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Q: Nestor's Cup Recipe ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Nestor's Cup Recipe
Category: Health
Asked by: neverest-ga
List Price: $18.00
Posted: 03 Apr 2003 14:09 PST
Expires: 03 May 2003 15:09 PDT
Question ID: 185619
I'd like to know the recipe for "Nestor's Cup". A concoction that
Alexander the Great and his fahter Phillip before him used to drink. I
know the main ingredients are honey, flour, wine, and cheese. This
drink is supposedely an incredible recovery tool for injuries and
after expending a great amount of energy. Searching for Nestor's Cup
on the web only leads to the actual "Nestor's Cup" from Greece.
Subject: Re: Nestor's Cup Recipe
Answered By: markj-ga on 03 Apr 2003 16:57 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
neverest --

A recipe for the restorative potion that is associated with "Nestor's
Cup" may be found in Homer's "The Iliad," in Book XI, lines 628-641. 
Here it is in narrative form, in the preeminent Iliad translation by
Samuel Butler:

"When Nestor and Machaon had reached the tents of the son of Neleus,
they dismounted, and an esquire, Eurymedon, took the horses from the
chariot. The pair then stood in the breeze by the seaside to dry the
sweat from their shirts, and when they had so done they came inside
and took their seats. Fair Hecamede, whom Nestor had had awarded to
him from Tenedos when Achilles took it, mixed them a mess; she was
daughter of wise Arsinous, and the Achaeans had given her to Nestor
because he excelled all of them in counsel. First she set for them a
fair and well-made table that had feet of cyanus; on it there was a
vessel of bronze and an onion to give relish to the drink, with honey
and cakes of barley-meal. There was also a cup of rare workmanship
which the old man had brought with him from home, studded with bosses
of gold; it had four handles, on each of which there were two golden
doves feeding, and it had two feet to stand on. Any one else would
hardly have been able to lift it from the table when it was full, but
Nestor could do so quite easily. In this the woman, as fair as a
goddess, mixed them a mess with Pramnian wine; she grated goat's milk
cheese into it with a bronze grater, threw in a handful of white
barley-meal, and having thus prepared the mess she bade them drink

Internet Classics Archive: The Iliad (about 4/5 down the page)

To put the essence of the recipe in modern terms:

"Fill a very large cup with Pramnian wine
Grate goat's milk cheese over the cup
Add one handful of white barley-meal

Serve with an onion, honey and cakes of barley meal."

While most of the ingredients are self-explanatory, it deserves
mentioning that "Pramnian wine" was probably a sweet wine similar to
the modern Hungarian Tokay:

"Pramnian Wine 
- A most famous Greek wine of ancient times and its praises were sung
by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Almost certainly it was
something of the sweet Tokay type and not of any special vineyard. "

Vintage Direct: Dictionary

Although it is not known precisely when the Iliad (and the Odyssey)
were written, the most common opinion places them at about the 9th
century, B.C.E. Here is an interesting brief summary of what is known
and not known about Homer's life and writings:

Classic Notes: Biography of Homer
(This is the Google-cached version of the link.  The original is no
longer available.)

Alexander the Great, the son of the Macedonian King Philip II, lived
several centuries later, from 356-323 B.C.E.  He died young from
malaria, pneumonia (or, some say, poison) after conquering and ruling
over a far-flung empire.  Here is an interesting site put together by
an Alexander the Great devotee: All About Alexander the Great

Alexander studied with Aristotle and was well aware of the great
Homeric epics.  In fact, it is thought that as a youth he slept with a
copy of the Iliad under his pillow: Alexander's Youth

This would, of course, explain his belief in the restorative powers of
the potion served to Nestor in Book XI of the Iliad.

Additional sites:

Here is another translation (unattributed) of the Nestor's Cup passage
in the Iliad, this one from a site devoted to Greek wine:
Roads of Wine: "A Travel Through the Vineyards of Macedonia" (about
1/2 down the page)

Here is a summary of the same passage, lovingly told in a eulogy
published in American Windsurfer Magazine:
American Windsurfer: William Abeel (1917-2000) (about 2/3 down the

Search Strategy:

I used several successful Google searches to gather the information. 
Among them were:

"alexander the great" drink honey wine flour cheese nestor OR nestor's

"pramnian wine"

"alexander the great" homer iliad

This was an interesting project.  I am confident that this is the
information you are seeking.  If any of the information is unclear,
please post a clarification request before rating this answer.


Request for Answer Clarification by neverest-ga on 03 Apr 2003 23:58 PST
Wow...what a teriffic job you've done! Do you happen to have any
information as to what amounts were used in the wine? And lastly, I'm
just wondering what YOU think of the recuperative powers of the drink?

Clarification of Answer by markj-ga on 04 Apr 2003 07:10 PST
neverest --

Thanks very much for your kind reaction to my answer.   I was glad to
be of help.

Here are some thoughts on your clarification request, along with some
more links to assist you in exploring this interesting subject

Amounts of Ingredients:

Information on the amounts of the various ingredients used in the
potion offered to Nestor, and in the version enjoyed by Alexander the
Great, apparently has not come down to us.  This is not surprising
because Homer's account of the incident was recorded almost 3000 years
ago and Alexander lived almost 2500 years ago.

