Connoisseurs' Views

Stem-footed silver cup, wreathed
Hildesheim Treasure
Late 1st century B.C.

Athenaeus, in his Banquet of the Philosophers(X.426) makes it clear that Greek custom was to mix three parts of water with one of wine—in social shorthand, a "Triton"—and it looks likely that Roman wine connoisseurs generally went along with that ratio. But one of Plutarch's guests, Aristion, argued humorously in favor of a three-to-two mix, claiming that it would be in perfect harmony with the fifth concord of a lyre, to the tune of which so much drunken Bacchic revelry took place.

Three-to-one, three-to-two, whatever the mix, the furnishing of the banquet table with a range of beakers, jugs, ladles, and so on, inspired some of the finest of precious metal craftmanship of the Roman era. Doubtless there were socially aspiring merchants and minor State officials who contrived similarly structured dinners. To them we may attribute ownership of some equally well-crafted wine paraphenalia in bronze.