According to historians, viticulture in Roman territory has native roots and seems to be even older than the Etruscans. Initially, the vines were kept in the wild and were not treated.
Afterwards, the Romans proved to be experts in cultivation and winemaking. This knowledge came from the secrets of people such as the Etruscan, the Greeks and the Carthaginians that the Romans had come to know.
Soon, the first wineries were formed, with slave labor and big profits for the masters. Production grew so much that Rome began to export wine, conquering the monopoly in trade.
The Roman wine became soon a popular and appreciated drink, but our ancestor did not drink it just as we drink it. In fact, wine was usually diluted with cold or hot water and mixed with spices and honey. Some of the sophistications of the time included even sea water, plaster, petals and chopped oysters – and they thought it was a delicacy.
At the beginning, only men older than 30 years could drink wine, women who were discovered to drink wine were punished hard. Only with Julius Caesar this ban was abolished and women began to drink freely.
Wine was also the protagonist of banquets, where large quantities were consumed; however, the etiquette of the time prevented from getting drunk. The Romans tried to overcome the problem by diluting the wine.
To control the sobriety of the guests there was a special figure: the arbiter bibendi. One of the guest was drawn to the dice and he could not drink wine for the duration of the banquet, but he provided the servitude with the amount of water to be added to the wine to dilute it, so nobody got drunk.
The Romans, in fact, were always dedicated to the idea of “continentia“, that means to enjoy everything but with measure, without excess. Perhaps the fact of diluting this drink was not a bad habit in the end, since every opportunity was good for drinking a glass of wine and to have someone toast. In the case of toasts, for example, it was common to drink as many wine glasses as were the letters that made up the name of the person who was honored!
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