Warming the Wine

Silver krater
Hildesheim Treasure
Late 1st century B.C.

Bronze authepsa
From a Roman doctor's storehouse
Augst, Switzerland
1st century A.D.

The Roman etiquette for the serving of wine thus revolved about two vessels—the krater and the authepsa. These would be placed side-by-side at some distance from the banquetters, the krater abrim with wine, the authepsa always full of boiling hot water. Each guest then would be offered wine and water quite separately, so they could mix them to taste.

Just how much the use of an authepsa contributed to the versatility of a convivium is clear from the description of a special device that the politician, Marcus Terentius Varro, built at his villa at Casinum (modern Cassino):

"On the island is a small column, and on the inside of it is a post which holds up, instead of a table, a wheel with spokes. This is revolved by a single servant in a way that everything to drink and eat is placed on it at once and moved around to all the guests....From this pond a stream runs into the two fish-basins...and minnows dart back and forth, while it is so arranged that cold and warm water flows for each guest from the wooden wheel." (Varro, On Agriculture III.v)