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Roman women could not drink wine

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A woman with a jug on the Roman mosaic
A woman with a jug on the Roman mosaic

In ancient Rome, women could not drink wine, what was due to the paternalistic Roman society. Men’s domination caused that women were perceived as weak individuals who are susceptible to any negative factors. It was thought that wine could only expose women to dangers or encourage inappropriate behavior. The substitute for the wine was grape juice.

According to the messages in the times of Romulus, the Roman girl who stole the keys to the wine cellar and got drunk was then starved to death. Another in turn was killed by a stick by her husband. Officially, by Roman law, drinking wine by a woman was a crime and even the death penalty was sentenced. In addition, at Roman “parties”, the closest ones could kiss the girl on the lips to see if she had not been drinking before.

Such messages, however, concerned mainly archaic times and the period of the early Republic. Along with the departure from the paternalistic society and the transformation into the Empire, the approach to the issue of drinking alcohol by women was liberalized. The restrictions were rather official, and in practice, wealthy matrons certainly allowed themselves to consume wine on Roman feasts.

  • Koper Sławomir, Miłość i polityka. Kobiety świata antycznego, Warszawa 1997

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