lacte assuescant bibere vinum: immo dicunt aliqui,
quòd si eo tempore ad vinum assuescant, disponuntur ad lepram.27
As this passage illustrates, Aegidius is especially concerned about giving boys
wine when they still drink milk because, he claims, it easily makes them sick,
and their bodies ill-disposed. To drive home his point, he quotes unknown
sources, “dicunt aliqui,” according to whom boys brought up this way are prone
to leprosy. While the leprosy quote seems unique to Aegidius – nowhere else in
the literature did I find it mentioned – physicians in the fifteenth century continued
to express concern over wine as baby-food. In addition to Heinrich Laufenberg
and Bartholomäus Scherrenmüller who repeat William of Saliceto’s advice
from the late thirteenth century more or less verbatim, Antonio Benivieni, physician
to the Medici, addresses the issue in his chapter on boys under fourteen,
“De regimine puerorum capitulum quintum.”
Vinum eis hoc tempore dandum esse nullomodo auctores volunt, quoniam
sui caliditate puerorum corpora inflammat. Inquit enim Avicenna quod
vinum eis tradere, est sicut ignem igni addere. Sed quia consuetudo altera
est natura et eam hodierno die in contrarium esse videmus, bene temperatum
vinum administrare eis secure poterimus.28
Baby-food, he argues, should tend towards the moist because that corresponds
with the boys’ humoral composition. With regard to wine, he states that according
to the authorities boys should never be given wine because its heat inflames
their bodies. He goes on to repeat Avicenna’s famous dictum that giving boys
wine is like adding fire to fire. Benivieni does not leave it at that, however, but
argues instead that “because consuetudo (custom or habit) is of a different nature
and we see daily the opposite, we can safely administer or feed well-diluted
wine.” What is only implied here, namely that theory and practice differ when it
trop aigué est achoison que li hom soit legierement doublez quant il bevra vin fort.” See
Raymond Llulle, Doctrine d’Enfant: Version médiévale du ms. fr. 22933 de la B. N. de
Paris, ed. Armand Llinarès (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck, 1969), 205.
27 Egidio Colonna (Aegidius Romanus), De regimine principum libri III. Recogniti et una cum
vita auctoris in lucem editi per F. Hieronymum Samaritanium (Rome: Bartholomeus Zannettus,
1607; repr. Aalen: Scientia, 1967), 328 f.
28 Luigi Belloni, ed., Antonii Benivienii De Regimine Sanitatis Ad Laurentium Medicem (Turin:
Società Italiana di Patologia, 1951), 29.
comes to using wine as baby-food, is clearly stated in another regimen that is to
my knowledge the most comprehensive medieval regimen for pregnant women
and infants. Its author/compiler is the Padua physician Michele Savonarola,
grandfather of the more famous Girolamo Savonarola. In discussing the regimen
for children he writes that
Also, it is not good for children to eat bread alone; similarly, a mouthful
of bread mixed with hazelnuts does not benefit in spite of the common
practice, but much better is a mouthful of bread with almonds. Secondly,
soup with very diluted wine is very good and in fact is a common practice
among poor women. The same practice corrupts rich women who give
them [the children] bread in a soup of good [undiluted] wine which is said
to be good for their heads and to stop worms. Oh foolish women, remember
what Avicenna, that great writer, said, that strong wine for children is
like giving fire to a fire in weak wood, meaning that it easily catches fire,
because if it were up to them [the children], they would not drink wine:
his words are dare vinum pueris est sicut addere ignem igni in lignis debilibus.
Such practice then triggers a temperature, but you attribute it to
other causes.29
Savonarola makes two interesting points in this passage, namely a) that diluted
wine as baby-food was common practice among the lower classes in Italy, and
presumably other parts of the Mediterranean, and b) that the rich in an attempt
to improve on the method by adding strong undiluted wine, do more harm than
good. Hence his decision to repeat Avicenna’s words of warning against wine
as baby-food. The same concern may have been the reason why Aegidius Romanus
was so uncompromising on the issue, even raising the specter of leprosy.
He was entrusted with the well-being of the future king of France, no less!
