Harder Times

Meletian Schism ms.

Like any business venture dependent upon the vagaries of the weather, vineyards and wine merchants could fall on hard times. A case in point is described in an Egyptian papyrus document of A.D. 330 known as the Meletian Schism. The text acknowledges the sufferings of a certain wine-dealer, Pamonthius, who was so deeply in debt that he was forced not only to sell all of his property and his wardrobe but also to hand over his children to his creditors. Though it was illegal to pledge one's children as a security, in the eventuality of default, they were committed to slavery; such a practice was quite widespread.

Vintners could shield themselves against a bad crop or two, however, and even cope with a period of glut (when wholesale process would tumble), by stock-piling some of their wine every year.