Indeed, even if there had been an account of the amounts of the
ingredients used in the potion, it would undoubtedly be argued about
today by the legions of modern scholars and graduate students who
remain fascinated by ancient Greece in general, and Homer's epics in
particular.  For example, if a unit of measure of the goat cheese used
was offered by Homer, my guess is that there would endless discussions
at coffee houses around the world about what that unit would amount to
in contemporary terms.

 So do we have any relevant information?  A little, maybe.  Although
it is controversial to say the least, a claim has been made that an
artifact discovered by Heinrich Schliemann is the actual cup
referenced by Homer in the Iliad.  Here are links to two images of
that cup, which is in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens:

University of Washington

University of California at Berkeley

However, here is the opinion of one scholar that the discover's claim
for the artifact's authenticity is "impossible:"

"In his discussion of the pre-classical origins of Greek civilization
in Chapter 2 (pp. 36-49), the author draws our attention to the fact
that, for reconstructing their past, the Greeks of the so-called Dark
Age did not have the two major resources available to us, namely
written texts and archaeology. They had to depend on legends and other
orally-transmitted traditional material, although some of the latter
may have been suggested by their familiarity with tombs and other
monuments belonging to earlier times. Placing side-by-side the
description of Nestor's cup in the Iliad with the Mycenaean vase which
Schliemann identified with that description (fig. 10), Purkis reminds
us of the chronological and other arguments which make Schliemann's
identification impossible."

University of Natal: Scholia Reviews

Other bits of relevant information:

Although the Butler translation quoted at the beginning of my answer
spoke of "throwing in" a "handful" of "white barley-meal," the other
unattributed translations I provided you above as "Additional Sites"
refer to "sprinkling" or "sifting" grain into the wine.   Since these
versions are all deliberately inexact as to the amount to be used, I
suggest that the exact amount is unknown and probably unknowable.

I would draw the same conclusion about the goat cheese, which is
described in all three of my cited accounts as an unstated amount
"grated over [or into]" the wine.

It strikes me that the best approach for making a modern version of
the potion may be to let your palate tell you when to stop
throwing/sprinkling/sifting the barley and grating the cheese.

As a final note, I would mention that some scholars believe that the
onion and honey "on the side" were not critical to the restorative
powers of the potion.  Butler himself translates Homer to say that
they were "to give relish to the drink" (see the quoted text above).  
A participant in an online forum agrees: "An onion and some honey are
provided as relish (it is not clear whether these are important to the
Ohio State University: Classics Log 97

This forum also includes some general opining, in which you may be
interested, on the perceived medicinal qualities of Greek ceremonial

My Opinion on the Recuperative Powers of the Drink:

Well.  Certainly the "vested interests" in the barley and wine
industries and, to a lesser extent, the goat cheese industry believe
their products have restorative and other health-related
characteristics.  The same goes for honey, although, as I have noted,
the honey in Nestor's meal was apparently not drunk from his cup.

Here's an example of what the wine folks have to say about studies
demonstrating that red wine has "protective and/or restorative
"In conclusion, these presented papers demonstrated that the
consumption of wine, and in particular red wine, is cardioprotective,
for which there are plausible biological mechanisms."

Alcohol in Moderation: The XXVth World Congress of the Office
International de la Vigne et du Vin

As for barley, this page, located at the interestingly named website,, includes a link to a barley-related industry group
and cites various reputed health benefits of the grain: Barley. A Natural Restorative

Goat cheese also has its advocates.  Here is an article touting its
non-allergenic profile and favorable fat and cholesterol profile as
compared with cow's milk cheeses:
Kosher Today Newspaper Archives'%20Milk%20Cheese%20%20A%20Splendid%20Surprise.htm

Last, but not least, honey, which generally gets good press, is touted
on the South Carolina site for its energy-producing qualities and even
for the notion that it can be used as a healing balm for burns:
The Food

In my personal opinion, attributing restorative and general health
benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, and maybe red wine
especially, makes sense and has been widely confirmed by scientific
studies.  At least to the extent that one's general health is
favorably affected, it makes sense to me that recuperation from
injuries would also be favorably affected.  And, of course, in the
short term, moderate alcohol consumption, at least for some, has the
palliative effect of reducing stress, which may not cure disease, but
can increase comfort and elevate one's mood.

As for the other ingredients in combination with the wine, they appear
to provide essential nutrients and have a reputation for having health
advantages over their close substitutes.

Maybe most important, it is not unreasonable to conclude that, like
acupuncture, what was considered to have medicinal value in ancient
times may well have medicinal value today, even if it cannot be
explained or fully understood.

So, cheers!

Additional Site:

Lots of information on sweet Tokay wine:
IFCA Wine Watch: Hungary

Supplementary Search Strategy:

Google searches, as follows:
red wine health

barley meal nutrients OR nutritional

goat OR goat's cheese nutrients OR nutritional

honey restorative

I hope that this information has been of additional use to you.  
Thanks again for your kind reaction to my original answer.

neverest-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $3.00
Unbelievabe amount of information...I literally could not have asked
for more help. I will be tipping my researcher!

Subject: Re: Nestor's Cup Recipe
From: markj-ga on 04 Apr 2003 16:45 PST
neverest --

Thanks for the kind words, the five-star rating and the tip.  I was glad to help.


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