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Drunkenness in the Roman World

"It has pleased us to engrave scenes of license upon our goblets, and to drink through the midst of obscenities." (Pliny, Natural History XXXIII.5)

"Bronze is the mirror of the outward form, wine the mirror of the mind." (Athenaeus, Banquet of the Philosophers x.427). 

Did some Romans drink too much wine? Judging both from the number of Classical era books entitled simply On Drunkenness,by such respected authors as Aristotle and Theophrastus, and in terms of modern health and morality, probably so. I have estimated that, during the 1st century A.D., Roman men every year were consuming more than four times as much wine as their modern counterparts. (see Everyday Consumption). But they seemed to approach wine with an upbeat, philosophical attitude. The social conflict inherent in consuming alcohol, moderate versus excess, was well recognized, and it was the subject of dozens of literary comments ranging from high-minded metaphors that set good against evil to simple questions as to whether a hangover was worth the excesses that brought it about. Alcoholism could even be put forward as a legal defense, though somewhat cautiously, and as an excuse for criminal tendencies.