I assume that alcoholic drinks served two main purposes in centuries gone by:

  1. To purify water for consumption
  2. Drunkenness

I'm not clear on number one being the case, and if it is I'm not sure which played a more prominent role in drinking alcohol. Did most people drink alcohol to avoid getting sick, or were they just drunks like us?

  • Like us? So you blindly assume all other SE users are drunks? – Bregalad May 12 '15 at 9:28
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    I disagree that this is off-topic. The main role of alcohol isn't up for debate, it should have a well defined answer, even if that answer is 'there isn't a main role' And Bregalad it was a joke alluding to modern societies mostly being alcohol abusers. – Canadian Coder May 12 '15 at 15:27
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    I sometimes come off as a little more abrasive than I intend.. not my intention at all, but for as long as I've been using the Stack Exchange platform I still have trouble adapting to many of the communities and understanding a lot of mod actions. But I guess we're all human. – Canadian Coder May 12 '15 at 16:03
  • No worries, I don't mind. – Bregalad May 13 '15 at 7:23
  • In the middle ages alcohol was food. If it was for example not provided in an army there would be complaints. – Bookeater May 15 '15 at 20:31

Your thinking is overly binary. It is very possible, indeed likely, that it was likely a combination of the two plus a few other factors you are forgetting depending on place/time/occasion/society.

Other factors in alcohol use:

  1. Culture
  2. Taste
  3. Preservation of foodstuff
  4. Others
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    Makes sense. I guess the question then becomes 'how did alcohol originate'. Did somebody accidentally get drunk and have a eureka moment, or did it arise out of the need to purify water. After that point it would have just been.. happening because of a range of factors. – Canadian Coder May 12 '15 at 19:23
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    Alcohol originate independently at various periods of time in different parts of the globe. Due to the lack of scientific method, I think we can assume it was almost always discovered by accident (fermenting fruit would be a good source, see example of drunk animals discovering fermented fruits). Why it caught on is likely taste/fun/culture/Preservation of foodstuffs/Medicinal – Stuart Allan May 12 '15 at 20:08

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