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Why couldn’t ancient Roman women drink wine?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Why couldn't ancient Roman women drink wine?
Why couldn't ancient Roman women drink wine?

In Roman times, there was a law forbidding women from consuming wine on pain of flogging or the death penalty. Cato the Elder, called the Censor, spoke bluntly: If you see your wife drinking wine, kill her! Why are the Romans so strict how did they approach the consumption of wine by women?

The first point was that wine was compared to blood (by many ancient cultures) and was often referred to as the blood of the vine. The woman drinking wine was believed to have committed adultery, and the child would be deformed if it was born. Thus, wine was perceived as an abortion drug, as it was believed that one “blood” drives out the other. Moreover, wine was, along with milk, blood and water, a magical liquid to be submitted to the gods.

Moreover, in Roman culture, (as in Greek) women were perceived as inferior to men. It was believed that fair sex lacked virtus – one of the most respected values ​​- that a Roman should have. It combined perfection, courage and physical and mental strength. Women were thought to be weak and prone to addictions and bad decisions. If they are allowed to drink wine, they will get drunk with time – and that would be an expression of possession, which in turn was equated with rape. In the Roman world, a raped woman could never be chaste and chaste.

The Romans, however, being suspicious of their wives and wishing in advance to avoid the unworthy addiction of women to a wine and to bring disgrace to the family, took countermeasures. To this end, when they returned home, they kissed their wives on the lips to make sure that the women did not drink wine while they were away.

Of course, the beliefs of the Romans and the reality were different and Roman women, especially from higher families (from the late Republic), enjoyed wine just like men. However, mainly care was taken to consume the raisin wine – the so-called passum.

  • Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, A History of Food

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