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Zythum (from Latin), zythos (Greek: ζῦθος, zŷthos), or sisni (from Hebrew) was a kind of unfermented malt beer made in ancient Egypt.


Its Greek and Latin names were transcriptions of its Egyptian name.[1]


The recipe is mentioned in the third tractate of the Babylonian Talmud (42b).[2] According to Rav Yosef b. Hiyya, it contains ​13 barley, ​13 safflower seed and ​13 salt. Rav Papa substituted wheat for barley. The ingredients are steeped, roasted and ground before drinking.

Medicinal properties[edit]

Apart from recreational drinking, zythum was used as an ancient Egyptian medicine. It was said to work as both a laxative and antidiarrhoeal. Its use was thought dangerous for sick people and pregnant women.


Among Orthodox Jews, it is forbidden during Passover because it contains barley, making it chametz, although the punishment of kareth is not applicable to its consumption.


  1. ^ Marcus Jastrow. A Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature. 2.
  2. ^ Norman Solomon, ed. (2009). "Third Tractate Pesahim (The Passover)". The Talmud: A Selection. Penguin. pp. 148, 150. ISBN 978-0-14-144178-8.

External links[edit]