My study of two thousand years of medical and didactic literature on the
topic of wine as baby-food has shown that there was no clear position or linear
development. As early as the fourth century B.C., the Hippocratics, perhaps already
reflecting common practice, endorsed it ever so slightly; Plato, Aristotle,
and especially Galen rejected the concept; in Byzantium physicians endorsed it
29 “Apresso, che non è molto utile a fanzuoli tanto panezare solo; somegliante, il bocone di
pane e di nuoce facto non giè utile, che è contra pratica comuna, ma molto megliore è
quello dil pane e di mandole. Secundo, che la supa in vino molto adaquato giè molto buona,
et è pur pratica comuna, spetialiter fra le poverete.
La quale pratica corumpe le riche, dendogie il pane in supa di buon vino, dicendo che ie fa
fare buon capo e che è contra i vermi. O matazuolle, aricordative di quello che dice
Avicena grande auctore, chel vino grande a puti è come giungere fuoco a fuoco in legne
debele, zioè che facilmente se impigliano, che se far se potesse non voriano bevere vino:
dice dare vinum pueris est sicut addere ignem igni in lignis debilibus. Il perchè tal uxo seguita
le febre da puo’, e di quella date la caxuone ad altro.” See Michele Savonarola, Il
trattato Ginecologico-Pediatrico in Volgare. Ad mulieres ferrarienses de regimine pregnantium
et noviter natorum usque ad septennium, ed. Luigi Belloni (Milan: Società Italiana
di Ostetrica e Ginecologia, 1952), 157-158. For the English translation I thank Paul Potter
and Sandra Parmegiani from the University of Western Ontario.
again; the medieval Arab and Jewish authorities rejected it; and the European
writers were found to subscribe to either view. It would appear as if wine as
baby-food, whether diluted or not, had a long tradition in the Mediterranean,
and perhaps in other wine-rich areas of Europe as well. I should add here that in
northern Europe where beer was more prevalent, Shulamith Shahar claims infants
were given beer instead, although none of my sources made any mention
of it.30 I would argue that precisely because it was common practice, medical
and didactic writers felt the need to address the issue of wine as baby-food.
Based on the evidence, it seems fair to say that none of the authorities feels entirely
comfortable endorsing its use for children. Humoral theory is the main
reason they all advise caution, and those that recommend wine always add such
qualifiers as “only occasionally,” “small amounts,” and “wine that is light,
white, and well-diluted,” in other words, the coolest wine available, humorally
The last word shall belong to Heinrich Laufenberg whose rhymed regimen
for newborns even made it into print as an appendix to one of the first
early-modern bestsellers, Jacob Rueff’s Hebammen Buch, or book for midwives:
Man soll ihm [dem Kind] geben selten Wein/
Mit Wasser der sol vermischt seyn.
Dann eitel Wein der bringt ihn schaden/
Hie mit wil ichs beschlossen haben.31
30 Shulamith Shahar, Kindheit im Mittelalter, trans. Barbara Brumm, 2nd ed. (Düsseldorf: Patmos,
2003), 94. The only reference to beer I came across in my research was in Aetius of
Amida who recommends that the wetnurse drinks ale (Zythus) when she does not have
enough milk; see Adams, The Seven Books of Paulus Ægineta, vol. I, 7.
31 “One should give it [the child] wine rarely / It shall be mixed with water / Since pure wine
brings them harm / With this I will end.” See Jacob Rueff, Hebammen Buch (Frankfurt
1563 [correct date 1588]; repr. Munich-Allach: Konrad Kölbl, 1968), 259.
KREMS 2004
Titelgraphik: Stephan J. Tramèr
Herausgeber: Medium Aevum Quotidianum. Gesellschaft zur Erforschung der
materiellen Kultur des Mittelalters, Körnermarkt 13, 3500 Krems, Österreich.
Für den Inhalt verantwortlich zeichnen die Autoren, ohne deren ausdrückliche
Zustimmung jeglicher Nachdruck, auch in Auszügen, nicht gestattet ist. –
Druck: Grafisches Zentrum an der Technischen Universität Wien, Wiedner
Hauptstraße 8-10, 1040 Wien.