The cupbearer to gods of Olympus still watches over the lands of the Cecubo wine in Sperlonga
The oldest sommelier ever, came from Phrygia and used to pour nectar to the Gods.
“The king of the gods once burned with love for Phrygian Ganymede, and to win him Jupiter chose to be something other than he was. Yet he did not deign to transform himself into any other bird, than that eagle, that could carry his lightning bolts. Straightaway, he beat the air with deceitful wings, and stole the Trojan boy, who still handles the mixing cups, and against Juno’s will pours out Jove’s nectar”.(Ovid, Metamorphosis, X, 155-161)
There is a sculpture that watches over the lands of Cecubo wine in Sperlonga.
It is Ganymede, the cupbearer to gods, and his figure stands on the cave of Tiberius.
It was there, in the villa that had been of his great-grandfather Aufidio, that the Roman Emperor Tiberius used to spend his summer holidays.
And it was Tiberius again who decided to place the mythological cupbearer there. It had to watch over the head of the guests who Tiberius used to entertain with tales from Homer and the delicious Cecubo wine, typical of these lands.
We could say that Ganymede is the oldest and most famous sommelier of all time.
As all the cupbearers did, he had to taste every drink before he poured it in the glasses of the Olympian deities.
In Roman times emperors and the most visible politicians entrusted their safety to the cupbearers. They had to be very trustful. The risk was that someone would put poison in the wine!
Ganymede actually had not been chosen for his profile as a sommelier. He got a value that had made him jump to the top of the list of the candidates: it was damn beautiful.
Although the place was not vacant (Ebe, after all, already served the wine to gods) and Ganymede was a mere mortal, therefore, he got the job.
The truth was that Jupiter was madly in love with him. He had turned into an eagle and had kidnapped him, the legend says, by a cave similar to the one in Sperlonga.
Actually, The Phrygian cupbearer was not asked to serve properly wine. For the gods, the wine of the house was the Divine Nectar: an alcoholic beverage made from honey fermentation. The famous nectar of the gods, precisely.
The Emperor Tiberius knew well and loved this story, like all the tales from the Iliad and the Odyssey.
He ordered the sculptors from Rhodes to portray the abduction of Ganymede by Zeus.
Once finished, he placed it over the cave he loved so much.
The cupbearer Ganimede, thus, would have watched over his villa, the blooming lands, and over the vineyards where the grew the grapes of the Cecubo, the Romans’ preferred wine. To the point that at banquets it was reserved for the final toast .
Today a copy of that work is still placed in the same position as the original, kept inside the Archaeological Museum of Sperlonga.