Ugly antiquity: what happened at the rich revels of that time

Ugly antiquity: what took place at the rich revels of the time

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The golden age of harmony, the flourishing of the arts and sciences, the triumph of democracy – this is how we imagine ancient civilization according to history books. But the testimonies of contemporaries reveal the other side of the legendary era: judging by the descriptions of magnificent feasts that have come down to us, the ancient Greeks and Romans knew a lot about both entertainment and perversions. “O times, o manners!” lamented the ancient philosophers.

Nightingale tongues and brain filling

It all started quite modestly: the first ancient Greek feasts were not luxurious, and sometimes guests ate fish, meat or vegetables that they brought with them, because table conversation was valued above the meal. Over time, the menu was diversified with fried sparrows, larks, and swallows, and later, the Greeks, who had become greedy, got into the habit of overeating meat dishes – whole baked bulls, rams, and deer.

The Romans went much further: at first, the festive dinner consisted of three courses, and then – already from 7-9, while dishes replaced each other, sometimes poorly combined with each other. Complex compositions prepared in such a way that guests could not immediately recognize the ingredients were considered special chic: bird's feet with a garnish of rooster combs, pigs stuffed with brains, giraffe fillet, stuffed elephant trunks and … we will not continue, we will only say that in In search of originality, Roman culinary specialists came up with really perverted recipes. One of the most expensive delicacies was a pate made from tiny nightingale tongues. For the sake of a few servings, thousands of birds were killed.

To cope with a huge amount of food, the feasters had to induce vomiting: according to one version, immediately before the feast, according to another, between the change of dishes. We are shocked: 11 interesting facts about how people lived in ancient times.

In vino veritas

Not a single ancient feast could do without strong drinks: the gift of the god Dionysus was treated with great respect, and during the festivities dedicated to him, wine flowed like a river. The ancient Greeks still tried to comply with the measure – they diluted alcohol with water by half or a third and drank no more than the established norm in order to avoid intoxication and return home on their own. But even then, feasts often turned into banal drinking parties with quarrels, fights and breaking dishes. In the days of the Roman Empire, restrictions were over: feasts with libations dragged on until midnight, women drank on an equal footing with men, drunken guests threw goblets at each other. Long before Vkontakte: what was written on the walls in Ancient Rome?


Before starting a meal, the feasters took off their shoes, and the slaves washed their feet, after which the guests took their places on the beds placed around the tables. They ate reclining, leaning on their left hand: it was believed that this way you could swallow more food.

In ancient Rome, three people fit on each bed, they sweated profusely in cramped and stuffy conditions, and the slaves covered them with colored capes that absorbed sweat. For each guest during the feast, up to 10 such capes were used. Can you imagine what happened in ancient Roman toilets? Here we wrote about it in more detail. The Greeks did without cutlery, the Romans had knives and spoons, but they ate most of the dishes with their hands. At first, the fingers were wiped with scraps of bread, later special white clay was served for this purpose, and, finally, they guessed to use woven napkins. They were very expensive, and the owner gave them out one by one to the most important guests.

Table etiquette

The rules of conduct adopted at ancient feasts seem rather strange today: in ancient Greece, meals were arranged in the male half of the house, wives were not allowed there, but hetaerae were invited, who reclined around the table with men. Dancing at the same time was considered the height of obscenity, but public sex with both sexes was in the order of things.

At Roman feasts, another dubious custom flourished: the guests were divided into important and unimportant. The master of the house and the honored guests enjoyed delicious dishes and wines, they were served by the most beautiful slaves, and insignificant people got a modest meal and bad wine.

At the end of the Roman Empire, the time of unbridled orgies came. Nero and Caligula were especially famous: the latter could choose any woman, and then return her to her husband, describing in detail to him all the pros and cons of his wife in bed. The feasts of Caligula were often accompanied by bloody amusements – if one of the guests did not like the emperor, he could order the execution of the objectionable right there on the spot. The disgusting Middle Ages: what was then eaten at rich feasts and in poor shacks?

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