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Public Criticism

Strap-handled wine pitcher
4th century A.D.
Capacity, 1.1 liters

Pliny the Elder also gossiped a lot about the tippling of women. He noted Cato's view, for example, that the reason why women were kissed by their male relations was to know whether they smelled of tementum ["tipple"]. He recounted how a judge, Gnaeus Domitius, once pronounced that a certain woman had drunk more wine than was good for her health and so fined her the amount of her dowry; and how one matron who was even starved to death by her relatives for having broken open the casket containing the keys to the wine cellar (see Natural History XIV.89).

While Pliny was quite restrained his moral judgement on these matters, other writers were not. The satirist, Martial, expressed his distaste for drunkenness among women with particular intensity:

"Myrtale is apt to smell of much wine, but to fool us she devours laurel leaves and mixes her liquor with the canny foilage, not with water. Whenever you see her coming your way flushed, with her veins standing out, you may say: "Myrtale has drunk laurel." (Martial, Epigrams V.4)