Everyday Consumption

Introduction

"Just then some glass jars carefully sealed with gypsum were brought out, with labels tied on their necks. As we tried to read the old tags, Trimalchio clapped his hands and cried, 'Ah me, so wine lives longer than miserable man. So let us be merry, Wine is life'."(Petronius, Satyricon.34)

Any assessment of ancient Rome's wine consumption needs to take account of the fact that the age structure of populations in the ancient Roman World is markedly different from the present one for all the countries where Rome once held sway. High infant mortality meant most pre-adolescents scarcely had chance to appreciate their mother' milk, let alone wine, before some disease carried them off. The prevalence of many diseases that now would be treated by antibiotics, kept typical life expectancy at close to just 25 years. And moral strictures on women's drinking (see Women's Woes) will have meant that, in general, they drank far less that their men-folk: generously perhaps, about a fifth as much.