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Defrutum and lead problems

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

The oldest known Roman wine
The oldest known Roman wine

Defrutum (or carenum or sapa) is a grape juice (so-called must), which is boiled with spices until it thickens and acquires a sweet taste. The substance prepared in this way served in ancient Rome as a sweetener.

Normal wine for the Romans was too bitter and tart, so they decided to sweeten it with defrutum. The must was boiled until the liquid in the vessel had reduced its volume to 2/3 of its capacity (carenum), to half (defrutum), or to 1/3 (sapa). This sweetener was also added to fruit and meat, thus preserving them for longer journeys; for the winter, quinces and melons were preserved with defrutum and honey. Defrutum was also mixed with garum to obtain the extremely popular oenogarum spice.

Interestingly, when the juice was boiled in lead dishes, lead sugar (lead acetate II), a highly toxic and toxic substance, was released. However, these poisonings are not immediate and always have a chronic course.

Lead from the human body is removed very slowly, accumulates primarily in bones and blood (and with it goes to all organs). The effects of its long-term use can be many diseases: cardiac arrhythmia, kidney disease, anaemia, and circulatory failure, which almost always leads to death.

When the remains of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire were examined, archaeologists found very high levels of lead. Lead also affects our nervous system, so it can intensify and even cause mental illness. A great example of this fact can be Caesars like Caligula or Nero. By drinking a lot of this type of wine from lead goblets, they introduced into their body lethal amounts of a dangerous substance that negatively affected their behaviour and psyche. This can also be partly explained, for example, by a sudden change in the behaviour of Caligula from a nice and sympathetic boyfriend, into a tyrant who is greedy for torture and rapes.

  • Ed Lion, Caligula and Nero - victims of lead poisoning?, "UPI"

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